‘The Marine Ecosystem Is the Classroom’ at Clean Ocean Action Student SummitMATES Students Serve as Peer Educators
Students from the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science led field activities and hands-on roundtables as more than 300 fifth- through eighth-graders from throughout New Jersey gathered at Island Beach State Park for Clean Ocean Action’s 28th annual Fall Student Summit last Thursday, Oct. 6. “During the Summit, the marine ecosystem is the classroom and the students are the scientists,” stated Gianna Fischer, DW Bennett Fellow for Ocean Advocacy at COA. “The Summit inspires students with a sense of personal stewardship necessary for protecting the environment in the future.”
The MATES peer educators taught the younger students to use seine nets to collect and identify common marine species of Barnegat Bay, and led a beach-profiling activity that underscored the importance of dunes as protection for coastal habitat.
“It is important for COA to educate students because they are the future. The Student Summit is an opportunity to take environmental education out of the classroom and into nature for the day,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of the nonprofit. “The Summit brings the classroom to life. Hands-on learning inspires students to explore their natural world. There is no substitute for a child holding a horseshoe crab and understanding that the creature’s survival is in their hands.”
COA volunteer and education coordinator Amanda Wheeler, who orchestrated this year’s event, noted, “During this year’s Fall Summit participants spent the morning as marine scientists sharing and discovering the amazing ocean and bay environment offered right here in New Jersey.” Wheeler, a retired teacher and avid environmentalist, hopes “the students who came to the Summit left with a greater appreciation of our natural resources and a greater desire to protect and respect them.”
Clean Ocean Action expressed its gratitude to MATES science instructor David Werner and his students for inspiring the younger students, and to MATES supervisor and Project Terrapin research coordinator John Wnek, along with the student leaders of Project Terrapin, for their informative and fun presentations during the summit.
For more information on the Student Summit or other Clean Ocean Action programs, visit CleanOceanAction.org or call COA’s main office at 732-872-0111. —J.K.-H.