Conserve Wildlife Blog


August 6th, 2019

Asbury Park students and staff pose with their “talons up” after seeing an
Osprey snatch a fish from the ocean.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF), the Asbury Park mayor’s office and public schools, and New Jersey Natural Gas hosted Wildlife Wednesdays Field Experience at North Beach at the end of July. The hands-on, project-based outing taught elementary school students about Asbury Park’s rare wildlife, and how to protect and preserve the environment the kids – and wildlife- call home.

Amy Quinn, Deputy Mayor, Asbury Park said, “We are so excited to be a part of Wildlife Wednesdays Field Experience. Getting elementary school students out in nature and giving them hands-on experience with wildlife and environmental protection will inspire them to grow up to be the next generation of Asbury Park’s civic leaders and public servants.”

Wildlife Wednesdays run for five weeks over the summer in Asbury Park. To prepare the programs, CWF Director of Education Stephanie DAlessio met with the Asbury Park school district, performed a needs assessment, and learned about the district’s goals and priorities.

Building on the district’s focus on civic engagement, and emphasis on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) different activities were planned.

Students pitched in to help clean up the beach and collected data on the types and quantity of garbage they found. Teachers were encouraged to bring the data back to the classroom to be analyzed and graphed to determine how the garbage may have gotten there, and to help students present solutions to the problem by writing a letter to Asbury Park government officials.

Beach clean up and sand dune building with CWF Director of Education Stephanie Dalessio and NJ Natural Gas Director of Customer and Community Relations Tom Hayes. Students learned how dunes provide important storm damage barriers and protect property.

David Wheeler, CWF Executive Director said, “It is so important to not only foster a love of nature and wildlife in students, but also show to the kids how to help protect them. By giving these kids the chance to be a part of the solution, we’re giving them hope for the future of wildlife and a healthy New Jersey.”

While learning about beach nesting birds and shore birds from CWF Senior Biologist Todd Pover, the kids were thrilled to see an osprey snatch a fish from the sea right in front of them. Some of the students had gone on a previous CWF field trip to see an osprey nest at the local high school, and they seized on the idea that the bird was bringing its catch back to that nest. Pover also taught students how to read a band through a spotting scope and gave them a behind the scenes glimpse into the life of a wildlife biologist. Kids were delighted to find out that they could learn to be biologists too and were on their way having already learned to read the bands.

Learning the tools of the wildlife biologist trade.
Photo by New Jersey Natural Gas.

Sustainability activist and Board of Education member Giuseppe ‘Joe’ Grillo said, “Scientific evidence is strong that communities thrive when they have access to nature, yet students in underserved communities are routinely cut off from nature in their surroundings. This program empowers Asbury Park youth to live healthily and claim ownership of nature all around them – right in their hometown!”

The third activity taught students about the importance of sand dunes and dune grass. In addition to providing habitat for horseshoe crabs, the dunes and grasses protect beaches and property from damaging storms. Keeping with the school district’s goal to involve students in music and the arts, the students will be composing an original song about the activities to perform for their peers.

Justin Artenant, Program Director of the Thought Leaders After-school Academy of Asbury Park, and Tom Hayes, the Director of Customer and Community Relations at New Jersey Natural Gas joined the kids on North Beach for the program.

Hayes said of the experience, “New Jersey Natural Gas has been involved in the Asbury Park community for nearly 70 years. Education and the environment are the main focus of our community involvement, so this is exactly the type of program we are excited to be a partner on.”

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