Now that students are back in the classroom and everyone is getting into a routine, we wanted to highlight some programs that are available to connect schools, kids, and the environment. Everyone can do their part to be more sustainable and environmentally-friendly!
Sustainable Jersey for Schools
Sustainable Jersey for Schools is based on the successful Sustainable Jersey certification program for municipalities. Sustainable Jersey for Schools is a free, voluntary certification program for pre-kindergarten through twelfth-grade public schools in New Jersey. The program provides guidance, support, and recognition to schools that implement steps to be sustainable in their operations and proactive in preparing students for the challenges they will face in the future.
Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification actions cover a wide range of topic areas focusing on the three equal, interrelated components of sustainability: 1) People: contribute to a strong civil society that provides opportunity for all, 2) Prosperity: support local economies and wise use of community resources and 3) Planet: practice responsible environmental management and conservation. Some actions are relatively straightforward such as completing an energy audit, while others are more involved such as instituting a district-wide sustainability policy. Only 354 schools across the state are certified!
New Jersey Audubon Eco-Schools
Eco-Schools is a national program through the National Wildlife Federation that is administered by the New Jersey Audubon Society. The program engages students in sustainability education through distance learning and place-based learning in their homes, yards, and neighborhoods. A classroom of students creates action plans together and they each take one action in which to show measurable improvement. Action categories are watersheds, oceans, and wetlands, biodiversity, forests, and schoolyard habitats. The program has many resources available including YouTube videos, indoor and outdoor activities, and Google Docs for teachers. Less than 30 schools statewide have earned their green flag award!
New Jersey Audubon Green Ribbon Schools https://njaudubon.org/green-ribbon-schools/
Green Ribbon Schools is a national program through the US Department of Education that is facilitated by the New Jersey Audubon Society. The purpose of the Green Ribbon Schools recognition award is to highlight schools’, districts’, and institutions of higher educations’ cost-saving, health-promoting, and performance-enhancing sustainability practices in three categories, thereby encouraging other schools, districts and IHEs to adopt similarly innovative practices. The focus areas are reduced environmental impact and costs, improved health and wellness, and effective environmental and sustainability education. This program is much more formal and highly competitive compared to some of the others mentioned here. NJ Audubon can assist with the application process.
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection State Environmental Education Directory (SEEDS)
The SEEDS website is a catalog of environmental education resources supported by the DEP. There are classroom materials, field trip opportunities, volunteer programs, and grants and scholarships available. There are also links to publicly-available environmental state data accessible via interactive mapping tools, reports, and search engines. There is also an environmental education news listserv that teachers can join to receive e-blasts with more up-to-date information and events.
Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education (ANJEE)
ANJEE’s mission is to support and advance environmental education efforts in New Jersey for all people in order to cultivate an environmentally literate population. The organization hosts conferences and other events and has environmental education resources available online broken down into grade level. There are also many members-only benefits.
New Jersey River-Friendly Schools
The River-Friendly School Program helps teachers, students and school leaders reduce water pollution while creating new teaching opportunities, enhancing wildlife habitat and establishing a healthier environment for our children. Certification is offered at several different levels based on points achieved through lessons and hands-on projects in any of the four River-Friendly categories: water quality, water conservation, wildlife habitat and education & outreach. This certification program is offered to both private and public schools.
Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA) Student and Educator Resources
In addition to a curriculum for teaching students about Pinelands ecology, PPA has a multi-day field science experience for educators to strengthen field-based investigations in their teaching and improve student performance. South Jersey-focused
Rutgers Stormwater Management in Your Backyard
This manual provides teachers, volunteers, and community groups with the materials needed to take action to combat stormwater, design a rain gardens, and inform others about managing our water resources. It includes lesson plans on the importance of stormwater management and reducing nonpoint source pollution through the “How Are We Going to Clean Up Messy Town?” program for grades 1-7.
Rutgers Science Explorer
This traveling bus provides middle school students the opportunity to explore STEM careers via a variety of standards-based, hands-on activities with Rutgers researchers. By taking the role of scientists and engineers while working on a variety of hands-on activities, students learn key concepts from the school curriculum and get exposed to research practices. Along with the opportunity to have the mobile science lab and scientists visit on-site, the program now offers virtual events and in-person programming on Rutgers’ Busch Campus.
Rutgers 4-H Stem Ambassadors
The Rutgers 4 H STEM Ambassador Program is an excellent opportunity for teens to learn about STEM, develop as a leader in their community, and prepare for college. Participants gain valuable skills from a year-round, multi-year STEM enrichment program, lead STEM activities for other youth, and get to know like-minded students from across the state. Approximately 60 rising 8-10th graders are accepted into this competitive program each year.
Hopefully some of these resources will spark your interest and lead to new environmentally-based lessons, activities, and achievement programs in your local schools!