Sandy Hook, NJ – Nearly 900 middle school students and teachers from 28 schools in Northern and Central New Jersey joined scientists and volunteer teachers on the beach at Clean Ocean Action’s (COA) annual Spring Student Summit held Wednesday and Thursday. Students participated in six hands-on learning table activities and ten interactive fieldtrips, with the beaches, trails, and marshes of Sandy Hook serving as the outdoor classroom each day.

“Empowering the next generation to protect the earth starts with education; and for 26 years, this program has fostered respect for nature’s critters, waters, and coastlines,” said Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action. “When a child is thrilled to hold a horseshoe crab in their hands while discovering it is a creature that has remained relatively unchanged over 200 million years, he or she then shares a profound connection between the evolution of life and its frailty. This kind of hands-on education empowers the next generation to want to protect their precious natural resources.”

Students participated in six hands-on learning table activities including: live horseshoe crabs, seashell identification, marine debris impacts, invertebrates, a demonstration in nonpoint source pollution and climate change.

“During the Summit, the marine ecosystem becomes the classroom and the students become scientists” stated Catie Tobin, Ocean Advocate and Education Fellow at Clean Ocean Action. “The Summit inspires students with a sense of personal stewardship necessary for protecting the environment in the future,” said Tobin.

Field activities included teaching students to use seine nets to collect and identify common marine species of Sandy Hook Bay, identifying key bird species and the important role Sandy Hook plays in bird migration, testing water quality, and learning fishing techniques. Students also participated in a special beach profiling activity highlighting the importance of dunes in protecting coastal habitat.

“Student Summit is an incredible opportunity for my students to interact with the environment in a way I just cannot provide inside the classroom,” said Diane Jansson, Teacher at Saint Andrew the Apostle School in Clifton, NJ.

“Hands-on citizen science is the best way to connect students to the coast,” said Kathleen Gasienica, dedicated volunteer educator of Clean Ocean Action. “Water, humans, marine life and habitat are all connected. Thanks to COA's Student Summit, hundreds of students have a firsthand experience that will help them be better stewards of this precious environment,” added Gasienica.

The 2014 Spring Student Summit was made possible by donations from private foundations, businesses, and citizens.

The following schools participated in the Spring Student Summit:

May 14 Participating Schools: Bergen Arts and Science Charter School (Garfield), PS#11 (Jersey City), Lincoln Elementary School (Kearny), Saint Augustine of Canterbury (Kendall Park), Bayshore Middle School (Leonardo), Audrey W. Clark Elementary School (Long Branch), Long Branch Middle School (Long Branch), Seashore School (Long Branch), Saint Pius X School (Montville), Ironbound Catholic Academy (Newark), Saint Joseph Regional School (Newton), Our Lady of the Lake (Verona).

May 15 Participating Schools: Brookside Middle School (Allendale), Grover Cleveland Middle School (Caldwell), Lincoln School (Caldwell), Saint Andrew the Apostle (Clifton), The Wardlaw Hartridge School (Edison), Clifton T. Barkalow School (Freehold), Bergen Arts and Science Charter School (Garfield), Solomon Shechter Day School (Marlboro), Saint Virgil Academy (Morris Plains), Jonas Salk Middle School (Old Bridge), Cambridge School (Pennington), Sacred Heart School (Rockaway), Firestar Academy (Tabernacle), Colin Powell Elementary School (Union City), Warren Hills Regional Middle School (Washington), Woodcliff Middle School (Woodcliff Lake).

About COA’s Student Summits:

For 26 years, Clean Ocean Action’s Summits have reached over 15,000 students in New Jersey, expanding learning beyond the classroom. The Summit program presents students with an interdisciplinary marine and environmental education experience which complements the

New Jersey Science Standards.

COA invites northern and central New Jersey public and private schools to the Spring Student Summit held in mid-May at Sandy Hook. The Fall Student Summit will take place October 9 at Island Beach State Park for southern New Jersey public and private schools. Schools are mailed applications prior to the Summits and are accepted based on the application and availability.

For more information about Student Summit or additional COA educational programs, visit www.CleanOceanAction.org or call COA’s Main Office at (732) 872-0111.