PHOTO: Students in the AP Environmental Science class at Henry Hudson Regional School are guided by Ms. Tiffany Falcone (far right) in identifying macroinvertebrates in a water sample. Photos by Donald C. Gates

As part of an observance of Earth Week, Ms. Tiffany Falcone, an AmeriCorps Watershed Ambassador, made presentations to a total of 53 students of Henry Hudson Regional School and the Atlantic Highlands Elementary School on April 19, 2016. The students of the Advanced Placement Environmental Science class at HHRS led by their teacher Mr. Thomas Lynch learned how stream water quality can be determined by classifying and counting the species of macroinvertebrates that are collected from bodies of freshwater.

PHOTO: Sixth grade science students at the Atlantic Highlands Elementary School hunt through water from a local stream for insect larvae.

That afternoon, two sixth grade science classes at the elementary school were challegenged with the same learning experience to find “bugs” such as the larvae of caddisflies, mayflies, and dragonflies in a water sample taken from a Monmouth County stream. Their enthusiasm rose with “oohs and ahs” as a variety of multi-legged larvae and nymphs emerged from the leaf-laden bucket of water. Their teacher, Ms. Dana Bellantoni, watched as they uncovered an unexpected find- a fish or frog egg.

Another unexpected find during the day was a small fish too young to identify, which was added to Mr. Lynch’s tank of trout fingerlings at the high school. Macroinvertebrates, in addition to indicating water quality, provide food for larger insects, fish, and birds.

Ms.Tiffany Falcone is the AmeriCorps Watershed Ambassador assigned to the Navesink/Shrewsbury Watershed to help educate people of the effects of water pollution on the water supply. This program is administered by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and funds twenty Watershed Ambassadors in New Jersey who also perform stream assessments and organize waterway clean-ups.

The Atlantic Highlands Environmental Commission has sponsored these presentations at the two schools for the past four years to encourage awareness of the need to care for our fragile environment.

The AmeriCorps is a group of 70,000 volunteers nationwide promoting education, health and public safety.