Montclair, NJ. July 22, 2014 – Students returning to Watchung School in Montclair this fall, will have an extra helping of school pride as Watchung recently became the 9th school in Essex County to join National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA program. The internationally acclaimed program which provides free resources and support to schools working towards sustainability has been gaining in popularity in the Garden State with 121 schools registered in New Jersey.
Environmental awareness is nothing new to this science and technology magnet school. Environmental Science classes are actually conducted in a greenhouse and often times, outdoors. Teacher, Amy Armstrong takes a unique approach to science curriculum by using birds throughout the year as a theme to teach many concepts. Children learn everything from bird anatomy and identification to migration patterns and native food sources. While students can get an eyeful of feathered friends at the school bird feeders, they have also planted a native plant garden to attract and support birds, native insects, and other local wildlife. The schools grounds are transformed into a living classroom.
“Kids are naturally queued into and curious about nature, they are learning while enjoying themselves.” says Ms. Armstrong. “When they learn to take responsibility for the natural world, they care more about what happens to it.”
The native plant garden and time spent outdoors aligns with Eco-Schools Biodiversity and Healthy Living pathways, which encourage schools to investigate and improve biodiversity in school and beyond and to encourage outdoor time and physical activity. National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA program lays out 10 environmental pathways that schools can select from, including energy and water conservation and promoting sustainable foods. The program also offers teachers free tools and support to progress along those pathways and recognizes school progress with a points based award system.
“Watchung School offers some excellent examples of engaging students in real world learning experiences. They make a wonderful addition to the Eco-Schools network where schools have the opportunity to share success stories and student outcomes,” says Jennifer Dowd, Eco-Schools NJ Coordinator, New Jersey Audubon.
Students who are exposed to programs such as National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA that incorporate good STEM education see the world in a holistic way, gain skills in the process of inquiry, and become better problem-solvers and inventors who can utilize their knowledge of math, science and technology to design and engineer innovative solutions.
Eco-Schools is an international program in 59 countries. The program is hosted by the National Wildlife Federation in the United States, and coordinated by New Jersey Audubon in New Jersey. Eco-Schools USA in New Jersey supports and directly aligns with Sustainable Jersey for Schools point-based system. With support from PSE&G, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Horizon Foundation, and Spencer Savings Bank Eco-Schools USA is able to provide a staff person on the ground to help New Jersey schools reach their goals.
There are 9 Eco-Schools in Essex County including Miller Street Elementary School, East Side High School, Greater Newark Charter School, H.B. Whitehorne Middle School, Maria L. Varisco Rogers Charter School, Millburn Middle School, Montclair Kimberly Academy, Philips Academy Charter School, and Watchung School.
About National Wildlife Federation:
National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization inspiring people to protect wildlife for our children’s future. NWF focuses its education and policy work on connecting children to nature for a nation of happier, healthier kids. NWF’s state affiliate is NJ Audubon. For more information: www.nwf.org.
About NJ Audubon:
The New Jersey Audubon Society is a privately supported, not-for profit, statewide membership organization that fosters environmental awareness and a conservation ethic among New Jersey's citizens; protects New Jersey's birds, mammals, other animals, and plants, especially endangered and threatened species; and promotes preservation of New Jersey's valuable natural habitats. For more information: www.njaudubon.org.