DENVILLE, NJ -- The sixth, seventh and eighth graders of Valleyview Middle School received a special guest on Sept. 24. Tammy Murphy, the First Lady of New Jersey, wife of Governor Phil Murphy, came to Denville to see the students' sustainability projects and their efforts to combat climate change.
“I’m trying to learn from a lot of schools around our state who are really strong on sustainability, teaching climate change and what they’re doing to make sure that we’re educating all of our students today to deal with some of the challenges that I believe are waiting for them in the future,” said Murphy.
“So, I’ve just had an incredible tour and seen everything from composting to ways that they are integrating sustainability across the school and across the classes, and I’m really impressed.”
Murphy has been recently touring public schools around New Jersey and viewing what teachers and staff have been engaging their students in to learn and protect their local environment.In Denville, Valleyview students could not wait to make a great impression on the Garden State's First Lady.
“I was a little nervous at first, but I realized First Lady Murphy is really interested in seeing the earth sustain and how she’s into recycling and composting,” said 12-year-old seventh grader Trey O’Dell, who got to show Murphy how students collect food waste to make their own compost.
“Our school really cares about sustainability and recycling. We are on board and doing it in a fun way. I hope she likes how we are doing things.”
Indeed, Murphy appreciated what she saw.
“It’s one thing to learn about water in science class, but when you learn about water in social studies and how it’s been impacted over the years, and you learn about it in math, not only is it more interesting to learn in general, but it makes one feel much more facile with the topics and issues,” said Murphy.
“So, I think it’s brilliant. I wish we did this everywhere and I’m proud of the schools who are strong on this.”
Some of the going-green activities that Murphy got to view and learn from Valleyview students included wildlife plantings (which focuses on the impact of monarchs and other pollinators), recycling, clean-ups around school grounds, skyping with professional scientists who are involved in conservation and climate change, nature photography workshop, watching environmental documentaries, collecting winter coats and gear for donations, engaging in fitness programs such as cross country and flag football, energy audits, solar cars, green teams for students and adults, attending the annual Green Fairs at the Denville Farmers' Market) and sampling local foods from the same Farmers’ Market. There was even a vegetable garden that Murphy got to view as well as a TREX bench that was made out of 500 plastic bags that students collected.
“It is definitely an honor to highlight the hard work of students and staff as well as the support of our administration,” said Lydia Stiles, a science teacher who acts as the coordinator between Valleyview and the Denville Green Sustainability Committee.
“I appreciate the enthusiasm of Tammy Murphy for the green efforts in and outside the school. We’re looking forward to continuing our relationship with the First Lady’s office and sharing green ideas with other public schools.”
Valleyview and Denville's elementary schools have been engaging in sustainability projects for the past five years. This is part of a statewide initiative run by Sustainable Jersey, a nonprofit organization that provides tools, training and financial incentives to support local communities in their pursuit of sustainability programs.
“We’re honored that the First Lady of New Jersey is visiting our school,” said Seth Korman, principal of Valleyview.
“Mrs. Stiles does so much for Valleyview and the green programs we have here.”
Likewise, the students were happy to share what they have learned, while meeting a big figure in their state government.
“This was a cool meeting with the governor’s wife,” said 12-year-old seventh grader William Woods.
“It’s exhilarating and a privilege few people get to have.”
Woods’s classmate, 12-year-old seventh grader Madelyne Pohlman, felt the same way and was proud that her school was making a difference for their local community.
“Going green is a good responsibility, and I love helping the environment,” said Pohlman.
“If the earth had a mouth, it would tell you it has feelings.”
Denville Mayor Thomas Andes was present as well.
“We’re very excited to have First Lady Murphy here at Valleyview,” said Mayor Andes.
“This visit shows all the wonderful things that the Board of Education and the superintendent implemented into the school curriculum. I’m proud of all the children and how they presented these programs to the First Lady.”
After visiting Valleyview, Murphy continued her tour of public schools that are leading the charge to a better, more sustainable earth; a movement she hopes spreads across New Jersey and beyond.
“I really feel strongly that we have to train our students today, so they are able to deal with climate change,” said Murphy.
“And it’s not just people who are going to be environmentalists. We need to have everybody who can do everything from art, to communications, to science, to really just communicating with one another and making sure that we are all on the same page. I feel that it would be fantastic if New Jersey was the first state in the country that actually incorporated climate change into our curriculum. I really hope that we can get some of our standards to show that we all care about the environment and that we are investing in the future of our state, so that we can make sure that we are protecting the great wetlands that we have over here and everything else from the top of the state to the bottom.”
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