PATERSON, NJ - Did you know that salt water mixed with fresh water makes brackish water?  Well, these Paterson kids do.

Thursday, July 28 marked a special day for 40 Paterson schoolchildren as their three-week summer program, E3 University, held an awards ceremony that also featured the students’ final presentations.

Their impressive multimedia presentations told stories of nearly a half-dozen field trips on which they studied environmental science all across the Garden State.  Many expressed excitement about the following day’s scheduled trip to the Oceans Institute in Sandy Hook.

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Their presentations included information, pictures, and video from visits to the Meadowlands Environmental Center in Lyndhurst, the Buttinger Nature Center in Pennington, Great Swamp Environmental Center in Morristown.

Students used techniques they were taught at these three sites to test the water quality in their own communities.  Field trips to Garrett Mountain and West Side Park gave the young scientists a chance to explore and analyze Paterson’s own natural areas and wildlife.

“We tried to give the students as many opportunities as possible to be outside in their area,” said Sarah Sterling-Laldee, the Project Director.

She told the students that they learn more when they get to make choices about their learning and “have a voice.”  Sterling-Laldee believes that programs like E3 may point the way to more successful and interactive curriculums in traditional classrooms.

“We all wish that regular school was more like what we did this summer.  You learn more and you’re more cooperative,” she told the students in her closing remarks.

The final presentations came in two formats, interactive animated posters created with software called Glogster and movies made with Apple’s iMovie.  Some students gave their presentations solo, while others teamed up in pairs.  Several presentations asked the question, “Would you swim in the Passaic River?”

But the program was about much more than just environmental science and multimedia presentations.  A strong community service component had students building a garden at a high-rise senior citizen complex and painting a mural in Public School 2.  Those in attendance for the ceremony were given a tour of both impressive accomplishments.

Keisha Hill, a staffer for the program in charge of the mural project said, “We know the Great Falls is such a strong symbol of our city, but we wanted to include more.”  The finished product has a depiction of the Great Falls surrounded by natural sites like water and a tree, as well as both the sun and moon.

The summer program is a joint venture of the Paterson YMCA and the Paterson Education Fund.  The program’s staff, or STEM team, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, consists of teachers from the Paterson Public Schools system.  E3 University serves students preparing to enter 5th to 9th grades in the fall at School No. 2, Alexander Hamilton Academy, LaGarde Academy, and Future Scholars Academy.

Awards were given out to acknowledge various superlatives on the part of the students, ranging from to “Quietest,” which rising 5th grader Aracely Perez, age 10, took home to “Most Likely to Become President,” an award shared by Charles Ferrer Jr., 10, Brittany Jones, 13, and Jahod Silver, 11.

Whether students won an award or not, they all seemed to have the same reaction to the program: it was great.

Donald Morgan, a 12-year-old rising 8th grader said, “This program was actually a fun idea.   New people, new friends, new fun.”

His final project partner Charles said, “I give it a 10!”