Habitats & Open Meadows for the Environment (HOME)
extends an environmental science program already in place at Hillside Intermediate School in Bridgewater (Somerset County) which was established in 1997. An NJEA Frederick L. Hipp Foundation for Excellence in Education grant in the amount of $9,600 was awarded to educators Katrina Macht, Anthony Sgro, Maria Sandborg, Tara Hueston, Sarah Wolf, Michele Murray, Colleen Sweeney, and Liz Elliot, to plan and coordinate HOME.
The school’s outdoor classroom is already the backdrop for on-going programs where children and adults are actively involved with nature. HOME started with 100 students learning about the effects of sprawl on New Jersey’s open spaces, who will teach other students about the issues and potential solutions. Teachers and parent volunteers will guide children in their exploration of schoolyard ecosystems, while students research and design a reforestation project to share with the community and children from other schools until permanent outdoor sites are established. At that point, students will populate the sites with habitat-appropriate vegetation to attract nesting birds.
Participants collaborate with students in other districts through e-mail, video-conferencing, and web-chats to research the effects of vegetation loss on wildlife and design a public awareness campaign to address the consequences. Students create an informational podcast about biodiversity to be shared with others.
At the conclusion of the project, students participate in BioBlitz, a survey of the biodiversity found in the schoolyard habitat. The event is part scientific inquiry, part celebration of the habitat, and part educational forum.
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