Ramapo College students launch climate change project at Meadowlands Environment Center
MAHWAH, NJ — Students at Ramapo College and dozens of middle schoolers in Ridgefield Park, NJ, gained hands-on experience researching climate change this summer. The project, which saw the launch of “man-made floating islands” in the waters of the Meadowlands at the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) in DeKorte Park, was carried out in partnership with the Ridgefield Youth Summer Program Park Board of Education which included students in grades 6-8.
The Private Donor-funded Climate Change Education, Research and Action Project Grant enabled Ramapo students to work and study at the Meadowlands Environment Center (MEC) and NJSEA Parks Department, both in Lyndhurst, NJ.
Grant manager Dr. Angela Cristini, professor of biology at Ramapo College, said the project was a great opportunity for everyone involved. “The next generation of scientists and environmental educators have had hands-on, real-world learning experiences that will make a difference. I hope we will be able to expand and develop these programs in the future.
Ramapo student interns worked with World Sustainability Instructor Karin La Greca to create the module learning objectives and update the curriculum. They worked with MEC’s Director of Disability Education, Michele Daly, to learn more about previous experience teaching this module and to modify the activities to fit into four sessions of 52 minutes which will be offered at the MEC. The trainees created a prototype, tested it and made changes before the first session with the middle school students in early July. They then worked with middle school students to create their own floating islands.
Artificial Floating Islands (AFI) are man-made floating structures and are recognized as an effective tool for habitat restoration. AFIs serve a variety of functions, such as water purification through absorption; habitat for fish, birds and other organisms; breaking waves; and landscape improvement. AFIs create mini-ecosystems on the water, they are floating wetlands. Two of the biggest benefits are improved water quality and habitat diversity.
Climate change has affected harmful algal blooms, i.e. algae blooms in water. Blooms occur when excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) combine with sunlight and warm temperatures. They can have serious negative effects on aquatic ecosystems, the economy and human health. These floating wetlands can help reduce algae by cycling phosphorus and nitrogen. They can reduce the total suspended solids that cause cloudy water.
“The Meadowlands Environment Center’s academic enrichment programs provide invaluable, hands-on learning experiences that inspire students to care about protecting and preserving the environment at a critical, early age,” said Vincent Prieto, President and CEO of NJSEA. “The artificial floating islands project is a great example of how the MEC engages students in topics that correspond to significant current events such as climate change and sea level rise. Center educators of the environment are to be commended for their outstanding work and dedication to their students. »
As an educational component of NJSEA, MEC teaches K-12 students a variety of subjects including ecology, sustainability, chemistry, biology, physics, natural history, astronomy , as well as healthy food and nutrition. Classes are taught by educators from Ramapo College through a partnership with NJSEA.
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