Bear Tavern Elementary School is the 21st school in Mercer County to join Eco-Schools USA in New Jersey, a partnership between National Wildlife Federation and New Jersey Audubon. New principal Chris Turnbull made the decision to join Eco-Schools USA as a way to build upon an existing culture of environmental awareness and further incorporate sustainability into the curriculum and school grounds. Their first eco-project will be a school-wide effort to raise rainbow trout and them into the wild at the Forest Resource Education Center in Jackson, NJ later this year. The trout are being used as a platform to teach everything from science and math to writing, reading, and art.
Involved from the very beginning, students helped principal Chris Turnbull and guidance counselor Kevin Kerwin to set up the tanks and prepare them for the new visitors. The anticipation was palpable as each day, kids walked into school to see a large sign counting down the days until the eggs arrived. Now that the eggs are here, fourth graders are responsible for caring for the fish, testing water quality and collecting and recording data on a daily basis. Although the fourth grade is leading the charge, all students will benefit from watching the trout grow and making connections to what they are learning in the classroom. The excitement extends to the home as parents follow along with the Bear Tavern Trout Blog.
“The Trout in the Classroom program has been a huge help in getting students, and adults, really excited and engaged in learning,” said principal, Chris Turnbull. “It has helped to make science, art, language arts, math and geography really fun for the children. It has had a huge impact on our school and has even lead to opportunities to collaborate with other schools in our district and around the state.”
In addition to learning with trout, Bear Tavern students also help maintain an onsite food garden, partake in a TerraCycle recycling program and create art projects throughout the year using recycled materials. The school’s butterfly garden is also recognized as a Certified Wildlife Habitat with National Wildlife Federation.
“Bear Tavern sets an excellent example for New Jersey schools” says New Jersey Audubon vice president for education, Dale Rosselet. “Sustainability projects that offer experiential learning help not only to develop a student’s environmental literacy, they also help make learning fun – and there is a lot to be said for that.”
What’s next for Bear Tavern? They have their sights set high with goals to earn Eco-Schools highest honor, the Green Flag Award. Only five schools in New Jersey hold claim to this award. One of them is Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Lawrenceville where Turnbull was previously the principal.
Mercer County has more registered Eco-Schools than any other county in the state.
Eco-Schools is an international program in 60 countries. The program, hosted by the National Wildlife Federation in the United States, and coordinated by New Jersey Audubon in New Jersey has 182 schools registered throughout the state. Eco-Schools USA in New Jersey supports and directly aligns with Sustainable Jersey for Schools point-based system. With support from PSEG and The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Eco-Schools USA is able to provide a staff person on the ground to help New Jersey schools reach their goals. For more information: http://www.nwf.org/Eco-Schools-USA.aspx
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 New Jersey Audubon:
New Jersey Audubon 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.