A group of teachers in Jersey City, New Jersey are hiking around the Jersey City Reservoir to learn valuable lessons about nature that they can then bring back to their students in the classroom. It is also a way for teachers to overall incorporate themes of nature into the subjects that they teach.

All of this is done in partnership with the Honeywell Institute for Ecosystem Education, which is explained further here:

The reservoir largely went unused until early 2000s when the Jersey City Reservoir Alliance began to see it as a viable urban environmental resource.

This is also part of a four-day summer program by Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education (HIEE), which combines classroom instruction with diverse outdoor experiences.

“The Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education represents an investment in the sustainability of our schools and our communities,” said Mike Bennett, president of Honeywell Hometown Solutions. “In addition, we want to help students prepare for jobs and work that will keep our country competitive and make a real difference in people’s lives. HIEE provides Jersey City students with the opportunity to make an impact in their school and community while developing a passion for sustainability; urban conservation; and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.”

HIEE has been involved with Jersey City Schools since 2008 and programs have taken teachers from one end of the city to the other, studying numerous aspects of the environment, including last year a visit to Hyatt Hotel on Exchange Place to learn about their rooftop beekeeping program. This included students from Christa McAuliffe Middle School, P.S. 28, working on how to reduce mosquitoes, a significant issue in some portions of the reservoir through the use of self-sustaining technology.

This is a partnership between Honeywell and New Jersey Audubon which works in cooperation with Jersey City schools to help Jersey City teachers inspire their students to identify and address local environmental issues, create more sustainable communities, and become scientists, inventors, or engineers.

Early in the day, teachers spread out on the shores of the reservoir including, art teachers who were making sketches of the pump houses, islands, and other features.

The reservoir occupies an area the size of several city blocks between Summit and Central avenues and is contained by a large stone wall. Inside, however, the landscape is complete different, a lost world filled with wildlife and fauna. Large white egrets launch from the water side like ancient dinosaurs, while geese, ducks and many other birds cruise the shore line.

Teachers involved in the program come from a variety of disciplines, including art, and for the few hours or so, many sat beside the water attempting to sketch the details of the remarkable terrain.

“HIEE enables teachers to implement modern teaching methods within changing and sustaining urban landscapes that empower students to become active participants,” said Manisha Shah, Jersey City Public School’s 6to 12grade science supervisor. “Together teachers and students will explore their surrounding habitats to propose solutions that are environmentally sustainable and work towards continued conservation projects in the future.”

Each HIEE participating teacher is given a $500 mini-grant from Honeywell to implement sustainability projects in their classrooms and to work toward an Eco-Schools USA certification.  This National Wildlife Federation certification is given to schools that engage their students, staff, and community members to identify school sustainability issues and to develop improvement plans.  At Eco-Schools, students engage in critical thinking and hands-on STEM lessons to develop environmental awareness and stewardship that can be used at home and at school.

Read More