Some Asbury Park students received an amazing opportunity.

This hands-on, project-based outing teaches elementary school students about Asbury Park’s rare wildlife, and how to protect and preserve it. Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF), the Asbury Park mayor’s office and public schools, and New Jersey Natural Gas hosted Wildlife Wednesdays Field Experience at North Beach each summer.

Amy Quinn, Deputy Mayor, Asbury Park says that giving kids hands-on experience with wildlife and environmental protection could inspire them to grow up to be the next generation of Asbury Park’s civic leaders and public servants.

Wildlife Wednesdays run for five weeks over the summer in Asbury Park in conjunction with the schools, and build on the district’s focus on civic engagement and emphasis on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) through the planned activities.

For example, students have pitched in to help clean up the beach and collect data on the types and quantity of garbage they found. Teachers were encouraged to bring the data back to the classroom to be analyzed and graphed to determine how the garbage may have gotten there, and to help students present solutions to the problem by writing a letter to Asbury Park government officials.

David Wheeler, CWF Executive Director says it's so important to not only foster a love of nature and wildlife in students, but also show to the kids how to help protect them. By giving these kids the chance to be a part of the solution, they're being given hope for the future of wildlife and a healthy city and state.

While learning about beach nesting birds and shore birds from CWF Senior Biologist Todd Pover, the kids were thrilled to see an osprey snatch a fish from the sea right in front of them. Some of the students had gone on a previous CWF field trip to see an osprey nest at the local high school, and they seized on the idea that the bird was bringing its catch back to that nest. Pover also taught students how to read a band through a spotting scope and gave them a behind the scenes glimpse into the life of a wildlife biologist. Kids were delighted to find out that they could learn to be biologists too and were on their way having already learned to read the bands.

Sustainability activist and Board of Education member Giuseppe ‘Joe’ Grillo says there is strong scientific evidence that communities thrive when they have access to nature, yet students in underserved communities like Asbury Park are routinely cut off from nature in their surroundings. This program empowers Asbury Park youth to live a healthy lifestyle and claim ownership of nature all around them – right in their hometown.

Another activity taught students about the importance of sand dunes and dune grass. In addition to providing habitat for horseshoe crabs, the dunes and grasses protect beaches and property from damaging storms. Keeping with the school district’s goal to involve students in music and the arts, the students will be composing an original song about the activities to perform for their peers.

Justin Artenant, Program Director of the Thought Leaders After-school Academy of Asbury Park, and Tom Hayes, the Director of Customer and Community Relations at New Jersey Natural Gas even joined the kids on North Beach for the program.

Tom Hayes reminds us that New Jersey Natural Gas has been involved in the Asbury Park community for nearly 70 years. Education and the environment are the main focus of NJNG's community involvement, so this is exactly the type of program they are excited to be a partner on.

For info on MORE of the things NJNG is involved in, CLICK HERE.