Alder Avenue School receives Environmental Quality Award

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  Submitted/Pictured from left are Joe Marinelli, Principal at Alder Avenue Middle School, Scott McCartney, Superintendent of Egg Harbor Township School District, Linda Cox, Executive Director of the Bronx River Alliance, John Jones, 6th Grade Teacher at Alder Avenue Middle School, Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator and Ellen Gregory, Director of Development as they accept the EPA award on Friday, April 19. Submitted/Pictured from left are Joe Marinelli, Principal at Alder Avenue Middle School, Scott McCartney, Superintendent of Egg Harbor Township School District, Linda Cox, Executive Director of the Bronx River Alliance, John Jones, 6th Grade Teacher at Alder Avenue Middle School, Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator and Ellen Gregory, Director of Development as they accept the EPA award on Friday, April 19.

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – The Alder Avenue Middle School, which serves half of the district’s approximately 1,800 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students, received the 2013 Environmental Quality Award by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency Friday, April 19 at the EPA offices in New York City. It is the school’s third major award in less than 12 months, a press release from the Egg Harbor Township School District.

Each year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Region 2) honors businesses, individuals, governments and organizations that have contributed significantly to improving the environment and protecting public health in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and eight federally recognized Indian Nations. The EPA has 10 regional offices, each of which is responsible for several states and territories.
The annual awards are given to institutions that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to protecting and enhancing environmental quality and public health in six categories: business and industry; individual citizen; nonprofit organization, environmental or community group; environmental education; federal, state, local or tribal government or agency; and print and broadcast media.
In January, Alder Avenue Middle School was presented with the 2012 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for its innovative environmental and energy conservation classroom efforts. Established in 2000, the program recognizes individuals, businesses, educators, institutions, communities, youth and others who have made significant contributions to environmental protection in New Jersey through outstanding environmental performance, programs and projects.
In June 2012, the school was among 78 other inaugural honorees across the country to receive the U.S. Green Ribbon Schools award. Developed by the U.S. Department of Education with support from the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency and several other agencies and nonprofits, the award honors schools that are exemplary in reducing environmental impact and costs, improving the health and wellness of students and staff, and providing effective environmental and sustainability education, which incorporates Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program coursework, civic skills and green career pathways.
The largest district in Atlantic County, Egg Harbor Township jumped in population from 30,726 in 2000 to 43,323 in 2010, an increase of more than 41 percent. The growth surge caused overcrowding in the schools of the former rural farming community and wreaked havoc on the nearby Great Egg Harbor River.
A handful of EHT teachers have been plucking students from the traditional classroom setting and conducting their Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program coursework from a boat in the middle of the Great Egg Harbor River, knee-deep in a 6-acre community teaching garden, digging through cafeteria leftovers for their organic garden fertilization project, or stockpiling and weighing recyclables and calculating trash removal cost savings to the district.
Leading the cause at Alder Avenue Middle School is sixth-grade teacher John Jones, with support from teacher Gavin MacNeill. The former owner-operator of a landscaping firm, Jones has been spearheading the environmental education efforts since the Catawba Project torch was passed to him in 2008 by now-retired Fernwood Avenue Middle School teacher Dave Crawford, the founder of the program and a 2008 recipient of the U.S. EPA Environmental Quality Award.
The Catawba Project is a grassroots cross-curricular environmental education program that aims to instill environmental stewardship in students. Jones has taken the program to the next level by introducing service learning to the curriculum and hosting professional development sessions for his peers to expose them to the student benefits of learning by doing.
According to Jones, the only way to protect the Great Egg Harbor River and the wildlife that depend on it from pollution is to enlist the help of the next generation and empower them with the tools and knowledge they will need to educate others.
He heads an afterschool environmental program in which students tend and expand an outdoor learning lab that features a small tree farm, an organic garden, a pond with a solar-powered pump, native plants, birdhouses built by students, and rain barrels to collect surface water runoff from the building roof, which is used to water the plants. 
Jones has co-written grants that have secured more than $105,000 for Catawba Project classroom initiatives.  Those efforts have also garnered the program and student participants many national, state and local awards including the New Jersey Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award, the US Department of Education Green Ribbon School Award and placing third in the Disney Planet Challenge in 2012. It was a state finalist in the 2011 Disney Planet Challenge, received the 2010 National Park Service Recognition Award, the 2008 EPA Environmental Quality Award, the 2007 Patricia F. Kane Environmental Education Award from the NJ Audubon Society, the 2006-2007 NJ Infrastructure Trust Award by the NJ DEP and the 2006 New Jersey Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award.
Jim Thoms, a seventh-grade science teacher at Fernwood Avenue Middle School, has taken hundreds of students out on the Duke O’Fluke Fishing vessel to conduct water quality tests and trawl the Great Egg Harbor and Tuckahoe Rivers for signs of pollution. Thoms submits the information to the state Department of Environmental Protection, which grants him a permit to use the trawl net. The students also conduct wildlife counts, install Osprey nesting platforms and conduct a trash cleanup on one of the bay’s isolated beaches.
Led by fifth-grade teacher Colin McClain and his class, teachers Liz Girard, Dave Baldwin, Christina Andrews Kevin Conley and Michele Bucci at Dr. Joyanne D. Miller School have instituted a plethora of green programs including a student-run recycling program, an outdoor classroom site with pond ecosystem and an Adopt-a-School yard cleanup program. McClain and his students work side-by-side with Jones’ class on weekends to refine the community teaching carden on the grounds of the Greate Egg Harbour Historical Society.
For information on the Catawba Project see www.thecatawbaproject.org. For information on Alder Avenue Middle School environmental education program call Jones at (609) 338-8809 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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