Upper Township Middle School recognized for sustainability efforts

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PETERSBURG – The Upper Township Middle School was recognized last week for environmental projects aimed at energy and water conservation, sustainable foods and reducing consumption and waste.

The middle school is one of three Eco-Schools in Cape May County. The Eco-Schools USA program is sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation and seeks to provide free resources and support to schools working toward environmental sustainability.

According to a press release, the middle school has planted native shrubs and pollinator gardens to increase biodiversity, created rain gardens to conserve water and is maintaining trails on the school property for outdoor learning.

The school has also been focusing on reducing waste by composting food waste from the cafeteria for use in the school garden, which grows carrots, peas, kale, tomatoes and onions that students share with classmates and parents to encourage healthy eating.

“The Eco-Schools program benefits our school by offering teachers suggested pathways to successfully address ecological topics with their students,” said teacher Paul Ludgate. “Our students have developed spaces for outdoor classrooms - courtyards planted with native shrubs and small trees, trails that lead to vernal streams, pink lady slipper orchids, raised bed gardens, and a beach plum orchard. They are drawn to the beauty of the gardens.

“Hands-on learning is a very effective method of instruction and all learners can benefit from the aesthetic and practical enhancements of these newly imagined learning spaces,” he said.

Eco-Schools can earn awards that recognize their progress toward any of 10 sustainability pathways laid out by the program including energy and water conservation, sustainable foods and reducing consumption and waste.

“Through Eco-Schools USA, we help educators create authentic learning experiences for students that will resonate with them far beyond the classroom. We know it’s working when we see how excited students get about science and math as these topics comes to life in their environment.” said Jennifer Dowd, Eco-Schools NJ coordinator.

Curtis Fisher, northeast regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation, said Eco-Schools USA “gets students excited about science, math, and art and demonstrates how they can use these skills to make their schools better places to learn and their world a better place to live.”

The program is supported by PSE&G, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Horizon Foundation, and Spencer Savings Bank.

Upper Township Middle School and other Cape May County schools are located near three New Jersey Audubon sites in the county, including two Cape May bird observatories and the Nature Center of Cape May. The center provides outreach programs at local schools or field trip experiences at the center and in other natural habitats throughout the county.

The Ocean City Intermediate School and the Richard M. Teitelman Middle School in Cape May are also Eco-Schools.

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