School tree project con­tinues to grow

Funding from state and township covered cost
of schoolyard habitatCorrespondent

By jennifer y. maratea

Funding from state and township covered cost
of schoolyard habitat

Students at the Ocean Township Intermediate School have been creating a schoolyard habitat of trees, plants and animals in the southwest corner of the school grounds for a year now.

According to Principal Larry Kostula, the schoolyard habitat program has been a hands-on science experience.

"It’s one thing to learn from books, but it’s another to learn by doing," he said. "I’m very positive about it."

Tom Darcy, supervisor of the science department for grades 6-12 and a member of the Environmental Commission, is in charge of the project, which was originally started by Jack Williams, a former member of the Environmental Commission who is now a member of the Board of Education.

The habitat is a permanent part of the school landscape and was partially funded through a matching grant of $2,500 from the state Department of Environmental Protection. Matching grant money came from the township’s Environmental Commission.

According to Darcy, the habitat is in­tended to be an outdoor classroom which involves students in planting trees, monitoring and observing their growth and other environmental factors, and maintaining the habitat with the aid of teachers. Areas of the habitat are be­ing left open for growth in order to pro­vide a living example of the change that natural areas undergo over time.

In order for the schoolyard habitat project to continue successfully for an­other year, the DEP has awarded the township another $2,500 grant that again requires matching funds be provided.

Last year, nearly a thousand trees were obtained free of charge from the N.J. Tree Foundation and were planted in the habitat. Since then, the number of trees has increased as time passed, and more and more students have been given the opportunity to participate in the experience.

"With the coming year and the addi­tion of another grant, there will be more trees, shrubs and bushes that will be provided for the students’ continuing ex­periment and education," said Councilwoman Mary Pat Napolitano.