How Many Lessons Can An Oyster Teach?
Children at Lakewood Middle School are throwing bags into the Delaware Bay. No, this isn't an environmental disaster in the making – it's Project Ports, an educational program on environmental stewardship and science, and its opening eyes in Lakewood's afterschool program.
Project PORTS is a unique community-based restoration and education program. The program uses the oyster as a vehicle to acquaint school children with the Delaware along with important concepts in science and math. "We dissect an oyster with students so they learn about biology. We use the metric system to measure the oyster, then convert it to learn math concepts. We even get into the history and geography of the Delaware Bay," says Lisa Calvo, who runs the program for the Cousteau Center at Bridgeton, Rutgers University.
Students learn about the shrinking oyster population in the Delaware Bay. Then, they put their learning to work, by creating shell bags to put in a Delaware Bay estuary. Oyster larvae attach to these shell bags while they grow into mature oysters. This community-based restoration component gives students an opportunity to experience environmental stewardship first hand as they enhance the oyster habitat in the Delaware Bay.
Project Ports is one of several expanded learning programs at Lakewood's afterschool program, which is run by the Cumberland Empowerment Zone. Assistant Coordinator Katherine Anderson says "We are always looking for new ways to expand our students' understanding of the world." The afterschool program partners with local organizations like 4-H, Boys and Girls Club, and South Jersey Youth Alliance. Through these partnerships, students can participate in programs that range from bullying prevention, to gardening to sewing. These programs provide academic enrichment, build social and emotional skills, and give kids opportunities they don’t have anywhere else.