Schools and Libraries
November 16, 2015
Students and teachers in Newark, Freehold and Morristown New Jersey are embarking on ambitious "crowdfunding" campaigns to bankroll sustainability projects at their schools. An organic school garden in Newark, student eco-tool boxes in Freehold and a trail through a native plant garden in Morristown are among the projects in the first of two rounds in the matching grant program. New Jersey Audubon, the National Wildlife Federation, and ioby, a crowd-resourcing platform for citizen led neighborhood projects, are teaming up to provide free training and support to participating schools while the PSEG Foundation is matching donations up to $2,000 per school.
A fresh take on the old bake sale, crowdfunding typically seeks to raise money through small gifts online from large amounts of people. In this case, teachers in Newark, Freehold, and Morristown are turning the experience into a learning opportunity and working with students to raise more than $13,000 to green their schools.
Seek Academy in Newark is transforming an abandoned lot in the South Ward into a thriving school garden that will provide outdoor experiences and inexpensive organic food in a neighborhood where fresh food and green space is largely unavailable. After volunteers cleared the lot of garbage including; mattresses, liquor bottles and needles, students helped to build raised garden beds where radishes, arugula and spinach are already starting to be harvested. With a budget of $5,185, Seek is hoping to purchase among other items, lumber, soil, seeds, and rain barrels, and pay a part time gardening instructor. They are nearly halfway to their fundraising goal and have until December 15 to raise the final $2,685. https://www.ioby.org/project/growing-our-school-garden-south-ward-newark
Teacher and project lead, Uzma Chowdhury says "The South Ward of Newark is riddled with vacant lots and homes--especially the block across from our school. Instead of having children look out their classroom windows at old, burned out, abandoned homes, we are hoping they can look at gardens they planted themselves, where communities can come together to share fresh, real, cheap organic food and have pride in where they come from. The children talk a lot about the Lorax. They say that by building this garden they hope to bring the Lorax back to Newark."
Two other Eco-Schools are participating in the program this fall. Students at C. Richard Applegate School in Freehold are raising money to build eco-tool boxes to help reduce school waste and increase recycling. https://www.ioby.org/project/eco-cool-tools. The green team at Unity Charter School in Morristown is building a living wall for their outdoor classroom and creating a learning trail through a native plant garden on site. https://www.ioby.org/project/green-unity.
All three schools are participating in Eco-Schools USA in New Jersey, a partnership between National Wildlife Federation and New Jersey Audubon. This international program recognizes and provides free resources to schools integrating sustainability into the curriculum and on school grounds while increasing student engagement with STEM academics. The program has gained ground with over 3,000 schools participating nationwide and 182 schools registered in New Jersey.
National Wildlife Federation reports that in a recent survey of Eco-Schools, 42% of teachers cited lack of money as a leading impediment to success in sustainability initiatives.
"Kids have access to more information than ever before about the environment. They want to do something with that information and have a positive impact on their world" says Dale Rosselet, vice president for education, New Jersey Audubon. "We don't want to see a lack of funding get in the way of that so New Jersey Audubon has created the PSEG school sustainable grant program with the National Wildlife Federation and ioby to empower teachers and students to raise the funds needed to create sustainability programs in their school. In addition to the "on the ground" sustainability projects this program will result in, it will also train a new generation of students and teachers on fundraising and communication skills that will allow them to tackle even more projects."
Through the PSEG Foundation's sustainable schools grant program, participating schools have guidance and training from New Jersey Audubon staff and from ioby, New Jersey schools will have another opportunity to get on board in early 2016 when nine more schools will be invited to participate in the program. For more information about the program and each school's project visit ioby's campaign page: https://www.ioby.org/njecoschools2015
Eco-Schools is an international program in 60 countries with over 3,000 participating schools in the United States. The program, hosted by the National Wildlife Federation in the United States, and coordinated by New Jersey Audubon in New Jersey has 181 schools registered throughout the state. The Eco-Schools program recognizes and rewards schools as they work to extend learning beyond the classroom and develop responsible environmental attitudes and commitments both at home and in the wider community. Eco-Schools USA in New Jersey supports and directly aligns with Sustainable Jersey for Schools point-based system. With support from PSEG and The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Eco-Schools USA is able to provide a staff person on the ground to help New Jersey schools reach their goals. For more information: http://www.nwf.org/Eco-Schools-USA.aspx
About National Wildlife Federation:
National Wildlife Federation is America's largest conservation organization inspiring people to protect wildlife for our children's future. NWF focuses its education and policy work on connecting children to nature for a nation of happier, healthier kids. NWF's state affiliate is NJ Audubon. For more information: www.nwf.org.
About New Jersey Audubon:
New Jersey Audubon is a privately supported, not-for profit, statewide membership organization that fosters environmental awareness and a conservation ethic among New Jersey's citizens; protects New Jersey's birds, mammals, other animals, and plants, especially endangered and threatened species; and promotes preservation of New Jersey's valuable natural habitats. For more information: www.njaudubon.org.
About PSEG Foundation
The PSEG Foundation (501c3) is the philanthropic arm of Public Service Enterprise Group (NYSE:PEG). The Foundation invests in programs that align with our giving focus areas: Sustainable Neighborhoods, STEM Education, Safety and Preparedness and PSEG Employee Engagement/Volunteerism. The PSEG family of companies also provides funding to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve. Through our corporate giving, we support dinners and other events across our service and operating territories, as well as sponsorships for sports, arts and entertainment. PSEG (NYSE: PEG) is a diversified energy company based in Newark NJ. PSEG has three main subsidiaries: PSE&G, NJ's largest and oldest combined gas and electric delivery company, PSEG Power, a merchant power generation company and PSEG Long Island, operator of the Long Island Power Authority's transmission and distribution system.
ioby is a non-profit online platform for citizen-led, neighbor-funded projects. Its mission is to strengthen neighborhoods by supporting the leaders who want to make positive change, engaging their neighbors, one block at a time. For more information please visit www.ioby.org.