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Sustainable Jersey for Schools team
From left to right, Gary Sondermeyer, chairperson, Sustainable Jersey Board of Trustees; Intermediate East band director Jill Milkovitz-Lovinfosse; Intermediate East music teacher Marilyn Osmundsen; Calvin Ledford, president and director of corporate social responsibility for the PSEG Foundation; and Randy Solomon, executive director, Sustainable Jersey celebrate Toms River Regional Schools' $10k grant award at a luncheon May 22.

May 25, 2023– In April, Toms River Regional Schools received a New Jersey Department of Education grant to explore and study climate change, with the $6,600 award going toward scientific supplies, kits, and books. In May, the district received another grant to study climate change, this time through Sustainable Jersey and PSEG, and for a program much less traditional.

The Rising Tides, Rising Sounds program received a $10,000 grant, and will support science through the arts. Specifically, climate science through the art of music.

“The Rising Tides, Rising Sounds program is an especially unique way to explore climate change through music, and will extend our cross-curricular efforts to address local, global, and societal needs in ways that truly resonate,” said Superintendent Michael Citta. “We are very grateful to Sustainable Jersey for Schools and to PSEG for recognizing the promise of this innovative project, which will promote both artistry and investigation, serving to both delight and challenge our beach community along the way.”

In this PSEG-funded cycle, five $20,000 grants, 12 $10,000 grants, and 40 $2,000 grants were distributed to recipients across 17 New Jersey counties. The grant awards will fund a range of projects including food waste recycling; green infrastructure and sustainable landscaping; green fairs; composting; green business recognition; environmental resource inventories; outdoor classrooms; pollinator gardens and more.

Toms River’s project, which will operate primarily through Intermediate East and which aligned with the district's sustainability policy-- specifically integrating climate change education curricula-- is especially unique. 

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Students will explore the tides at Cattus Island, will listen to the sounds of the ospreys who nest there, and will provide community service by conducting a beach cleanup as they listen and learn. Music staff will take part in “Listening to the Data Sing” training, three one-hour sessions about climate change data and its connection to music, and will develop lessons on multidisciplinary data music. “Hear the Tidal Rise with Kodaly” will teach chorus students to use musical sign language and voice to display data.

Finally, “Raise the Standards: Students and Voices to Stabilize the Tides” is a sub-project that will address the need for concert risers and staging, which will be built with the grant funding. Ribbon-cutting ceremonies will precede four holiday concerts over two days, celebrating the new risers, the season and, of course, students’ talent.

“The Rising Tides, Rising Sounds program ... will promote both artistry and investigation, serving to both delight and challenge our beach community along the way.” - Superintendent Mike Citta

Leading the project will be music teachers Jill Lovinfosse and Marilyn Osmundsen (“Ms. Oz”), who both attended the grant awards luncheon May 22. The Rising Tides project will also partner with Lovinfosse’s husband, John, a composer, who will work with students to orchestrate their auditory exploration of the data on climate change with a projection deep into the future.

“These sustainability projects will strengthen New Jersey by helping local communities become more livable, environmentally friendly and prosperous. Congratulations grant recipients; thank you for taking steps to improve health, integrate sustainability into student learning, boost recycling efforts and cut greenhouse gas emissions,” said Randall Solomon, executive director for Sustainable Jersey. “Your projects will have a ripple effect that will benefit us all.”

The PSEG Foundation has contributed $3.1 million dollars in funding to the Sustainable Jersey grants program for municipalities and schools over the past 12 years.

“PSEG cares about people and the planet, which is why we’re so proud to be a prime supporter of Sustainable Jersey,” said Calvin Ledford, president of the PSEG Foundation and director of PSEG Corporate Social Responsibility. “Sustainable Jersey starts with our precious youngsters and creates roles for everyone, in ways that show the kind of ingenuity, environmental stewardship and community that PSEG has valued for 120 years.”

Supervisor Tiffany Lucey envisioned the project and led the development of Toms River's application, and all proposals were evaluated by an independent Blue-Ribbon Selection Committee. The Sustainable Jersey grants are intended to help municipalities and schools make progress toward a sustainable future in general, and specifically toward Sustainable Jersey and Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification.

About Sustainable Jersey

Sustainable Jersey provides tools, training and financial incentives to support communities as they pursue sustainability programs. As New Jersey faces issues such as the climate crisis, a growing equity divide and environmental pollution, municipalities want to be a part of the solution to these challenges. Sustainable Jersey participants (municipalities and schools) have successfully implemented and documented over 23,596 sustainability actions. Sustainable Jersey has provided over $7.4 million in grants to municipalities, school districts and schools for community-based projects that create healthy and sustainable communities in New Jersey.

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