April 27, 2018-- As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Toms River Regional Schools has earned two Sustainable Jersey for Schools grants for $10,000 and $2,000, respectively. Earlier this year, the district earned $12k in programmatic support from Sustainable Jersey for its cycle sponsored by the NJEA. This time around, an elementary musical instrument replenishing program designed by Pine Beach Elementary Supervisor Catherine Mellon earned one of the four available $10k grants. A pollinator garden project led by James Luyster at High School South was one of 30 awardees in the $2k category.
“The level of support for our schools exhibited by Sustainable Jersey has been nothing short of remarkable,” said Superintendent David Healy. “It’s clear that our environmental, energy-efficient, and sustainable initiatives align with their mission, and they’ve helped make it possible for our schools and educational leaders to implement innovative projects that will impact our students for years to come. We are sincerely grateful to Sustainable Jersey and PSE&G for recognizing and endorsing what we’re doing here in Toms River, both in spirit and through tangible means.”
Since becoming a registered district with Sustainable Jersey in late 2016, and with a handful of schools following suit and becoming registered as well, Toms River Regional Schools has earned a total of $48,000 in funding for a variety of sustainable initiatives.
“It’s a great honor to support schools and school districts that are doing the important work of integrating sustainability into student learning around the state. These projects have a significant impact on New Jersey’s sustainability goals and will directly benefit the students,” commented Randall Solomon, the executive director of Sustainable Jersey. He extended his congratulations to all of the schools and districts that received grants.
“Play It Again, Toms River” is a program that will refurbish older and/or unuseable musical instruments so that more fourth and fifth graders can learn to play music. The application written by Catherine Mellon begins, “What if every musical instrument was ready to be played again by an eager student in the Toms River Regional Schools? What if that trumpet had a new case so a student could take it home? What if new bows could replace the old ones, so the violins could be played for another ten years? How many more students could we lend musical instruments to?” With $10,000 in funding, “Play It Again, Toms River” will collect these unused instruments throughout all 12 elementary schools and fix as many as possible to the benefit of students for years to come.
“I think what’s unique about this project is that when people think about sustainability they think first about environmental projects like greenhouses and planting beds,” said Mellon. “But this is equally sustainable in that it prevents otherwise useful equipment from being thrown away, while at the same time further infusing arts into education, which is what we’re all about at Pine Beach and throughout this entire district.”
Director of K-5 Curriculum Cara DiMeo added, “Music and the arts is not an afterthought in our district, but a crucial part of our curriculum and, in this case, an innovative way to integrate sustainable principles. We are so excited to see how our elementary students respond to this program, and how it will positively affect their learning experience in the short and long-term.”
“Play It Again, Toms River” has a strong community component, as part of the program Garden State Philharmonic will be providing ticket discounts for students and their parents. Also, the Garden State Music Center of Toms River will be awarding a scholarship that includes a used instrument and six months of lessons.
The pollinator garden envisioned by Luyster is in partnership with BASF. “Pollinator species, such as the endangered Monarch butterfly, bees, moths, beetles and hummingbirds provide a plethora of ecological and economic services,” he wrote in his application. “Ecological services provided by pollination gardens include spreading genetic diversity, pollinating and seeding plants for fruits and increasing biodiversity.”
This represents the second Sustainable Jersey grant awarded to High School South this year; the pollinator garden, however, will serve AP environmental science students at all three high schools, as well as elementary students, who will visit HSS to grow milkweed plants and parsley.
“Educating our K-12 students about the importance of pollination and protecting endangered species are vital to empowering our students to solve real-life environmental problems. Educators like James Luyster are to be commended for sharing their concern for the environment and creating authentic learning experiences for our students,” said High School South Principal James Ricotta Jr.
It was only last month, March 26, when Toms River Regional Schools unveiled the newly remodeled Poseidon Lab, a renovation made possible thanks to a $20k Sustainable Jersey/PSE&G grant awarded to Toms River Township’s Green Team. Over the past few months, led by the Food Services Department, all three high schools have implemented Mobile Breakfast Academy, a program supported by Sustainable Jersey for Schools and EmPOWer Somerset through a $4k grant, which the district used to purchase a state-of-the-art mobile breakfast cart.
In addition to receiving significant funding, the district’s registered schools are seeking the distinction of becoming Sustainable Jersey for Schools certified, an ongoing process supported by these grants and guided by the district’s Green Team, which meets monthly.
The PSEG Foundation has contributed over one million dollars in funding to the Sustainable Jersey Grants Program. “We are proud to partner with Sustainable Jersey, an organization bringing about real positive change for our state, to support and help fund projects that provide sustainable neighborhoods, economic development and STEM education. By supporting sustainable education in schools, we can help guide children and engage entire communities in the ways to help transform the environment,” said Barb Short, president of the PSEG Foundation.
Proposals were evaluated by an independent Blue-Ribbon Selection Committee. The Sustainable Jersey for Schools grants are intended to help school districts and schools make progress toward a sustainable future in general, and specifically toward Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification. Currently 300 districts and 745 schools have registered to work toward Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification.
About Sustainable Jersey for Schools
Sustainable Jersey for Schools is a certification program for public schools in New Jersey. It was launched by Sustainable Jersey, an organization that provides tools, training and financial incentives to support and reward municipalities and schools as they pursue sustainability programs. To date, 290 school districts and 712 schools are participating in the program. Sustainable Jersey for Schools has awarded over $1.3 million in grants to schools and school districts. To learn more, visit www.SustainableJerseySchools.com.