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salt marsh exploring
Students enjoy a spectacular, seemingly endless view at Cattus Island Park Aug. 4. 

Aug. 8, 2022-- The Peer Leadership Program is not the only form of summer enrichment happening at Toms River Regional Schools.

Far from it.

One of the most unique experiences taking place currently is the multi-week “Ecology Through the Eyes of an Osprey” summer program. Led by intermediate teachers Dinean Batchelder, Sandra Murdoch, Marilyn Osmundsen, Cherri Worth, and Jessica Kurtz, the program leads students outdoors—what heat wave?—to explore and discover nature and science, largely through the context of the magnificent sea hawks, and what their travel patterns, mating rituals, and choice of prey tell us about this part of New Jersey and about conservation in general.

Osprey specialist Ben Wurst led a boat ride to Nature Center Met Aug. 4, during which students were able to spot and photograph osprey in their natural habitat. But that was just one of several amazing ventures offered throughout the past couple of weeks, which included trips to Double Trouble State Park, Island Beach, Cattus Island, and Sedge Island.

boatride for osprey program
To say these outside-of-the-classroom experiences have been hands-on is an understatement. Students have embarked on nature walks and enjoyed seining on the coastline; they’ve observed ospreys, gulls, and local landmarks while on boat tours and documented their findings; they’ve traversed salt marshes, netting and releasing various wildlife; and have visited historic saw mills and cranberry bogs. Better yet, everywhere they’ve went, students have represented Toms River Regional Schools well, treating the environment and tour leaders with respect.
seining on the coastline

“You all really delved in and were so involved and engaged, and we truly could NOT have asked for more,” wrote Murdoch in a message to students. “You represented us as TR Schools so proudly, and we as teachers were so honored to have this time with you in the field.”

Students did eventually make their way back to the classroom, where they tested the soil samples they had gathered throughout the journeys, and compared and contrasted results in a truly collaborative environment.

soil sample testing with classmates

“We love seeing you flourish and seeing your minds at work,” Murdoch added. “We cannot wait to see what is in store for your next endeavors.”

Surely, this summer enrichment program lived up to its name, and feels like one that will soar into next summer and beyond.

Additional photos below.

osprey binoculars summer program
Students observe osprey through binoculars while on the water at Island Beach State Park.

ecology through the eyes of the osprey teachers