The first group to participate was an environmental club at Kingsway Middle School. I originally talked to them back in December about all the restoration work we do, and floated the spartina idea to them. The teacher, Mrs. Gillespie, and the students were all very enthusiastic about the idea. We brainstormed ideas for what a small salt marsh “terrarium” might look like and what they would need to keep the grass alive and growing. The next week I met with Steve Knezick up at Pinelands Nursery who gave me a tour of their facilities, including how they harvest the Spartina and send it through a mesh screen to separate out the seeds. He offered to donate seeds, soil, and planters for us to use, and may be joining me in the future to see how the program is progressing.
On February 18th I met with the Kingsway environmental club again with supplies in hand to try the program for the first time. I reminded them about the plan to use the grass to restore a former salt hay farm at Thompsons Beach in Maurice River Township to the proper elevation for a functioning salt marsh ecosystem, providing habitat for birds and other wildlife and greater protection from storm surges for the town behind the marsh. Then we got to the fun part of getting our hands dirty. Each student had a chance to fill up some of the planter flat with peat, seeds, and water. We discussed where might be the best place to keep them and how much water they would need, although I had to admit that, since this was the first time we were doing this program, I really had no idea how it might turn out! They promised to take pictures and write about their progress and send me regular updates.
The following Tuesday I met with a younger group of students from Mrs. Czyzewski’s environmental club at Wildwood Crest Elementary School. After talking with them about the Littoral Society’s restoration and monitoring work we took out the flats, soil, and seeds and got to work. The kids seemed to have a lot of fun making a big mess for science! After all, what 3rd grader doesn’t love playing with dirt?
Later on in March I talked to all of the classes in Cape May Elementary School, from Kindergarten through 6th grade. They actually have a salt marsh right behind their school, so this was a very relevant topic for them. All the classes got to learn a little about the salt marsh, and we ended up filling two whole flats with soil and seeds – each student got to do one spot. Then in April I met with 6 classes from Mrs. Wira’s science classes at Ocean City Intermediate School, and with Children’s Country Place daycare.