Article & photos by Vince Elias
ELIZABETH — Commitment to selfless-service is one of the Army’s core values, and volunteers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New York District exemplified this value on October 12 by sharing their expertise with hundreds of Elizabeth science school students during ‘Estuary Day’ held at the Peterstown Community Center in Elizabeth.
Estuary Day demonstrates the importance of education and community participation in preserving the environment. Sponsored by the Elizabeth River/Arthur Kill Watershed Association, the event’s success was once again attributed to a joint partnership with the support of local officials.
Partnering organizations included Future City, Inc., City of Elizabeth, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-Harbor Estuary Program, New Jersey State Department of Environmental Protection, NY/NJ Baykeeper, Green Infrastructure and support from the offices of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and Rep. Albio Sires (NJ-13).
In a setting which was not a typical classroom, participating agencies staffed table displays and served as instructors and discussed with students their respective organization’s mission as it relates to the port, harbor, estuary and about environmental stewardship.
It was especially rewarding for the Corps as another great opportunity to provide pupils with information about the Corps and its many environmental initiatives in the region. By sharing their knowledge, volunteers imparted how important the estuary is to the region and to the nation.
Using visual aids, William Slezak, Chief of the Army Corps’ New York Harbor Programs along with Lisa Baron, marine biologist lectured at the Corps’ classroom workshop about the New York and New Jersey harbor and the estuary and its significance. Using a poster board with three rings that depicts balancing the port and the environment and components of a world class estuary they elaborated about the ecosystem, and restoration activities associated with Corps restoration projects and studies.
“The Army Corps and its partners have many roles, and focus on improving the New York and New Jersey Harbor Estuary. This is another great opportunity to learn about the Estuary,” said Slezak at the opening ceremony. “It is our hope that each and every one of you can leave from today’s workshops with a little bit more knowledge about the estuary and ways we can affect changes in our watershed.”
“Estuaries are national treasures — vital ecological and community resources whose health affects our health and the vibrancy of our communities and economy,” said Baron who has been a participant for the past five years. “Estuary Day 2012 was another fabulous event that exemplified strong partnership with a common goal to inform our future leaders about the importance of sustaining and improving the health of the estuary.”
Amanda Switzer, Army Corps Intern interacts with students at the live marine animal interactive exhibit
Dr. Stephen Knowles of the Army Corps interacts with students at the estuary model display exhibit.
Lisa Baron, Marine Biologist and Project Manager with the Army Corps’ New York District, interacts with students at the live marine animal interactive exhibit.
Melissa Alvarez, Army Corps Senior Project Biologist, interacts with students at the live marine animal interactive exhibit.
William Slezak, Chief of Harbor Programs addresses students at the Corps’ education workshop.
Army Corps volunteers at the model of an estuary exhibit during Estuary Day held at the Peterstown Community Center, Elizabeth, N.J. (L-R) Thomas Wyche, Chonteau Johnson, Lisa Baron, Melissa Alvarez, William Slezak, Amanda Switzer, and Stephen Knowles
Marine life collected by the Army Corps from the waters of the New York/New Jersey harbor.
Elizabeth N.J. science students at the U.S. Coast Guard exhibit during Estuary Day.
Lisa Baron, Marine Biologist and Project Manager with the Army Corps’ New York District, interacts with a student at the touch tank interactive exhibit.
Melissa Alvarez, Army Corps Senior Project Biologist, holds a dog fish as students learn about the variety of marine life at an interactive exhibit during Estuary Day.
Gabriella Munoz of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discusses the State of the Estuary with students during Estuary Day.
Elizabeth N.J. science students at the NY/NJ Baykeeper exhibit during Estuary Day.
J. Christian Bollwage, Mayor of the City of Elizabeth, New Jersey at the Army Corps’ touch tank interactive exhibit staffed by Lisa Baron and Amanda Switzer during Estuary Day.