Environmental Educators Roundtable

Terry O’Leary & McDuffy Barrow leading a educators on a trail at the 14th Annual Environmental Educators Roundtable

Each year, the Ocean County Soil Conservation teams up with the Lighthouse Center for Natural Resource Education to host the Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable.

This event is designed for educators throughout the watershed to come and participate in various workshops, enhance their knowledge and gain valuable resources that support environmental topics in the classroom.  This event has become extremely popular since its inception, and helps promote environmental stewardship values in educators and the students they teach each year.

The Ocean County Soil Conservation District has been effectively coordinating and implementing the Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable since 1997. 

24th Annual Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable

The Ocean County Soil Conservation District has been effectively coordinating and implementing the Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable since 1997. Please join us this year, online or in-person, for our annual signature event!

Our Environmental Educators Roundtable theme for 2021 is 
Inspiration for a Jersey-Friendly School Yard.

With the help of our talented partners, OCSCD has put together a suite of Jersey-Friendly Yards inspired programs, designed specifically for teachers and environmental educators, that will guide you towards the creation of a Jersey-Friendly School Yard. This year’s hybrid event will offer 3 online Wednesday afternoon webinars and 3 in-person Saturday morning Gardens & Grounds tours, between April 14 and May 1. All programs are free! Scroll below to read descriptions of each program, then click the link to register.

The Barnegat Bay watershed is a great place to live, learn, work and play. It’s up to all of us to keep our soil and water resources clean, and maintain healthy habitat for wildlife. A Jersey-Friendly School Yard can offer an inspirational space for teaching and learning about natural resources and the direct impact human behaviors have on the health of our community. Presenters will use the 8 Steps to a Jersey-Friendly Yard resource to guide you through the “what, why, and how” process of creating a Jersey-Friendly School Yard.


Join us for 1, 2, or all 3 free webinars. Each one-hour webinar will offer information, ideas and resources to get you started with creating a Jersey-Friendly School Yard. Presenters will address various topics including planning and design, building a healthy foundation of soil, and selecting appropriate plants, as well as the important reasons “why” we should take action, change old behaviors, and work together with nature to ensure a healthy watershed.

Wednesday, April 14, 4:30pm-5:30pm
Planning a Jersey-Friendly School Yard

Presented by Karen Walzer, Plublic Outreach Coordinator, Barengat Bay Partnership, and Becky Laboy, Education Outreach Specialist, Ocean County Soil Conservation District. Karen and Becky will introduce you to the Jersey-Friendly Yards website including a variety of garden-building tools teachers can use with their students to begin the Jersey-Friendly School Yard planning process.

Discover the 8 Steps to a Jersey-Friendly Yard resource, and focus on Step 1: Plan Before You Plant, and Step 2: Start With Healthy Soil. Engage in a brief tutorial on the searchable Jersey-Friendly Plant Database, which offers over 400 plants to choose from for your Jersey-Friendly Schoolyard. 

Wednesday, April 21, 4:30pm-5:30pm
Why Jersey-Friendly School Yards? – Understanding the Effects of Fertilizers on Eutrophication and Coastal Acidification

Presented by Kaitlin Gannon, Education Coordinator, Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve. Jersey-Friendly Yards, Step 4: Fertilize Less, brings awareness to non-point source pollution that is detrimental to water quality, and offers solutions. Eutrophication is pollution in the Barnegat Bay caused by excess fertilizer runoff from lawns and gardens, which leads to coastal acidification. Kaitlin will introduce educators to tools, resources and lessons that lead students to a better understanding of how our own actions can impact our environment. This data-driven program connects the dots between a Jersey-Friendly School Yard that reduces fertilizer inputs, and a healthy watershed for people and wildlife. 

Wednesday, April 28, 4:30pm-5:30pm
How Does a Rain Garden Grow?

Presented by Dr. Steven Yergeau, County Agent/Associate Professor with Rutgers Cooperative Extension. Let’s introduce rain gardens to your students! This program will talk about rain gardens as one way to help protect water quality and redirect stormwater back into the ground. Dr. Yergeau will introduce the steps needed to plan and design a rain garden for your school or center’s property. Tools and resources to get you started will be shared to help you on the road to having a Jersey-Friendly school.


Join us for a one-hour Jersey-Friendly Gardens & Grounds tour. Choose one of several locations in the Barnegat Bay watershed: The Lighthouse Center for Natural Resource EducationCattus Island County Park, or the Save Barnegat Bay EcoCenter.

Natural Educators will showcase native gardens and natural landscaping to provide you with insight and inspiration for your Jersey-Friendly School Yard. They’ll offer ideas on how to create a natural, healthy and productive outdoor learning space at your school or environmental education center. Our Gardens & Grounds tour capacity is limited to 10 attendees at each location.

Please read the tour descriptions below, then click the link to register for just one of the following Gardens & Grounds tours.

Saturday, April 17, 10:00am-11:00am
Lighthouse Center for Natural Resource Education

Pola Galie, Lighthouse Center Manager, has taught at the Lighthouse Center for Natural Resource Education in Waretown, for nearly 15 years. She will guide you on a tour of the diverse habitats surrounding the center, including upland forest, freshwater wetlands, and salt marsh. Together you’ll explore the numerous outdoor learning stations situated within each habitat, and identify native plants appropriate for your potential Jersey-Friendly School Yard. Be inspired by nature and discover ways you can turn your school yard into an outdoor classroom – Jersey-Friendly style! *Please note the earlier start time for this tour.

Saturday, April 24, 11:00am-12:00pm
Cattus Island County Park

Nikki Vernachio, Senior Park Naturalist, at Cattus Island County Park in Toms River, will guide you on a tour of the Butterfly Garden and nature-inspired landscaping surrounding the Cooper Environmental Center. She will discuss the importance of native plant species to wildlife, showcase garden features that attract and support wildlife, and offer tips on how to create a Jersey-Friendly School Yard that supports outdoor teaching and learning.

Saturday, May 1, 11:00am-12:00pm
Save Barnegat Bay EcoCenter

Graceanne Taylor, Education Outreach Coordinator with Save Barnegat Bay in Toms River, will take you on a tour of the Barnegat Bay EcoCenter. She will showcase the native plant gardens and highlight the many wildlife friendly features including a Monarch mansion, a bird feeding station, bat boxes and bee hives. Explore the onsite compost station and green house, and learn about the importance and impact of rain barrels – all components you can add to a Jersey-Friendly School Yard.

Explore The Past Events

Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable!

The Ocean County Soil Conservation District has been effectively and successfully coordinating the Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable since 1997. A primary task of the Steering Committee who represent nearly twenty area groups and agencies, is to assist local educators in the inclusion of Barnegat Bay watershed-specific information and materials into their lessons, activities and programs. The Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable provides a mechanism for environmental educators to share resources and information related to the watershed.

The enthusiasm instilled in educators is carried back to their schools, nature centers, science institutions and colleagues, and helps to promote environmental education opportunities within the watershed. It is the perfect venue for professional development opportunities for both school teachers and informal educators. The program and itinerary for the Roundtable varies each year, with additional partners and customized programs adding to the appeal for educators to attend.

Terry O’Leary and McDuffy Barrow, of the Forest Resource Education Center, teach a group of educators about bees at the 2010 Environmental Educators Roundtable.

“Excellent workshops I will use in my own class and will share with other teachers in our school! Thank you!!”

The Roundtable has a proven success rate with Ocean County educators. The educational programs and opportunities available from all participating agencies, organizations and groups allows a comprehensive approach to watershed education and provides educators with a “one-stop-shopping” approach. It is well known that educators are more likely to present and teach topics with which they are familiar and comfortable. The main goal and objective of the annual Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable is to provide this opportunity and to ultimately improve and protect the health of the Barnegat Bay watershed.