Environmental Educators Roundtable

Profile of “spodosol” soil – a taxonomic order of soils found in the pinelands region of Ocean County. (Photo credit: John Kelley, Open Soil Science, (Creative Commons Open Source License).

April 27, 2022

25th Annual Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable

Our Roots Run Deep – Celebrating 25 Years of Local Connections, Culture and Conservation!

(Click to read our Agenda)

Ocean County Soil Conservation District is teaming-up with Ocean County Parks to commemorate this special occasion. Please join us on Wednesday, April 27 for an in-person, outdoor event, at Jakes Branch County Park. Cost: $25 per person, includes light dinner, exhibitors, educational resources, choice of field trips or workshops, keynote and door prizes! Registration is Open! Sign-up for our Newsletter to receive the latest updates regarding the 25th Annual Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable.

Open House begins at 2:30pm. Visit an array of exhibitors and enjoy a light dinner. Choose from a list of educational workshops offering onsite interactive tours and hands-on programs, or join a field trip to exciting places in the Barnegat Bay watershed. Our keynote this year will be a shared experience watching Kiss the Ground, an award-winning film narrated by Woody Harrelson that emphasizes the importance of soil to life on Earth – popcorn included! Warm-up next to a bonfire, enjoy the camaraderie of fellow educators, and put down roots! Event concludes with Door Prizes at 8:30pm.

Participants peruse exhibitor displays and collect information and resources from over 2 dozen environmental and education organizations in the Barnegat Bay watershed.

Register now for the 25th Annual Environmental Educators Roundtable! Attend one 2-hour Field Trip, OR attend two 1-hour Workshops. Seating is limited: first-come-first-served. Register now to secure a spot in your favorite programs!


2-Hour Field Trips 4:15pm – 6:30pm

  • A) Cedar Bridge Tavern – History Underfoot Guide: Tim Hart (Ocean County Cultural & Heritage) Soil not only holds clues to natural history but also to past cultures and historical events as well.  Join Tim Hart and Ocean County Parks & Recreation staff as we explore the history of Cedar Bridge Tavern, highlighting archeological findings that helped to paint a clear picture of its rumored and colorful history.  We will also touch on the significance of the surrounding ecology in relation to the taverns’ survival. 
  • B) Double Trouble State Park – Window to Pinelands History, Culture & Ecology Guides: Andrew Anderson (New Jersey Division of Parks & Forestry) and Chris Claus (Ocean County Parks & Recreation) Double Trouble State Park offers an outstanding example of the Pine Barrens ecosystem and a window into New Jersey Pinelands history. Take a trip back in time with a tour of some of the historic structures that remain and learn about the history of the cranberry industry and how the resources, chiefly soil and water, played an integral part in local industry, culture and history. 
  • C) Cloverdale Farm County Park – Macroinvertebrates of Freshwater Wetlands Guide: Patti Trasferini (Ocean County Parks & Recreation) This program is designed to introduce teachers to freshwater macroinvertebrates, which are organisms that have no backbone (invertebrate) that live underwater in freshwater streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes. During this program, you will learn to differentiate between larval, nymph, and adult stages of different species. You will also learn how soil substrate can determine a species populations distribution and how they can be an indicator of water quality of freshwater bodies found throughout Ocean County.
  • D) Cattus Island County Park – Ecology of a Salt Marsh Guides: Nikki Vernachio and Megan Zorns (Ocean County Parks & Recreation) The salt marsh is one of the most unique and important habitats in the Barnegat Bay Estuary.  We will travel by van to witness the effects of sea level rise on the marsh and the surrounding maritime forest.  Bring a pair of boots or old sneakers, as we delve into the salt marsh using hands-on activities to discover it’s soil, flora, and fauna.   If inclement weather, activities will take place inside the Cooper Environmental Center.  

1-Hour Workshops

Session One: 4:15pm – 5:15pm (Choose 1)
  • 1E) Fire in the Pines Guide: Ben Ackerman (Ocean County Parks & Recreation) “Only you can prevent forest fires”, but do we really want to? Though we view fire as destructive and dangerous, its absence from the Pine Barrens can cause degradation and damage to a once healthy ecosystem. This includes its relationship with soil, which it both has an effect on and is affected by. Join us as we dig down into the complex and fascinating field of fire science. We will discuss Fire History, Ecology, Management, Importance and the relationship between fire and soil.
  • 1F) Soil Science Sampler Guides: Ocean County Soil Conservation District Staff Dig deep and explore the chemical, physical and biological properties of soils in the Barnegat Bay watershed through fun, hands-on, “classroom ready” activities. Lessons are also applicable to school garden soil preparations.
Session Two: 5:30pm – 6:30pm (Choose 1)
  • 2G) Gateway to the Pines – Tour of Jakes Branch Nature Center and Grounds Guide: Michele Urban (Ocean County Parks & Recreation) This on-site field trip will offer educators a sampling of what Jakes Branch County Park can provide to their students. Located just on the fringe of the Pinelands National Reserve, the park provides a snapshot of typical Pinelands habitats and is a great place to further explore iconic Pinelands topics such as soils, watersheds, fire ecology, wildflowers, reptiles, amphibians, history and culture.  Educators will walk away with a variety of field trip/activity choices they can take advantage of with their students. 
  • 2H) Cultivating Connections: Soil and Plants Guide: German Georgieff (Ocean County Parks & Recreation) It is believed the Pine Barrens acquired its name from early potential farmers who found the sandy, acidic and nutrient-poor soil unsuitable for traditional agriculture – declaring it “barren”. Join OCPR naturalist German Georgieff as he identifies and discusses the native vegetation that has adapted to these unique conditions, some of which are known only to New Jersey.


Kiss the Ground, narrated by Woody Harrelson, is an educational documentary film that aspires to resolve humanity’s greatest challenge: balance the climate, restore lost ecosystems, create abundant food supplies and secure our species’ future through sustainable regenerative agriculture. The Kiss the Ground website offers a plethora of educational tools and resources for educators, including the Children’s Education Pathway Kit and the Soil Story Curriculum.

Terry O’Leary & McDuffy Barrow lead educators on an ecology walk at the 14th Annual Environmental Educators Roundtable

Each year, the Ocean County Soil Conservation District hosts the Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable. This year, we’re proud to partner with Ocean County Parks & Recreation, who will be hosting the event at Jakes Branch County Park.

This professional development event is designed for educators throughout the Barnegat Bay watershed to participate in experiential workshops, enhance their knowledge of local natural resources, culture and history, and gain valuable tools that support environmental topics in the classroom.  The Roundtable helps promote a commitment to environmental stewardship in educators and the students they teach.

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

Explore Our Past Roundtables

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.