2022: 25th Annual Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable

25th Annual Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable

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

Teachers participate in the Soil Science Sampler workshop.

On April 27, 2022, nearly 100 teachers, educators, nature enthusiasts and staff gathered together to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Barnegat Bay Environmental Educators Roundtable. Ocean County Soil Conservation District and Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation cohosted this special event at Jakes Branch County Park, Beachwood. Our theme: “Our Roots Run Deep: Celebrating 25 Years of Local Connections, Culture and Conservation” laid the foundation for a variety of soils-based and nature-based field trips and workshops. Click to read our Agenda, then scroll below for resources, activities and information, as well as our gallery of photos showcasing this memorable event. Click to read about the 2022 Roundtable in OCSCD’s newsletter, and read a review by reporter, Bob Vosseller of Micromedia Publications.

Field Trips:

1) 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.  Tim Hart guided an exploration of Cedar Bridge Tavern, detailing its restoration and highlighting archeological findings that helped to paint a clear picture of its rumored and colorful history.  He also discussed the significance of the surrounding ecology in relation to the taverns’ survival. 
2) 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. Participants took a trip back in time as they toured some of the historic structures that remain onsite. They learned 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. Take a virtual tour of Double Trouble Village and Double Trouble Saw Mill. View additional NJ State Park video vignettes. Implement the Discovering Barnegat Bay: What’s in a Name? Names from Nature lesson plan with your students. Have fun with these History Activities at Home (or at school), including “build your own cranberry scoop”, “create your own cranberry label” and “Double Trouble Village Cranberry Maze”, courtesy of NJDEP.
3) Cloverdale Farm County ParkMacroinvertebrates of Freshwater Wetlands Guide: Patti Trasferini (Ocean County Parks & Recreation) This program introduced 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, participants learned to differentiate between larval, nymph, and adult stages of different species. They also learned how soil substrate can determine a species population distribution and how they can be an indicator of water quality of freshwater bodies found throughout Ocean County.
4) 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.  Participants traveled by van to witness the effects of sea level rise on the marsh and the surrounding maritime forest.  They delved into the salt marsh through hands-on activities to discover it’s soil, flora, and fauna.   


1) 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. Participants had the opportunity to dig down into the complex and fascinating field of fire science. They discussed Fire History, Ecology, Management, Importance and the relationship between fire and soil. Explore Fire Ecology of the New Jersey Pine Barrens with your students with these Lesson Plans for Grades 4-6, and Lesson Plans for Grades 7-8 (created by NJ Pinelands Commission).
2) Soil Science Sampler Guides: Ocean County Soil Conservation District Staff Participants had the opportunity to dig deep and explore the chemical, physical and biological properties of soils in the Barnegat Bay watershed through fun, hands-on, “classroom ready” activities. The lessons are also applicable to school garden soil preparations. Download the Soil Science Sampler Activity Packet (provided by Ocean County Soil Conservation District).

3) Gateway to the Pines – Tour of Jakes Branch Nature Center and Grounds Guide: Michele Urban (Ocean County Parks & Recreation) This on-site field trip offered 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 walked away with a variety of field trip/activity choices they can take advantage of with their students. Explore the Jakes Branch County Park website and book a field trip for your class.
4) 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”. OCPR Naturalist German Georgieff led participants on a walk and identified and discussed the native vegetation that has adapted to these unique conditions, some of which are known only to New Jersey. Explore the Soil Plant Relationships curriculum guide, created by NJ Forest Service. Peruse the Landscaping in the Pinelands with Jersey-Friendly Yards webpage to help create a Pinelands-friendly schoolyard.

Keynote: Kiss the Ground

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.

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

Enjoy our gallery of photos: 25th annual barnegat bay environmental educators roundtable (2022)

click on a thumbnail below to view the larger images