South Orange River Day 2015, held on May 3, was a huge success, with over 700 people volunteering to clean up over four tons of trash from the township’s section of the Rahway River.
One special aspect of the event was the participation of the 7th grade Life Science students of South Orange Middle School teachers Anthony Cicenia, Frank Guastella and Jessica Knasel, special education teacher, who worked on a study unit centered around River Day.
“Through the process of inquiry and experiential learning, students were able to enhance their knowledge of our local watershed and the importance of preserving and restoring the ecosystem,” said Cicenia.
A grant from Sustainable New Jersey enabled students to develop their own projects centered around River Day 2015. During the three-week study the students completed and participated in many activities both in and out of the river:
- Meeting with the local watershed ambassador to observe and learn about macro-invertebrates and the effects of pollution
- Students using water testing kits to determine the “health” of the watershed
- Observations and data collection of wildlife and pollutants in the river
- Student-built educational/informational tables for River Day 2015 in which they handed out pamphlets to the community educating them on the impact we have not only with our local community, but all communities associated with the Rahway River watershed
“In this our second year of the the River Ecology Curriculum, SOMS was represented by over 100 students with 17 informational tables on River Day 2015, quite an increase from River Day 2014 in which we had a mere 4 tables and 12 students,” Cicenia said.
He continued, “Every table contained valuable information for the villagers of South Orange in reference to the Rahway River watershed. To draw larger crowds to their tables, students sold T-shirts promoting River Day and Pollution Awareness, painted children’s faces, gave out candy and tattoos, and had a guessing contest. Brochures and informational flyers were also distributed to the community in hopes of educating the masses.”
“River Day 2015 had our highest ever number of volunteers, largest crowd of attendees, the highest number of participants/exhibitors there to educate, participate, and celebrate,” said South Orange Village Trustee Walter Clarke, who helped spearhead the event as part of the Environmental Commission.
“Those kids who weren’t busy educating were able to take part in a scavenger hunt to find the largest, weirdest, ugliest, most uncommon, most valuable, and most interesting items among the trash in the river,” Clarke said. “They won prizes from Sparkhouse Kids, SOPAC, and the South Orange Pharmacy. As a sign of just how interrelated we all are the ‘weirdest’ item found was a hotel card key from Beijing, China!”
The Environmental Commission and Green Team thanks all of the exhibitors, the students, the Recreation Department, Public Works Department, Parking Authority, Rescue Squad and Police Department. They also thank those who donated and contributed prizes and food, including Sparkhouse Kids, the South Orange Performing Arts Center, the South Orange Pharmacy, Trader Joes, and Whole Foods.
“Most importantly we want to thank the people of South Orange who turned out to share this day,” said Clarke.
Check out our photo gallery; click on any photo to begin. All photos are credit of SOMS students Daniella Rothstein and Emily Sasfai.