“Wetlands along Barnegat Bay near the southern end of Island Beach State Park, New Jersey on August 21st 2013” by Famartin is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
The Jersey Shore may be known for its beaches and boardwalks, but there’s so much more.
That’s one of the lessons Louise Wootton, Ph.D., GCU professor of biology, told Aqua Kids TV during an episode focused on the Maritime trail and dunes at Island Beach State Park. Dr. Wootton, who also serves as GCU’s director of sustainability, shared her ongoing research on invasive grasses, dune health, and more.
“It’s all about looking at the dunes and learning why they’re so special,” says Dr. Wootton. “And it’s especially interesting because the Aqua Kids audience is middle-school aged children—children who have an undue amount of influence as environmental ambassadors.”
How so? Often, middle-school students will take the lead in the households when it comes to being more vigilant about the environment. Dr. Wootton, who often gives community education presentations throughout the region, has heard from parents many times over the years. “Sometimes they complain, but more often they want to know, ‘What did you do to my child? They won’t let me fertilize the lawn or throw out recyclable trash!’ ”
High-quality programs like Aqua Kids reinforce those kinds of lessons. The Emmy-award winning program, which is hosted by teenagers, encourages youngsters to actively preserve and protect aquatic environments and wildlife. It’s the perfect age to influence more responsible behaviors, according to Dr. Wootton.
“They aren’t cynical yet,” she says. “They tend to talk about what they’ve been learning—and put it into practice. These are the children who are inheriting the mess we’re making, but they’re empowered to make a difference.”