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EPA Grant Brings Environmental Stewardship To Passaic River Basin Educators and Students

Release Date: 12/04/2007
Contact Information: Teresa Ippolito (212) 637-3671,

(New York, N.Y.) The Passaic River basin will acquire a new crop of environmental stewards thanks to an environmental education grant awarded today to Montclair State University. At a ceremony in Branch Brook Park, EPA Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg presented a $39,888 check to Dr. Susan A. Cole, President of Montclair State University, and Dr. Kirk Barrett, Director of Montclair State University’s Passaic River Institute. The Institute is training teachers and high school students to study the ecology and quality of the Passaic River waters.

New Jersey high school students participated in the event highlighting the significance of studying the quality of water flowing into the Passaic River from Branch Brook Park in Newark.

“Involving teachers and students in a study of the Passaic engages them in experiences that both educate and inspire them,” said EPA Regional Administrator, Alan J. Steinberg. “This program gives educators and young people the knowledge and skills they need to understand their environment and take action to improve it. They will know how to meet an important challenge, being environmental stewards of the Passaic River.”

“The program has many benefits for the community. On an educational level, it is a very practical way of engaging high school students in biology, math, and computer science concepts that are taught in classrooms,” said Passaic River Institute Director Dr. Kirk Barrett. “It is also a way of encouraging young people to take an active role in taking care of their local environment, a trait that we hope will become a lifelong habit.”

“For generations, Essex County Branch Brook Park has been a special place where people of all ages play, relax and enjoy nature every day. Over the last five years, we have worked cooperatively with the public to revitalize our park and upgrade recreation facilities,” said Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. “We are pleased the EPA and Montclair State will utilize Branch Brook Park as an environmental classroom and help students learn about and gain an appreciation of nature.”

EPA’s local and nationwide educational programs promote environmental stewardship and support excellence in environmental education. Since 1992, EPA environmental education grants exceeding $41 million have supported more than three thousand projects across the country. Agency partnerships, including the National Environmental Education Foundation and the Environmental Education Training Partnership, have given thousands of formal and non-formal educators the skills and knowledge needed to teach students of all ages about safeguarding the environment.

Under the Montclair State Passaic River Institute’s program, local high school teachers and students in New Jersey's Passaic River basin will study and monitor river-bottom plants and animals and test water quality in the Passaic River. Students will acquire the knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary to understand how rivers are affected by urbanization, industrialization and other causes of pollution. The new river stewards will learn what can be done to protect river water quality and how they can protect the river’s ecosystems. The project will include teacher training, field trips to learn about and conduct water monitoring, a hands-on environmental education program, and a project web site that will serve as an information clearinghouse and repository, resource center, and virtual meeting place.

More information about the Montclair State University Passaic River Institute can be accessed by phone, 973-655-7117, or by going to

For more information on EPA’s environmental education grants program, which is currently accepting applications for 2008, go to

EPA’s environmental education web sites are: for Pre-K through Grade 4; for middle grade students; for high school students and for educators.