Point Pleasant Beach School partners with aquarium for hands-on learning

Third graders from St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach, pose for a photo with their stuffed penguins. The students are learning about penguins as part of a collaborative effort between their school and Jenkinson’s Aquarium. Courtesy photo

FROM THE MONITOR

By Mary Stadnyk, Associate Editor

When it comes to penguins, twin sisters Briella and Kayleigh are walking encyclopedias, knowing where the animals live, the different types of species, and how penguins have hooks in their mouths to help them catch fish.

The St. Peter School third-graders acquired their knowledge through a special partnership their class has formed with nearby Jenkinson’s Aquarium that allows educators to provide students with innovative learning experiences held off-campus.

“The partnership between the aquarium and St. Peter School is a wonderful addition for the students’ education,” said Dawn Palazzo, third-grade teacher in the Point Pleasant Beach school. “The students have been able to have a hands-on education, focusing on the penguin species. Inside the aquarium classroom, knowledgeable instructors speak on the various topics and supply the students with materials to bring back to the school to further enhance their education.”

The educational partnership between the school and Jenkinson’s Aquarium, located on the Point Pleasant Beach Boardwalk, was established this past summer by school principal Tracey Kobrin. It involves the third- and seventh-grade classes taking part in two unique six-week programs.

Kobrin said the third-graders, who are being taught by their education specialists, raised money to adopt a penguin – whom they named Captain Jack Sparrow – since they are studying penguin biology, geography, habitats, conservation, climate change and endangered species. The students will also learn and use the math and science that goes into feeding the penguins. At the end of the program, the class will engage in a project to find a solution to problems facing the African Penguin.

The seventh-graders, teacher Kristine DaCosta said, are studying ecology and are researching an animal of their choosing. The students are creating presentations in which they talk about the animal’s ecosystem and the specific aspects of that ecosystem. The students also discuss how the animal interacts with its environment, its adaptations, how it obtains energy and how it fits into the food web of its ecosystem.

“The staff at Jenkinson’s has been providing activities that mirror what is being taught in class, which provides students with additional interaction with the vocabulary and concepts they are learning,” DaCosta said, noting that the class will use the project as a platform to help the students better understand the fragility of the world’s ecosystems, with the aim to making them more environmentally conscious overall.

“The students have been really excited about the program,” DaCosta said. “They look forward to going to Jenkinson’s every week. I see a definite increase in their comprehension of the material as a result, and they are applying that understanding to their projects.”Palazzo, as well, had high praise for the partnership, calling it a wonderful addition to the students’ education.

“The students have been completely engaged in this experience and [are] excited to visit the aquarium classroom each week,” Palazzo said. “When they return to the school, they are thrilled to share with other students and their families what they have learned.”

Kobrin smiled when she described the partnership as being “an amazing opportunity for the students of St. Peter School.

“We are so thrilled that they have this fantastic opportunity,” Kobrin said. “It’s not just learning, but real-world learning and problem-solving that is critical in today’s world. We feel very fortunate to be able to work with the wonderful people at Jenkinson’s Pavilion!”

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