At Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, Bloomfield Middle School Principal Sal Goncalves said a new “Living Classroom” initiative will be put into action this year, based on the success of a free program run by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission this summer.
The program was originally the brainchild of Lois Ross, who conceived of the idea fifteen years ago, noted BOE President Shaughnessy, who called it Ross’ “dream.”
Christopher Brooks, who runs the Passaic Valley Education Outreach program and Brian Davenport, Program Manager of the River Restoration Program, gave an enthusiastic presentation to attendees at the meeting. Both Brooks and Davenport have previously worked with the Bloomfield school system and the municipality in education, clean up and recycling efforts.
“We teach the kids about the environment and what trash in the streets does to our waterways,” said Brooks. “There’s a whole other classroom outside.”
As an example, Brooks said the team will construct desks for the children from the wood of a silver maple tree in the learning area.
“The cool part about Clark’s Pond is, environmentally, you can test all different parts of this pond,” Brooks said. “Gifted and Talented? This is a great feature for that. Even the little tiny kids, you get them out there for a butterfly class, bird watching, building birdhouses. For kids who need more help, great program.”
He said the living classroom idea was applicable with online science programs, for example, one offered by Cornell University, as well as conducive to arts-based experiential instruction.
Ross also spoke at the meeting, offering a brief history of the locations’ abundant natural resources.
“This is the last remaining pond in Bloomfield,” she said. “Bloomfield had five ponds originally, and all of them have been paved over and developed. This is the Third River and it runs all through Bloomfield into Nutley and Montclair and into the Passaic River.”
Besides the plant and aquatic life living in the area, she said there are rare wildlife species including exotic bird species, deer, foxes, muskrats and wild turkeys.
“To come here and draw and paint is an incredible experience,” she said. “This is one of the only places in Bloomfield where you have an open sky. It’s a really special place in my heart.”
In addition to the efforts of Ross and the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, district school teachers worked with the Board of Education, Councilman Nick Joanow and Friends of Clark’s Pond to create this program. Goncalves noted that the Middle School’s long-range goal is to share the opportunity with all the schools in the district.
Lois Ross will be giving a presentation on Clark’s Pond and its natural resources and habitat at the Boat House in Verona park on November 7.