SANDY HOOK - As graduating seniors at MAST, the Marine Academy of Science and Technology, prepare for their final weeks in class and final exams, MAST STEM teacher Clare Ng reflected on how these students coped with the side effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, continued to win awards and rose above learning losses and gaps, winning both state and international competitions throughout the year.
Ng, the 2020-21 teacher of the year, noted "despite a difficult COVID-19 pandemic year MAST students have demonstrated an amazing level of creativity to produce contest submissions that demonstrate their understanding of the importance of conservation and environmental issues faced on a local, national, and international scale."
The Monmouth County Vocational School district high school has been in a hybrid learning model throughout the school year and sought new and creative ways to get her message across. These included restructuring classes to be project-based, student-centered learning experiences focusing on real-world applications. As part of this program, professionals were guest speakers in the virtual classroom and students collaborated with organizations including Clean Ocean Action and NJ Sea Grant Consortium, finding ways to partner with NASA for classroom-based citizen science projects.
Ng, who was also nominated for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the nation's highest honors for STEM educators, added "Submitting student work to local and international competitions focused on environmental conservation and sustainability has been a great way for our MAST students to recognize the quality of their work and to raise public awareness of the critical issues in Environmental Science.”
Students reacted with the same enthusiasm as their teacher. Senior Conor Maher of Howell, part of the team who won the NJ Natural Gas Conserve to Preserve video contest, said "Projects that let students demonstrate their learning creatively are beneficial to the overall learning experience. It definitely strengthens the concepts that I have learned in environmental science throughout the school year.” Collaborating across the Vocational School District with three students from the Academy of Allied Health and Science, and advised by AAHS teacher Deborah Maher, the group’s video was selected as one of three finalists for the Viewer’s Choice Award, then became took home the first place award!
Senior Olivia Davidson of Bradley Beach, was named Monmouth University Sustainability Week speaker and said participating in out-of-campus competitions are productive avenues towards an enlightening exchange of ideas from individuals of diverse backgrounds and different opinions.”
Davidson's essay, “The influence of the individual” discussed what students, school, community, or global citizen of the world, can do to protect the planet and nature at risk. The activity was part of Monmouth University’s 1st annual sustainability education week, and Davidson was invited to share her views on environmental sustainability.
Senior Marguerite McWeeney of Wall was recognized as a poster finalist for Protection with 3#, a collaboration between the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern NJ and the state Department of Health. “By participating in this contest, I was able to gain more knowledge on the importance of vaccinations for Meningococcal disease and other illnesses including HPV and Flu. I think it was a great way to get involved and raise awareness, especially right now since it’s challenging to coordinate in person events for the time being.” Her poster highlighted the symptoms and effects of meningococcal disease, and the importance of vaccines.
Other finalist awards in STEM fields went to Dillon McCann of Middletown and Aaron Sigmond-Warner , Oceanport, for their poster on recycling. Both seniors were among the ten finalists in the JASON Learning and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI)’s 2021 “Recycling is Essential to My Community” Contest. Each received a certificate of excellence and a letter of commendation from ISRI Youth Program Outreach Chairman, Peter Van Houten, for their joint submission. McCann said "The Covid-19 pandemic has made learning difficult, but through competitions like these that are doable in our current hybrid learning style, we have been able to express our creativity and knowledge."
Brittney Mallon, a senior from Keyport, was a NJ Conservation Poster winner and pointed out "The pandemic caused most learning to occur in an online format that tends to be less interesting than in person learning. Participating in poster contests in Environmental Science has been not only a fun way to display the knowledge I've learned but also an opportunity to share that knowledge with others. Art is something that I am passionate about and what I plan on pursuing in college as an Illustration major.
Environmental Science students also participated in the annual NJ Conservation Poster Contest. The 2021 theme, “Healthy Forests = Healthy Communities” invited students to consider the important role of forests in establishing and maintaining a healthy ecosystem. This year, two district winners for the Monmouth-Ocean County region were MAST students: Brittney Mallon and Grace McDonald , who placed second and third respectively.
Brielle resident Molly Honecker, a senior at MAST, was a state finalist in the World of 7 Billion
contest, and as an Environmental Science student, participated in an international video competition hosted by Population Education along with an estimated 5,000 students from more than 50 countries. The goal of the competition was to raise awareness of environmental issues as population continues to grow, and to make interdisciplinary connections between the many pressing global challenges of today. Her video “Addressing Food Deserts” earned the state finalist citation in the field of Promoting Environmental Justice category.
“Participating in scientific presentation contests that require creative demonstrations of knowledge are not only more fulfilling and interesting on a personal level, but they also push you to deeply explore the issue you’re reporting on. So you aren’t presenting the audience with watered down or inaccurate information, “ the graduating student said.