OCVTS STUDENTS BENEFIT FROM COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS
Jean Sullivian, March 10, 2009
OCEAN COUNY, NEW JERSEY- Textbooks, lectures, and hands-on training build a strong foundation of skills and knowledge at Ocean County Vocational Technical School (OCVTS). And when this foundation is strengthened by the resources of partnerships such as the New Jersey Forest Resource Education Center (FREC) in Jackson, students prosper.
The students from the Agricultural and Environmental Sciences program at the OCVTS Jackson Center, led by their instructor Ms. Kim Szulecki, recently spent a day at the FREC Interpretive Center and New Jersey State Forest Nursery where they learned about the science of tree propagation, wood milling, and the ancient art of making maple syrup. Yes indeed, maple trees at the FREC produce gallons of sap which is processed into pure maple syrup on-site.
Students watched as FREC Staff Member Bob Meierjurgen demonstrated the steps of collecting sap and the evaporation process which produces the maple syrup.
FREC Education Coordinator Terry O’Leary then walked the students through the processes of collecting seeds, including a wide variety of acorns and pine cones, for the various tree crops to be planted the following year. Collecting, harvesting, and storing the seeds are all accomplished through surprisingly “low tech” methods as Mr. O’Leary emphasized the use of recycled materials and innovative uses for tools and machinery.
Students applied their classroom studies as they were quizzed throughout the day on environmental topics as they toured the grounds. The excursion was not only instructional but also provided insight into the many career opportunities in the agricultural and environmental fields.
Seniors Sean Dowling and Cory Miller, both from Central Regional High School, are the first students from the Agricultural and Environmental Sciences program to participate in an internship at the FREC. During their first month they have been working on numerous projects including interpretive learning stations which are used by visitors. In addition to the hands-on work, the students are required to submit daily journals documenting their experiences. Their internships will continue to the end of the school year.
Sean Dowling explains, “The internship is a great opportunity to take what I learned in the classroom and use it here. I can really focus on things that I will use in the future. I plan to go on to college and my goal is to be a game warden or conservation officer.”
Cory Miller echoed Sean’s thoughts and added, “You can only learn so much in the classroom; out here you really get to use what you’ve learned.”