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Stormwater Camp: A Summer Week To Remember

September 25th, 2018 by


New Jersey Future-funded Stormwater Camp in Sussex County finishes its second successful year.

Whose rain garden is this?”


That’s the question that Nathaniel Sajdak, watershed director at Wallkill River Watershed Management Group, asks of the children who help to plant, mulch and maintain a few big, beautiful rain gardens in Sussex County schools and parks. And that’s the answer they shout: “Ours!”

These bioretention basins collect and clean hundreds of thousands of gallons of stormwater runoff that otherwise would pick up pollutants on its way through pipes directly into the Paulinskill River, a pristine tributary to the Delaware River that flows through New Jersey’s Highlands.

But the fun doesn’t stop at planting and mulching. For the past two summers, New Jersey Future’s Mainstreaming Green Infrastructure program has funded a week-long Stormwater Camp for about 25 students, grades 3 through 6, at the Marian McKeown Elementary School in Hampton Township in Sussex County – home to one of the largest rain gardens in New Jersey. The camp has been a big success, and is featured in this Highlands Hero video recognizing the work of Brenda Delgrosso, the teacher who helped design and deliver the camp curriculum.

Stormwater Camp is chock full of hands-on experiential learning and field trips. The curriculum includes:

  • Creating EnviroScapes, an interactive watershed model used to show how pollution enters local waterways
  • A “Sum of the Parts” exercise to learn about the collective impact of many small actions
  • A “Storm Drain Game,” a trash/recycling/hazardous waste sorting game to teach students that litter left on the street runs down into storm drains and eventually into rivers and streams
  • Identification of macroinvertebrates found in the Paulinskill
  • An exercise to assume the role of city planners making decisions about the layout of a fictional town, with the goal of protecting the water quality of the town’s fictional “Dragonfly Pond.”

And that’s just part of Day One! All five days are filled with rich, fun, hands-on learning. Feedback was excellent.

A few days after camp week ended, Sajdak related the following story:

“Saturday morning, the day after Stormwater Camp ended, I was sitting in the Philadelphia Airport with my family waiting for our flight to Phoenix when I received a phone call from Tony Cerbo of Cerbo’s Nursery. That morning a young girl came with her parents to their nursery in Hampton to buy a bunch of native plants. Upon speaking with the young girl, Tony learned that she was going to work with her parents over the weekend to build a rain garden at their house. This girl informed Tony that she had participated in Stormwater Camp, which was where she developed the interest to do this. Tony was thrilled to share this story with me, knowing the significance of what it represented, on so many different community awareness, building and stewardship levels! Thank you for providing us the opportunity to continue building a green infrastructure movement in our local Sussex County watersheds.”

Hats off to Nathaniel Sajdak, his colleague Kristine Rogers, and McKeown School science teacher Brenda Delgrosso for creating a fun, educational, replicable and adaptable summer camp program that New Jersey Future was proud to fund.

More photos from all five days of Stormwater Camp.

The video was produced by Elliott Ruga of the Highlands Coalition and funded by the William Penn Foundation. 

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