Picture Stockton... celebrating World Ocean Day

Port Republic, N.J. -- Kayleigh Friend is a Master of Arts in Education student at Stockton University, a special education teacher at Port Republic School, a paddleboarder, surfer and ocean-minded human. She got to be teacher, student and ocean lover all at once to celebrate World Ocean Day on June 7.

Friend partnered with Steve Evert, director of the Stockton Marine Field Station in Port Republic, to organize a day of marine science activities for the entire Port Republic School (kindergarten through eighth grade).  

“I grew up in Smithville and always loved the ocean. I’m a big surfer and paddleboarder, and I wanted to get our kids out here and get them excited about the area they live in. They’re so lucky,” she said.

Stockton faculty and staff offered demonstrations and mini lessons along Nacote Creek.

Mark Sullivan, professor of Marine Science, and Nate Robinson and Dave Ambrose, who work at the field station, deployed a seine net to sample the fish and crab species in the creek.

Matthew Szczotka, an eighth grader and avid fisher, saw a species he’d never seen. “We caught a big gizzard shad. He looked around 10 inches,” he said.  

Stephen Nagiewicz, a marine archeologist and adjunct faculty member, brought a glass bead, musket ball, pottery shard, metal spoon and other artifacts from shipwrecks. He explained how sonar discovered Revolutionary War shipwrecks in the Mullica River just off the Garden State Parkway bridge.

Anna Pfeiffer-Herbert, associate professor of Marine Science, and Elizabeth Bick, who works at the field station, offered activities to help students visualize how currents flow.

“We got to see the current by throwing oranges in the water and watching where they go. The farther you throw it away from the shore, the faster it goes,” Szczotka said.  

Evert brought tanks of oysters to explain their life cycle, ability to filter water and how oyster reefs can help with bay restoration.   

Hannah Kurtz, an eighth grader, said, “I love all the different animals and how the ocean is a moving cycle. I learned that oysters have a lot of babies because not a lot of them survive. They have to stick to something to grow.”

Peter Straub, professor of Biology and Coastal Zone Management, flew a drone that he uses for coastal resiliency work.  

Aubrey Strickland, an eighth grader, said, “The ocean is beautiful and always fun to go in. Knowing that all the marine life is in there is really cool. It’s not something you get to experience every day, but since I live in Port I get to see it a lot.”

An environmental or marine science career wasn’t on Strickland’s radar, “but after seeing it, it’s now more interesting to me.”

Hayley Keefe, a Stockton senior Marine Science major who volunteered for the event, enjoyed seeing the enthusiasm and excitement from all the age groups.

“They asked great questions and were interested. That’s so important because that’s going to help inspire the next generation of marine biologists,” she said.

Keefe always loved animals and the beach, but she went to college to study nursing. Then she saw the documentary “My Octopus Teacher” on Netflix. Her immediate reaction was “this is what I want to do. I need to do this. I need to help keep the ocean safe and healthy,” she said.  

Keefe transferred to Stockton and switched her major. “I’m glad I am pursuing this career path. I went from taking anatomy and working with people to fish. It was a big change,” she said.

But, it was the best decision for her. “I love the way the ocean works and how everything is connected. It’s so massive and we don’t even know everything that’s there. We haven’t even explored all of it. It’s fascinating to me,” she said.

Photos and story by Susan Allen 

World Ocean Day

Port Republic School's kindergarten through eighth grade students walked to Nacote Creek to join the Stockton Marine Field Station for hands-on activities. 


World Ocean Day

Steve Evert, director of the Marine Field Station, and Kayleigh Friend, a special education teacher at Port Republic School, partnered to offer students a day of marine science activities taught by Stockton professors and students.


World Ocean Day

Students gathered around a seine net to see what fish and crabs live in Nacote Creek. 


World Ocean Day

Each group documented the variety of species captured and measured the largest of each species caught. 


World Ocean Day

Students learned how to differentiate between male and female Atlantic Blue crabs by looking at the pattern on their underside. 


World Ocean Day

After learning about the oyster life cycle and how oyster reefs are built for restoration, students decorated recycled shells. 


World Ocean Day

Peter Straub flew a drone that is used for Stockton's coastal resiliency work. 


World Ocean Day

As the drone lifted to 400 feet above the ground, students watched the buzzing technology get smaller. 


World Ocean Day

Stephen Nagiewicz, a marine archeologist, shows off a musket ball from the Revolutionary War before passing it around for the students to hold hometown history in their hands. He shared stories about the Battle of Chestnut Neck in Port Republic and the Mullica River shipwrecks that still remain beneath the surface.  


World Ocean Day

The current further away from shoreline moves faster. Oranges tossed into the creek helped students see it to believe it. 

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