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Kean University

High School Students Learn at Kean Skylands' Living Laboratory

Kean University recently gave students from the Morris County Vocational School District Environmental Academy the chance for real-world scientific observation at the University's new Skylands campus in Oak Ridge.

The students, working with ecology professor Daniela Shebitz, Ph.D,  from Kean's School of Environmental  and Sustainability Sciences (SESS), conducted experiments and made scientific observations. They identified trees and other flora found in the Highlands, quantified species diversity, and learned how to measure the height and diameter of trees. The students also had a Q&A session with Dr. Shebitz and collected a core sample of a tree.

“The campus is a great resource not only for Kean's students but also for the Skylands community due to its natural beauty as well as its preserved environmental setting,” said Feng Qi, Ph.D., SESS executive director. “We have been using it as an outdoor laboratory and classroom to teach students practical skills to analyze and better conserve the environment, and we hope it does the same for the local community.”

The Kean faculty collaborated with Environmental Academy Science Supervisor Christopher Hiben and teacher Nancy Fitzgerald to bring the Academy's first cohort of students to the Skylands campus.

“The time was very well spent in a pristine environment under Dr. Shebitz.” said Hiben. “The kids really had a fantastic experience.”

Kean Skylands, located in Oak Ridge, features 40 acres of protected land that serve as an outdoor laboratory for experiential learning. At the site, Kean has been offering courses in environmental biology to undergraduate students since 2013 and a pre-college summer program in Earth and environmental sciences to high school students since 2014.