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U. pairs with youth program for interactive workshops

At the end of September, a team of Rutgers educators and the 4-H Youth Development Program will host an interactive series of workshops centered on Cape May County’s shore.

Julie Karavan, county agent for the Rutgers Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development Program, said the workshops, collectively called Sea-science Investigations, are going to bring interactive learning to the community.

The series will take place at the Ocean City Free Public Library, in Ocean City, N.J.

The first workshop, “Ocean Exploration,” will be held on Sept. 24. Targeted at teenagers, the workshop will provide attendees an overview of the technology scientists use to study the ocean.

The second workshop, “Creature Feature,” is planned for Sept. 27. It is for children from kindergarten to fourth grade. It will be the program’s most interactive experience, with a focus on horseshoe crabs.

The third and final workshop, “Aquatic Robots,” it set for Sept. 30. It will feature both remotely operated and automated robots from the SeaPerch regional competition for aquatic robots held annually at Drexel University.

“We want to connect kids to big universities,” Karavan said.

Karavan said she decided to focus on marine science because of Cape May’s location on the shore, and her interest in the work of the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences.

Sam Wilson, an environmental educator for the 4-H Youth Development Program, said by using horseshoe crabs that live and reproduce in the Delaware Bay, the program relates to the local community’s culture.   

The crabs are important to the environment and the medical field, Wilson said.

In addition to being a key food source for birds migrating north along the shore, pharmaceutical companies them to test human medicine.

He said allowing kids to see and touch the crabs helps them understand and remember those roles.

“It’s hands-on learning, not just classroom learning. The kids can learn by experience,” he said.

Karavan said she hopes the program will bring more collaboration between Rutgers and the library.

“Libraries are great places to start community clubs,” she said.

Hosting the program at a library could encourage adults to volunteer and bring more programs and learning opportunities to the community, she said.

The program is the first of its kind. Before she took her position as county agent, Karavan said the Cooperative Extension office did little to serve the 16 municipalities in Cape May County.

Karen Mahar, the Ocean City Free Public Library’s program coordinator, said the library is the perfect venue for reaching out to the city’s community.

“The library is the cultural hub of the city,” Mahar said.

Maher could not provide the number of children currently registered for the program, but programs held at the library are usually popular, she said.

She said the lecture hall that will host the program has a capacity of 160 people.

Besides educational programs, like Sea-science Investigations, the library regularly holds concerts for Ocean City residents, she said. It is also located right next to the city’s art center and aquarium.

She said 4-H and Rutgers are known for running high quality programs. The library shares the goal of education by means of community involvement.

“We want to provide for our patrons,” she said.

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