The Lake Hopatcong Foundation has been named a Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award winner in the category of “Environmental Education (Educator-Led)” for their environmental student field trip program.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced winners in eight categories during a virtual ceremony Thursday, Dec. 22. A recording of the ceremony is available on the DEP website at dep.nj.gov/awards.
“Our environmental field trip program is one of our favorite and most impactful initiatives,” said Lake Hopatcong Foundation Executive Director Kyle Richter. “We are thrilled to share this honor with the entire team of educators and volunteers who create this educational experience on Lake Hopatcong each spring.”
Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards are given annually to individuals and organizations that demonstrate commitment and leadership on a variety of environmental issues, including environmental justice, climate change, sustainability, education, and protection of natural resources.
The Lake Hopatcong Foundation field trip program offers a unique, hands-on experience at Hopatcong State Park. The day is highlighted by data-gathering trips aboard the organization’s 40-foot pontoon boat, “Study Hull,” a 40-passenger Floating Classroom.
“The Floating Classroom is our most visible presence on the lake,” Richter told two dozen supporters who gathered at the Foundation’s offices in Landing for the award announcement. “Being able to educate our children in such a compelling and engaging way is our best chance at supporting and maintaining the health of Lake Hopatcong into the future.”
The field trips also allow participants—mostly fourth- and fifth-grade students—to wade into the Musconetcong River to look for aquatic macroinvertebrates or freshwater insects, take an educational hike through the State Park, and use an interactive watershed model to learn about pollution and how to protect water resources.
“The goal of the program is to open students’ eyes to the power of their actions and what they can do to protect our precious freshwater resources,” said Lake Hopatcong Foundation Grants and Program Director Donna Macalle-Holly. “We can’t think of a better place to do that than here on New Jersey’s largest lake.”
The Lake Hopatcong environmental field trips were launched as a pilot program in 2015 for 200 students from towns surrounding Lake Hopatcong. Over the past eight years, the program has grown to serve thousands of students across New Jersey.
The Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards are sponsored by the Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank and the New Jersey Corporation for Advanced Technology. It is the State’s premier environmental awards program, having recognized 212 winners since 2000.
The Lake Hopatcong Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to protecting the lake environment and enhancing the lake experience by bringing together public and private resources to encourage a culture of sustainability and stewardship on and around New Jersey’s largest lake, for this and future generations. To learn more, visit lakehopatcongfoundation.org.