LITTLE FERRY, N.J. -- Since last September, Little Ferry kids have had the opportunity to partake in hands-on, educational experiences related to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields, thanks to the sponsorship of resident Donald Nuckel's Better Education Starts Today initiative that led to collaboration between the school district and Ramapo College.
Nuckel was honored last month as a distinguished citizen by the Ramapo College Foundation for his donation of $150,000 for the launch of the STEM program in Little Ferry.
A lifelong borough resident, Nuckel said the initiative began when he helped pay for a boat for the Hackensack Riverkeeper, Bill Sheehan, and realized the many opportunities for learning the Hackensack River presents.
"The river is an open classroom and laboratory," he said.
Soon after, Nuckel learned of the STEM program at Ramapo College and sought to bring it to Little Ferry. Last month, two Family Science Nights were conducted for elementary school students and 150 children attended, eager to participate in the science-related activities.
A major goal of the science nights was to ensure families were included, as family support is an important factor of a child's academic success, Nuckel said.
"Our foundation identifies an issue in education and finds where we can be helpful," he said. "We work through partnerships. We have 1,000 kids in the STEM program [in Little Ferry. That has never been done before."
In addition to the science nights, students took several trips to the Meadowlands Environment Center in Lyndhurst for environmental education programs.
As part of an upcoming project called the Corps of Cadets, students will be visiting the Hackensack River to learn about water testing and groundwater pollution.
Nuckel also established a scholarship program at Ramapo College in environmental sciences for Corps of Cadets participants who display "leadership through academics and stewardship in protecting the Hackensack River," said the press release.
"We know we are going to be making a difference in these kids' lives, and for kids that are going to be going into STEM in college, we are going to back them up big time," Nuckel said.
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