Christine Girtain, Director of Authentic Science Research at Toms River High Schools South and North and an Executive Board Member of the New Jersey Earth Science Teachers Association along with Charlene Wallace, Biology teacher at High School South had the opportunity to take students to Costa Rica for the Costa Rica Science Research Experience (CRSRE), a life-changing experience allowing the students to participate in rainforest science research. The trip, run as an outside research opportunity, is open to any high school students that applied. Students had to submit essays, recommendation letters from teachers and had to meet with Ms. Girtain and Ms. Wallace for final approval. The group going on the CRSRE trip this year includes students from Toms River High School South, Toms River High School North and Red Bank Regional High School. However, without a budget for this trip, it could not happen.

Ms. Girtain mentioned the trip to Jeremy Grunin, President of the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation and he challenged her and Ms. Wallace to raise $15,000.  If they did, he would match the funds to pay for the trip.  They rose to the challenge and broke the $15,000 mark by securing several corporate sponsorships including Ozane/Insectropolis and Base Camp Adventure Fitness, as well as money from online fundraising and other donors. Jeremy matched the $15,000 and presented the check to Ms. Girtain and her students (shown in the picture).

The high school students will participate in lectures leading up to the summer trip. Once in Costa Rica, students will immediately begin to gain an understanding of the microbiology of the fungus garden and ant colony. They will also learn about the ecological environment and the various crops cultivated on site. Students will be split into teams and able to develop and work on their own projects which could be deep in the forest, laboratory based or in remote colonies. They will also experience offsite trips and beach patrols to gather data on nesting turtles. After returning back to Toms River, the students will present their findings at an evening session in the school for science students and their parents.

We can’t wait to hear about their trip and everything they learned.  Stay tuned!

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