A leader in the protection of water and environment for more than sixty years, the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association is embarking on a bold plan to transform the heart of its 930-acre Watershed Reserve in Hopewell into a teaching model of environmental sustainability.

“The challenges facing our water and environment continue to mount,” said Jim Waltman, Watershed Association Executive Director. "We simply must change public mindsets, behaviors, and policies to protect our natural resources before its too late,” he said, “and that change begins with education.”

Unfortunately, in the era of iPhone and Xbox, America’s children are spending less and less time in nature, leading to what author Richard Louv calls “nature deficit disorder.” Without direct contact with nature, the next generation could grow up with less concern for the environment and less personal commitment to its well-being.

On a related note, researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found a significant decline in the depictions of nature in U.S. children’s books. In an article published in the journal Sociological Inquiry, the authors suggest that “today’s generation of children is not being socialized, at least through this source, toward an understanding and appreciation of the natural world and the place of humans within it.”

The Watershed Association is committed to providing an antidote to this phenomenon by providing children with opportunities to exercise their instinctive wonder and their innate capacity for research and discovery. The organization serves more than 10,000 children and adults a year through programs that address core curriculum content standards in math and science.

The Watershed Association plans to create a new environmental center that will dramatically enhance its capacity to teach environmental science. The center, designed by Farewell Architects, LLC to achieve a LEED-Platinum rating by the U.S. Green Building Council, will feature a formal laboratory, fully stocked with state-of-the-art scientific instruments, and interactive exhibits about water and the environment.

The organization has raised nearly $5.5 million as part of its “Pass It On” campaign to create the new center and bolster its endowment. “We need to raise an additional $550,000 in gifts and commitments to break ground in 2012 and are reaching out to local business leaders, individuals and foundations to join us in this effort that we know will benefit the entire state,” Waltman said.

For more information about the project and how you can help, call the Watershed Development Office at 609-737-3735 or visit www.thewatershed.org to view a feature video.

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