About NJ Kids In Nature

The NJ Kids In Nature Coalition was founded in 2023 to act as a coordinating body for our member organizations, with the mission to uplift, support, and celebrate organizations connecting all kids with nature, to improve childrens’ overall physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Our Goals Circles

Collaborate and Activate a cross-section of organizations to provide expertise, outreach, and vision around this critical issue.

Educate and Engage in order to raise awareness on the importance of outdoor spaces and nature-based opportunities across New Jersey.

Increase Access to Nature and the Outdoors so all children are healthier and happier.

Meet The Steering Committee

The members of our Steering Committee represent an array of diverse organizations. We are united by the belief that all children have the fundamental right to safely experience the natural world and all its benefits.

Support Staff

Our Partner Organizations:

Garfield YMCA

Raritan Headwaters

Empower Trip, LLC

New Jersey Earth Science Teachers Association

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Renata Barnes

Director, Programming and Community Engagement
Outdoor Equity Alliance (https://outdoorequityalliance.org/)

A native New Yorker, Renata was raised in Hopewell Valley and is proud to serve as the Outdoor Equity Alliance (OEA) Coordinator. A graduate of Mercer County Community College and New York University, Renata has long been passionate about issues of racial equity, equality, and justice.

The Outdoor Equity Alliance removes barriers and inspires people of all ages, ethnicities, abilities, and income levels to enjoy the outdoors and become more involved in the natural world. We work in partnership with other organizations and businesses to increase opportunities to learn, work and play outdoors.

New Jersey AHPERD

Carol Ciotto

Executive Director
SHAPENJ (https://www.njahperd.org/new/)

Carol has been at Central CT State University for the past 19 years and currently serves as the Assistant Dean for the School of Education and Professional Studies. Prior to teaching at CCSU she spent 23 years as an elementary physical education teacher, a K-8 assistant principal and a K-6 principal in the CT public-school setting. Carol currently serves as the Executive Director for the New Jersey Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (NJAHPERD).

SHAPE NJ is dedicated to advancing quality health education, physical education, recreation, dance education, and athletics through professional development, programming, advocacy, and collegial exchange. The Association promotes responsibility and development of healthy active lifestyles for New Jersey’s students, educators and community members.


Suzanne Cornell

Director, Strategic Partnerships and Engagement
NJ YMCA State Alliance (https://www.njymca.org/)

Suzanne has over 32 years of leadership experience in organizational and project management, partnerships, grant writing, and program development, including work on state and local boards and task forces that support health and wellness. Suzanne has memberships in several professional organizations, including the Association of Diabetes Educators and serves with Shape New Jersey and the Sustainable New Jersey for Schools Health and Wellness Task Force.

The NJ YMCA State Alliance collaborates and works together on areas of mutual benefit in order to strengthen and enhance our individual YMCAs and the collective strength of NJ YMCAs to better serve the people of New Jersey.

Merrill Eppedio

Director, Strategic Communications & Learning
Janssen Scientific Affairs A Johnson & Johnson Company

Merrill Eppedio is an accomplished executive with a 21-year career at Johnson & Johnson, where she has excelled in various leadership roles. Throughout her tenure, Merrill has led large-scale global capability builds, playing a pivotal role in shaping strategic initiatives. Notably, she has been a driving force in championing initiatives to improve health equity. Beyond her professional achievements, Merrill is an ardent advocate for environmental conservation and firmly believes in ensuring that everyone can benefit from the wonders of nature.

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Susan Haspel

State Director
Boys & Girls Clubs in New Jersey (https://bgcnj.org/)

Susan Haspel is a seasoned non-profit leader, responsible for the overall management and operations of a statewide youth development organization. Prior to serving in her non-profit leadership role, Susan was a highly-accomplished media executive successful at integrating and executing strategic pro-social initiatives, strengthening brand and organization reputation. Susan served as Executive Producer and Co-Creator of NBCUniversal’s Emmy award-winning “The More You Know” campaign, the longest-running corporate public service initiative in the media landscape, focused on pressing social issues including education, environment, health and diversity.

Boys & Girls Clubs in New Jersey is an alliance of 22 Boys & Girls Club organizations serving more than 55,000 youth ages 5-18 throughout the Garden State. Boys & Girls Clubs in New Jersey is a collaborative effort representing all Clubs with the purpose of building local Club capacity; raising public awareness; and securing resources and financial support to increase the impact and reach of local Clubs.

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Lauren Madden

The College of New Jersey (https://eeced.tcnj.edu/department-info/faculty-profiles/lauren-madden/)

Dr. Madden is a science educator who advocates for scientific literacy and the health of our planet through teaching and learning. Her recent research has focused directly on climate change education in K-5 classrooms and her expertise has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, NPR, and the Star Ledger. She is active in the Hunterdon, Somerset, and Mercer County STEM Ecosystem and enjoys leading professional development that connects elementary school teachers around STEM and environment.

Children Nature Network

Kristy Omelianuk

Network Engagement Manager
Children & Nature Network (https://www.childrenandnature.org/)

Kristy helps advance the mission of Children & Nature Network by growing and supporting its Membership Program and The Trailhead, an engaged online global community. She finds joy in connecting people to each other, and to the causes and places that they care most deeply about. In addition to 15 years of experience in membership programs, philanthropy and program development, Kristy has taught art to public school children in grades K-5 who reside in socially and economically disadvantaged communities.

The Children & Nature Network supports and mobilizes leaders, educators, activists, practitioners and parents working to turn the trend of an indoor childhood back out to the benefits of nature – and to increase safe and equitable access to the natural world for all.

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Anne Price

Program Manager
WaterSpirit (https://www.waterspirit.org/)

Anne Price has a strong passion for her family, wildlife and all of nature. Anne considers her career a personal mission. She has dedicated herself as a naturalist, teaching environmental education at nature centers in NJ since 1987. As a steward of the Earth, Anne feels her mission is to teach people to appreciate nature, for we will only protect what we love.

Waterspirit is for any person seeking a spirituality that connects more deeply with creation. In Waterspirit, a reverence for water includes a commitment to preserve and protect this source and sustainer of life. Programs, learning, reflection, and ritual lead to action on behalf of water.

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Dagmar Wojcik

Quality Team Director
NJSACC: NJ’s Afterschool & Out-of-School Time Professional Network (https://www.njsacc.org/)

Dagmar Wojcik is the Quality Team Director at NJSACC – NJ’s Afterschool & Out-of-School Time Professional Network. A former youth, teen, family, summer camp, and international programs director for the YMCA, Dagmar also spent several years being mostly mom to two wonderful daughters and working/volunteering with youth, family, and community programs.

The statewide Network for New Jersey Afterschool Communities advocates for the implementation of the New Jersey Quality Afterschool Standards and promotes and supports the development, continuity, and expansion of out-of-school programs. NJSACC envisions a New Jersey where every child has access to high-quality, inclusive out-of-school time programs that provide equitable and diverse experiences that maximize the full potential for all youth, families and communities.


Kelly Wenzel

ANJEE (Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education) (https://anjee.org/index.html)

Kelly Wenzel is the Program Manager for the NJ Audubon Watershed Restoration and Community Empowerment Program. She holds a B.S. and a Master of City and Regional Planning from Rutgers University with Certificates in Appreciative Inquiry and Non-profit Management. Kelly served as the Vice President for Board of Trustees of the ECO Charter School in Camden and is also the President of the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education.

ANJEE is a professional organization, established in 1985, that provides a networking forum for New Jersey’s environmental educators.

NJ Audubon

Dale Rosselet

Senior Advisor
New Jersey Audubon (https://njaudubon.org/)

Ms. Rosselet joined the staff of New Jersey Audubon in 1983 and recently retired as the organization’s Vice President for Education. She has extensive experience teaching pre-school, elementary, and secondary grades in both formal and non-formal situations. She oversaw all statewide and center-based educational programming efforts for the organization as well as nature center operations. Ms. Rosselet chaired the governor-appointed New Jersey Commission for Environmental Education and is past President of the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education, NJ’s statewide professional organization for environmental educators. Ms. Rosselet has co-authored several ecology-based curriculum guides for teachers including Bridges to the Natural World and NJ WATERS: A Watershed Approach to Teaching the Ecology of Regional Systems.

New Jersey Audubon is committed to connecting all people with nature and stewarding the nature of today for all people of tomorrow.

NJ Audubon

Allison Mulch

Director of Education
New Jersey Audubon (https://njaudubon.org/)

Allison Mulch is the Director of Education at New Jersey Audubon, the state’s largest and oldest conservation organization connecting all people with nature and stewarding the nature of today for all people of tomorrow. She oversees all statewide educational programs including the internationally recognized Eco-Schools US program, the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program, and the Resilient School Consortium (RiSC) in New Jersey, and programs offered by our three nature centers. She works with school supervisors and teachers to integrate environmental, sustainability, and climate change education across disciplines to create a more unified approach to teaching and learning. Allison serves on the board of the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education, is an appointee for the New Jersey Commission for Environmental Education and is a member of the Climate Change Education Thought Leader Committee and its Climate Change Education Initiative. Allison was previously the Director of the NJ Sustainable Schools Consortium at the Educational Information and Resource Center and served as an 2021-2022 Administrator for the Organizing Action on Sustainability in Schools.

New Jersey Audubon is committed to connecting all people with nature and stewarding the nature of today for all people of tomorrow.

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Debbie Mans

TWENTYTWENTY public affairs (https://www.twentytwentypublicaffairs.com/)

Debbie is a seasoned environmental policy maker and local elected official, with expertise in public participation, strategic communications, and community engagement. Debbie holds certifications from the International Association for Public Participation in Foundations in Public Participation, Planning for Effective Public Participation and Techniques for Effective Public Participation and loves working on creating effective and meaningful coalitions.