Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Bay as a Middle School Classroom

Annabelle Everett
Communications Intern

EDUCATION THURSDAY

Sixth graders from Bird Middle School in Walpole, MA are nearing the end of a lengthy unit on environmental science and the problems that their environments face. Students spent six weeks studying ecosystems and investigating the Neponset River watershed in Walpole. They discovered various environmental issues that result from residents’ suburban lifestyles and were then tasked to come up with several solutions. Such a project attempts to mirror the work that Save The Bay does every day and it culminated in a week of field trips, including a June 10 visit to the Save The Bay Center in Providence.

Life in the touch tank
I had the chance to shadow one of the groups from Bird Middle School for a few hours. They began their day learning about plankton in one of STB’s classrooms. After a brief rundown of the species, each student was given a microscope and a water sample containing some plankton. They filled out a worksheet with their findings before moving on to one of the touch tanks. The chance to interact with the different creatures in the tank was met with excitement from the students, who asked numerous questions while nudging each other to get the best view.  

Exploring the rocky shore
The next activity was to explore the shore behind the Bay Center. Students were given buckets to collect any rocks, shells, or various creatures that they might find. Within minutes, one student called out, “I found a live crab!” When asked if they were having fun, a few of the boys responded with an enthusiastic “Yeah!” Each group excitedly picked up rocks, scooping up the crabs that they found hidden underneath.   

The students spent half an hour combing the shore before settling down to get a better idea of what sort of creatures they had just found by looking through a guide to the life in the Bay. Each was then asked to share one of their findings with the class. One prominent discovery was the Asian Shore Crab, which the students were taught is an invasive species that arrives on ships from Japan and has taken over the Bay waters. Students also discovered other types of crabs on the shore, as well as quahogs, mussels, and periwinkles.

Bird middle School sixth graders at the Bay Center
This educational program allows Narragansett Bay to serve as the classroom, gives students a hands-on experience, and exposes them to various problems faced by the environment. Observing the students, it is clear how excited they are about this chance to investigate the Bay. One boy, when describing that his favorite part of the day was getting to explore the shore, remarked that this was “better than sitting in class.” This type of interactive learning that Save The Bay provides is essential in getting kids excited about the environment and educating them on environmental issues.

- Annabelle

Annabelle is studying Writing & Rhetoric at Hobart & William Smith Colleges