2017 SAGEEE Award for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education
The second grade teachers at the Teaticket Elementary School, Maura Baxter, Erin Crapo, and Jody Kirincich used a number of innovative methods to educate their students about the migration patterns of animals on Cape Cod this past year. Teaticket Elementary backs up to the newly minted Teaticket Park, a former golfing range that is now reclaimed open public space maintained by the 300 Committee Land Trust. In September, the teachers look 55 second grade students on a nature walk in the park behind the school with binoculars and nature journals, asking the students to observe their surroundings and look for evidence of birds that migrate through the area. They were given a tour of the park by volunteers from the 300 Committee, as well as State Representative David Vieira (who grew up on the property). The students took notes in their journals and when they returned to their classrooms they made artwork with the help of high school art student volunteers and wrote poetry about their experience on the walk. The artwork was used to create a mural of birds for the park, as well as to illustrate their poems in a class book. The mural will be installed in the park to educate the public about the birds of the park, and the poetry book is available to parents and local classrooms and libraries. After this project was completed, the teachers invited Betsy Gladfelter of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Coonamessett River Restoration Project to come in and talk to the students about migrating herring. Betsy spoke to the students about food webs, habitat and the migration life cycle, and the students were given a chance to “adopt” a herring at the Coonamessctt River. The students then created “portraits” of their adopted herring for another group mural project, and they will visit the run at the river in the spring to see the herring come back fom the ocean. During the visit to the river, students will learn not only about the herring that they see in the run but also about the restoration of the river which was polluted for some time and turned into a cranberry bog for years. This method of asking the students to personally experience the subject matter of migration and respond to it through questions, actions, writing and artwork gives the students a chance to truly fathom the concept of migrating creatures and why it is important to preserve open space to maintain this cycle. This project was funded through a grant from the Falmouth Education Foundation, which paid for the materials and transportation costs associated with the project. The teachers of Teaticket will be able to use the binoculars in future nature walks in the park, and the murals and book will serve as models for future projects. This project could easily be replicated in any town using open space local to the Elementary Schools, as migrators pass through most places unnoticed until we take the time to acknowledge their presence and their needs through conservation.