Squirtle and Clyde—the two baby turtles the fifth-graders have been raising—were released into the wild. Students watched a live webinar of the release hosted by a wildlife biologist from Zoo New England, the organization running this conservation program. As a science teacher, finding ways for my students to expand their environmental consciousness is the most important work I do. My hope is that headstarting Squirtle and Clyde blossoms into a life-long love of the natural world and a deep understanding of our place in it.
I have been totally impressed with how fully students embraced the responsibility of fostering live animals. They planned and posted Squirtle’s and Clyde’s feeding schedule, cleaned the tank, and really bonded with the animals. In just the few months that we’ve been raising them, the turtles have grown from matchbook-size to the size of a textbook.
Fifth-grade used to have a science unit on crayfish. But the crayfish we ordered were an invasive species, so we had to euthanize them at the end of the unit. This was not only upsetting, but in a unit about nurturing and stewardship, this was a huge mismatch. With the turtles, we achieve all our curricular goals and then some. They are a natural opening for multidisciplinary work. Students weigh, measure, record, graph, write, experiment, research, and do observational science. Plus, we actively support the conservation of a local endangered species and have amazing conversations about invasive/native species, habitat loss, pets/wild animals, and personal responsibility.
Of course, a field trip to Great Meadows wasn’t possible this year. But the webinar let students see the release site, follow what was happening, and ask questions via chat. The biologist thanked the students for helping the young turtles have a better chance of surviving in the wild. She told them that the head start they gave Squirtle and Clyde keeps them safe from raccoons, chipmunks, and snakes—the typical predators. I am happy that students could come full circle and participate in the release. The virtual field trip was a fabulous way to bring this yearlong project to a close.
By giving Squirtle and Clyde a strong head start, students have deepened their connection with the natural world. This experience has been an incredible opportunity for Shady Hill students to participate in ongoing conservation work. As a science teacher, finding ways for my students to expand their environmental consciousness is the most important work I do. My hope is that headstarting Squirtle and Clyde blossoms into a life-long love of the natural world and a deep understanding of our place in it.