What do soft shell clams, bird houses, a rain-barrel system, a community garden, a GPS Camera drone kit and binoculars have in common? All will enhance special programs at local schools, and all are made possible by grants from the Stewardship Education Alliance.
Last fall, the S.E.A. Advisory Board suggested projects supported by S.E.A. require data-collection. The S.E.A. Board agreed: students of any age can engage in citizen science and learn scientific methods of observation and data-collection. S.E.A. President Barbara Lawrence adds that this method of investigation supports the S.E.A. mission and will contribute to understanding local environments. (Please visit the new S.E.A. website: www.StewardshipEducationAlliance.org).
Grant awards this year include:
APPLETON VILLAGE SCHOOL: DJI Mavic Mini GPS Camera Drone kit
Using GPS camera drone kit, Middle school students participating in the multi-year watershed survey and mapping project and nature trail service-learning project will add layers of detail and precision to the data already gathered about the local watershed. As David Munson, 6th, 7th, and 8th Grade science teacher notes, “the programmable, iPad compatible device will provide a valuable “hook” for tech-minded students, allowing them to pursue their own interests in STEM while contributing valuable data to the larger project.
HOPE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Bird houses, and native plants
The addition of a wildlife garden and birdhouses on the nature trail started in 2021 with support from S.E.A. will promote more biodiversity and provide students the chance to observe an abundance of plant, animal, and insect life. This increase in environmental activity will allow for a richer data collection experience. Teacher Colin Amundsen, who is committed to outdoor education and expeditionary learning, notes that when students are connected to nature, they perform better in the school and are more fully engaged.
LINCOLNVILLE CENTRAL SCHOOL: Binoculars for eBird program
The binoculars will primarily be used by students who are participating in the eBird community science program. Students will spend time outside around the school to identify birds and the lists of birds they see will be uploaded to the eBird database. The eBird database can be accessed by anyone and is used by scientists around the world. Middle-school Science Teacher Jill Feeney has taken several courses with the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, and the binoculars will allow her students to engage in meaningful observations and data-collection
PEOPLEPLACE COOPERATIVE PRESCHOOL: A rain barrel system
With help from Knox-Lincoln Country Water & Soil Conservation District and funding from S.E.A., PeoplePlace will construct a rain-barrel system including a gutter, pipe, barrels and a pump that brings water to a play area. Director Sessa Salas explains, “Children are naturally curious. When water is available to them as a natural element they are actively engaged in schemas (mental models or processes that we create by trial and error through experiences) such as transformation, trajectory, and transporting, all of which promote problem solving, cause-and-effect, and an understanding of the world around them.” PeoplePlace may also be able to purchase native plants to manage water flow.
RILEY SCHOOL: Equipment to investigate predation on soft clams
Students at the Riley School will investigate the effects of predator exclusion units and changing abiotic factors on soft-shell clam (mya arenaria) populations in the nearby Clam Cove. Historically, this area was home to a healthy population of wild soft-shell clams, but in recent years the population has declined significantly. The Riley School will launch an investigation to determine if the decrease of soft-shell clams in this cove is due to increased predation, changes in environmental abiotic factors such as increased turbidity, nutrient loading, temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen, or both predation and changes in abiotic factors.
Director Rebecca Clapp explains: “To investigate this phenomenon, the Riley school students will build experimental predator exclusion units. The students will build the units, making 25cm x 25cm x 10cm wooden frames, and covering the top and bottom of the units with each predator control treatment (netting). For this study they will use three predator control treatments: 1) none (controls); 2) flexible netting; and 3) rigid netting. The students will place these units at mid and high intertidal zones within Clam Cove at the end of April, corresponding with the soft-shell clam spawning cycle. Once the units are placed, the students will collect weekly water samples to test abiotic parameters, such as temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, nitrate, and phosphate. When the students return to school in the fall, they will collect their predator exclusion units and count and measure the clams in each treatment box.”
SWEETLAND SCHOOL at SWEETTREE ARTS: Materials to build and plant a community garden
Director Lindsay Pinchbeck describes the project: “This spring, students will build a community garden and connect with Hope’s Edge Farm. Middle school children will work closely with local gardeners and work towards a business plan and launch a small farm stand to sell greens in the center of Hope. Elementary students will drive a community program to plant sunflowers in honor of the tragedies in Ukraine and create interactive gardens using skills gathered in our woodworking shop to create beautiful interactive environments. Children will be involved with prepping the land, planting, harvesting, and selling flowers and greens in the early spring and fall. They will also create their own farm stand in the school’s wood shop.
She adds: “Through slow and mindful actions we can take care of the environment and world around us. We can lessen the impact on a variety of practices impacting our environment and encourage self-sustaining practices and inspired stewardship to take care of our land and environment.