For ten consecutive years, Kent School, serving Preschool through Grade 8 on the bank of the Chester River in historic Chestertown, MD has raised terrapins in the classroom in conjunction with several environmental organizations as part of the Lower School Bay Studies curriculum. The School’s most recent partnership with The National Aquarium in Baltimore began six years ago. According to their website, “The National Aquarium’s Terrapins in the Classroom Program brings Maryland students face to face with the state reptile, the diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin).”
This academic year, Kent School is one of a handful of schools asked to raise two terrapins each under different conditions. One terrapin will be raised in a tank with slightly higher water temperature. The resulting data will help scientists better understand the possible effects of global warming on terrapin nesting habits.
Kent School’s fourth grade students are responsible for measuring weight and growth of the two terrapins at timed intervals. Their data is recorded and shared with the National Aquarium’s Terrapins in the Classroom database. In addition to naming the school terrapins (Squirt and Chesapeake) fourth grade students are responsible for care and feeding of the terrapins throughout the year. In the spring, the students will embark on a field trip to Poplar Island where they will release Squirt and Chesapeake into native marsh habitat. Temperature-dependent sex determination will be of particular interest when Squirt and Chesapeake are released.
Pam Deringer, Lower School Science teacher, seamlessly weaves the terrapin study into her Bay Studies curriculum. Over the course of the academic year, Deringer leads fourth grade students in a hands-on, inquiry based exploration of Chesapeake Bay Studies. Her science curriculum is coordinated with fourth grade social studies and history where the focus is on Maryland History starting with Captain John Smith’s exploration and mapping of the Bay and its tributaries.
Over the course of the academic year, Deringer leads fourth grade students in a hands-on, inquiry based exploration of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Environmental science is integrated with the fourth grade social studies and history curriculum where the focus is on Maryland History. A “sense of place” emerges through knowledge of the history, geography and geology of this area, it’s flora and fauna, legends, and economics and population dynamics.
Over the course of the year students embark on numerous field trips that include short walks to the banks of the Chester River at the back of Kent School’s campus to a more immersive three-day/two-night excursion in conjunction with The Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Deringer said “Our students can literally monitor the water quality right in our own backyard. Several times a year we walk down to the waterfront to test for dissolved oxygen, turbidity, salinity and other indicators. We also take seine nets down in the spring and fall monitor species that visit our shoreline throughout the year. Last year we witnessed the emergence of the elusive shad right here on campus! During an afternoon of water quality assessment, students pulled a plankton net which yielded a vial filled with just hatched shad, known as fry! Due to over-fishing, poor water quality and rivers blocked by dams, the fishery has been closed since 1980. We use the same testing technology when we visit East Neck Island, Poplar Island and on canoe trips to different coves on the Chester River.” Deringer continued, “I am fortunate to be able to collaborate with my colleagues in Lower School to teach in a holistic manner. Collaboratively, we are truly bringing the classroom to life for our students. We are presenting material in a variety of ways so I firmly believe that our teaching reaches every student and helps develop passions, hobbies and respect for our fragile environment that will last into adulthood.”
For more information about Kent School or our acclaimed Bay Studies Program visit www.kentschool.org or call 410-778-4100 ext. 110. Kent School, located in historic Chestertown, MD is an independent day school serving girls and boys from Preschool through Grade 8. The School’s mission is to guide our students in realizing their potential for academic, artistic, athletic, and moral excellence. Our school’s family-oriented, supportive, student-centered environment fosters the growth of honorable, responsible citizens for our country and our diverse world.