Woolwich 7th Graders Take On the Invasive European Green Crab

 

This post is from Denise Friant, seventh and eighth grade science teacher at Woolwich Central School

We look at this as an authentic community effort to help educate our students about the effects of invasive European Green Crabs on our local soft shell clam population. Denise Friant, Woolwich Central School’s seventh grade science teacher.”

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Saving the clam flats on Montsweag Bay
Saving the clam flats on Montsweag Bay

 

The entire 7th Grade at Woolwich Central School conducted a population study on soft-shell clams on May 23rd in the clam flats of Montsweag Bay, Woolwich.  This was in collaboration with Marine Biologist, Dr. Brian Beal, University of Maine at Machias, The Woolwich Shellfish CommitteeTim La Rochelle and Dan Harrington and the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, Ruth Indrick and Becky Kolak.  We look at this as an authentic community effort to help educate our students about the effects of invasive European Green Crabs on our local soft shell clam population.

The population study methods are developed by Dr. Beal who has worked with many schools throughout Maine to engage students in understanding about the soft-shelled clam. We will  plant clam seed in plant pots, cover them with screening of two types to protect them from predators and compare clam seed mortality to plant pots without screening.  
Seeding clams
Seeding clams
This study will give us more information about the decimating populations of clams and the effect the European Green Crab is having on them.  Thank you to Dr. Beal and members of the Downeast Institute for Applied Research and Education for assisting our students with the scientific methods and education in the mud flats.
image of Euopean Green Crab
Invasive European Green Crab
 Many thanks to Ruth Indrick  of the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, who helped facilitate a grant to furnish our students with 25 pairs of clam boots for the project.  Ruth and Becky Kolak spent time previously with our students, dissecting clams and teaching about water quality. Ruth was a great asset in the flats assisting and encouraging students through the muddy conditions.

Woolwich Central's seventh graders hard at work with Dr. Beal from the University of Maine-Machias
Woolwich Central’s seventh graders hard at work with Dr. Beal from the University of Maine-Machias

Another highlight of our day was the Maine Campus Compact who joined us in the field to observe our project.  They represent  higher education institutes throughout New England looking to incorporate similar models into their instruction.

In late October, Woolwich students will visit the site again and collect data from the study.  We will present a community showcase to inform the public of our findings.
 
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Community Involvement

Middle schools across Maine contribute to the well being of their communities.  Here are just a few examples!

  • Recently recognized as a School That Shines (Channel 6–WCSH program), Madison Junior High School students organized and ran a community blood drive at their school.  Teachers were inspired to support this effort after they attended a Harrison Middle School (Yarmouth) presentation on the topic at a MAMLE Annual Conference.
  • Another School That Shines honoree is Georgetown Central School.  Their 4-8th. graders are actively involved in Project Canopy.  Students are learning data collection procedures as they gather information on tree growth and health, tree identification, and and local ecological issues.  They will share this information with town officials responsible for creating policy impacting the town’s woodlands.
  • Anyone who lives in a coastal community has heard about the European green crabs, an invasive species that threatening the clamming industry.  Two schools–Yarmouth’s Frank Harrison Middle School and Woolwich Central School–have been studying this immense problem and looking for solutions to share.
  • Becoming an United States citizen is a lengthy and sometimes arduous process.  The smiles on newly naturalized citizens’ faces say it was well worth it.  Students at the Middle School of the Kennebunks hosted a naturalization ceremony in March. The band played, the chorus sang, and Senator Angus King spoke!

We would love to hear how other schools are connecting with their community.  Leave us a comment and share your school’s story.