Happy 2017! The New Year brings an exciting opportunity to eight middle school classrooms in Maine to utilize grants awarded to them by the Natural Resources Council of Maine. The purpose of these grants is to aid classrooms in teaching and creating enthusiasm amongst students about Maine’s environment and how to protect it. Each school has come up with a unique project that focuses on a specific part of Maine’s environment. Let’s take a look to see what these amazing classrooms are working on.
At the Edna Drinkwater School in Northport, Mr. Van Dis’ science classes are working on creating an aquaponics lab in a brand new 33-foot geodesic dome greenhouse. These students plan to raise fish and use the waste to fertilize herbs they are growing. There has been an overwhelming amount of support from the community for this project, so the students plan on selling the herbs back to the community to help promote local business. By using a plethora of skills such as math, science, and social studies, these students are learning to understand the importance of both student and community engagement in nature as well as the role they play in sustainability and how that will affect the environment of Maine in the future. Great work!
In Brewer, the 6-8th grade science classes at Brewer Community School are helping to create the Brewer School’s Community Maple Project. Students will use what they learned about conservation management and the value of forest resources to create an 11-acre sugar bush out of previously bare public land. These students will then collect and process the sap to make syrup! Not only is this project making a difference throughout the classroom, but in the community as a whole. Very exciting!
Down in Deer Isle, the 7th and 8th grade students of Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School are working to restore and revitalize the area’s nature trail. Taking their classroom knowledge to the trail, students plan to construct informational signs to educate others about the native plant species found on the trail. In addition, the students will plant native spotted jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) that help rid the area of poison ivy by absorbing excess soil moisture; it will also enrich the trail. This project will help students immerse themselves into the nature that surrounds them and will improve both the students’ and the public’s understanding of their local environment.
At the Camden-Rockport Middle School in Camden, 7th grade science students are learning about the ecosystems that surround the Megunticook Stream. These students will study benthic macroinvertebrate, more commonly known as mud bugs, to determine the relative health of various sections of the stream. They will use nets and microscopes to catch and observe these mud bugs. By engaging in and studying the environment around them, these students will learn how resources like lakes and streams are affected by human activity.
In the spring of 2016, the 6th-8th grade science classes at the St. George School related water flow measurements of the Tenants Harbor Marsh to the alewife restoration efforts. As a continuation of last year’s project, the students this year will use the skills they have learned to study what effects the alewives have on the ecology and health of the watershed. By studying this ecosystem, students will further their understanding of how essential the relationships between living and nonliving parts of the ecosystem are to the stewardship of those resources.
At Memorial Middle School in South Portland, students will help to enhance the Carter Outdoor Classroom by designing sustainable signs that provide information about the surrounding flora and fauna of the area. Students will walk the trail to identify various plant species and then decide which of those merit an interpretive sign. This project helps to educate students about the biodiversity of the forest and the importance of preserving that diversity through education and engagement. These students also hope to construct a small wooden bridge to make the trail even more accessible.
The Windham Middle School Green Team will use its NRCM grant to commence Operation Compost-Bucket to promote composting not just in the cafeteria but in classrooms as well. To teach others about the importance of composting and the benefits it has for the environment, the Windham Green Team will host a raffle so that students can win prizes that help promote conservation such as reusable water bottles, reusable bags, posters, and much more! By spreading awareness, these students hope to increase interest in composting, with the ultimate goal of supplying 50 percent of Windham Middle School classrooms with compost buckets.
The 7th grade science students of Gorham Middle School will continue their project from last year to study the Japanese knotweed, an invasive plant species. By engaging in their local environment, students will be asked to consider how to control the Japanese knotweed while maintaining the biodiversity of the area. This project will empower students to feel that they are making a difference in their community by problem-solving a real situation and seeing the results while also teaching students about responsible forestry practices.
Each of these projects sounds very exciting, and we cannot wait to see how the students learn and progress!
by Sarah Oberink, NRCM Communications Intern
Sarah works as the School Programs and Communications Intern for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. She attends the University of Maine where she is studying History, Ecology, and Environmental Sciences. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys skiing, reading, sailing, walking her dogs, and spending time with her friends and family.