After patiently waiting for “leaf out” this spring, Mrs. Ripa took her Block 2 science class outside to the Messalonskee Trails. Students used the ID cards they had created in the fall to find a reference specimen to document with our new camera, looking for distinguishing characteristics that we had learned about from our district forester. Eastern hemlock, red maple, white birch, Norway maple, sugar maple, and balsam fir were on the list and were located! Discussion was had regarding the hemlock and the fir as well as between the red, sugar, and Norway maple. We used another reference to be sure we had in fact found the correct trees before documenting them. In the coming weeks, students will help to revise a selection of ID cards adding the new pictures. We will be creating a digital book as well as laminated collections to share with each team at our school. We hope that teams and teachers will use the guides when they explore the forests with students!
In addition to this project, we also partnered with Kim Ballard from Project Canopy, a program through the Maine Forest Service. “Project Canopy is about people. It educates people about the benefits trees provide, and how trees make people’s lives better.” Our students planted more than 70 trees surrounding our school pond and on the edges of our school forest. Species included: white spruce, red pine, Eastern white pine, Eastern white cedar, and sugar maple. As the trees grow, we will be able to add them to the Messalonskee Middle School Catalog of Species. Tree planting was done as a culminating event to our study on the impacts of climate change, the greenhouse effect and the carbon cycle. We also got 70 middle school students outside for an hour, planting together, and making an impact in our school environment. We would like to thank the Natural Resources Council of Maine and those who supported us throughout the completion of this project. This project has gone full circle, allowing our students to connect with nature and make a lasting impact on our environment and our school!
—Amanda Ripa, science teacher, Messalonskee Middle School