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Falmouth students, teacher lauded for bird project (and herring) 5-8-17

Falmouth students, teacher lauded for bird project

Work started in the fall with second-graders taking a close look at migratory patterns.

By Christine Legere
Cape Cod Times

FALMOUTH — Two awards for excellence in environmental education will go to the Falmouth School District during a presentation today by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs at the Massachusetts Statehouse.

One will go to 57 second-grade students and their teachers at Teaticket Elementary School for their year-long project on the region's migratory patterns. The students are pretty excited about their trip to the city, teacher Maura Baxter said.

"Many haven't seen Boston in a long time or ever," she said. "We told them to dress like 'picture day' for this special occasion."

The students and teachers — Erin Crapo and Jodi Kirincich, in addition to Baxter — will receive an Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education Award for a program entitled "Habitats for Migrators."

The unit was designed by Falmouth High School art teacher Jane Baker, who secured funding through the Falmouth Education Foundation for journals, binoculars and art supplies for the program.

Baker will receive an Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education Award of her own today for her innovative program.

Work started in the fall with second-graders taking a close look, both in the class and in the field, at the migratory patterns of the region's birds. The young students took their binoculars and went out to Teaticket Park and recorded what they saw.

As their study progressed, the second-graders, with the help of art and English literature students from Falmouth High School, drew portraits of the various birds on canvas paper. The art students then created a colorful background panel with waterproof paints on which to feature the birds.

The panel is now on display at Teaticket Park, Baxter said.

The second-graders used their journals not only to record observations but to write some poetry themed on what they saw. The illustrations and the narrative were then compiled into books.

Once spring arrived, the second-graders studied herring migrations. Local scientist Elizabeth Gladfelter, who also heads up the Coonamessett River restoration project, gave presentations to the three second-grade classes on the behavior of herring and the challenges they face while migrating upstream.

Gladfelter, along with some of her colleagues working on the Coonamessett project, then took the kids to the river in late April, where they demonstrated how the herring are tagged and then tracked.

"Many of the students live in that area and were surprised to learn that all this was going on in their backyards," Baxter said.

Students again recorded observations in journals, wrote poetry and cut herring portraits from canvas paper, with the help of high school students. A second panel was constructed and a book with illustrations and narrative written.

Meg Colclough, the outreach and education coordinator for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said the office takes nominations from January until March. The Teaticket project was very impressive, she said.

"What they're doing is outstanding for their grade level," she said. "It was something we'd normally see from older children."

— Follow Christine Legere on Twitter: @ChrisLegereCCT

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