Lloyd Center Estuary on Wheels in New Bedford Public Schools

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by Katie Houseman, Lloyd Center Educator/Naturalist

The pure joy and fascination this program sparks in these youngsters is contagious! Second grade students leave the classroom exclaiming “This was so fun!” and asking, “Will you guys come back next week?!”

Beginning at the end of January, Lloyd Center programs are being integrated district-wide across New Bedford second grade classrooms. The integrated program, Estuary on Wheels, allows students to participate in hands-on activities that reinforce Massachusetts state learning standards. Students discover what an estuary is and how this nursery-like habitat is home to many different types of organisms. Many students may have heard of or seen estuary animals, like quahog clams, at the beach or on the dinner table, but have little idea how these animals live. For example—they may not realize local clams have a special body part called a siphon which they use to eat their planktonic lunches!

During the Estuary on Wheels program, students participate in two activities. One activity focuses on the animals that live in estuaries. Students observe live estuarine organisms as we discuss how rivers and oceans meet to create these unique habitats. Each animal is passed around, giving students the opportunity to gently touch. Many joyous squeals and nervous giggles are heard as students hold big slimy sea snails like the whelk, or spiky, seaweed-covered spider crabs. Students learn about how each animal has special parts to survive in its estuarine habitat. Nervous anticipation quickly fades to insatiable curiosity as students raise their hands to ask questions and share stories.

During the second activity students review coastal habitats as they play a game. Using felt cut-outs and a large board with a coastal scene, second graders discuss different organisms and where they may live – the beach, marsh, estuary, open ocean, or even the sky. Students place each animal in its correct home on the board as they learn the name and distinctive parts of each one. Students are then shown real animal artifacts like a horseshoe crab molt and shark jaws.

Second graders take an up-close look at these amazing artifacts, examining the rows of large sharp teeth in a shark’s jaw. Students discover how organisms like sharks and horseshoe crabs have parts that have helped them to survive for millions of years. By reviewing habitats and the different animals found within them, second graders are introduced to subjects they will continue to learn about and build on over the next few years.

This exciting program has only just begun as Lloyd Center educators continue to visit second graders in all nineteen New Bedford Public Elementary Schools. It is an honor to connect local children to the wildlife and community around them!