Students put science lessons to work

The Standard-Times
October 12, 2004
By Jonathan Darling

DARTMOUTH- Fifth-grade students at Cushman Elementary School took the lessons they learned in the classroom out to the environment at the Lloyd Center in Dartmouth last week.

“It’s to get kids excited about the environment,” said Sarah Van Vleck, director of institutional advancement at the center. “One of the main concepts at the Lloyd Center is that these kids will be making the environmental decisions of the future.”

More than 50 students took the field trip to the center on a beautiful warm fall day to take part in the Coastal Field Studies Program. They split into four groups and took turns at activity stations, each having a different environmental and scientific focus.

“We’re focusing on two main areas with this particular program – how pollution gets into the watershed areas and getting kids to understand the natural resources in their own back yards,” said Tricia Sheppard, education director.

The first station had kids searching the water areas for tiny organisms that are used to test nitrogen levels in the watershed areas. The second station involved searching salt marshes for insects and organisms, and identifying, describing and classifying them based on what they eat.

“We’re making science come alive for these kids, rather than just reading it in a book,” Ms. Sheppard said.
The third station was focused on water chemistry, testing water for salt content, oxygen, and other gasses and minerals. The final station had kids put on boots and use nets to scoop tiny fish and crabs out of the water for study.

“It seems some kids have lost their sense of nature and exploring outside,” Ms. Sheppard said. “Its OK to get wet and muddy. You can even learn something while you’re doing it.”

The students participated in an off-shoot of the Turn the Tide program, which is aiming to study pollution in the community and make recommendations on how to stop it. UMass Dartmouth, The Coalition for Buzzards Bay, the town of Dartmouth, and the Lloyd Center are working together to research and make recommendations on how to solve pollution of watershed areas in our backyards.

“It’s a multi-year project to study and make recommendations on how to clean our waters,” Ms. Sheppard said.
The kids participated in just one of the many educational programs the Lloyd Center offers in and out of the classroom. They commonly bring small animals and do activities in schools around the SouthCoast, as well as host summer programs. Second-grade classes from Cushman School visited the Lloyd Center recently, participating in the Mysterious Monarch Migration program centered around catching and studying butterflies.

This story appeared in The Standard-Times on October 12, 2004.