What WEEFC means to Weston Schools – Turtles in the Third Grade

Leatherback at Dusk, 3rd grader Country School, 2016

Last week, the Owl broke the story that the dearth of donations to the Weston Education Enrichment Fundraising Committee is risking new opportunities and learning experiences getting funded at Weston public schools. Without a significant upswing in donations, requested grants cannot be given: there is simply no money for them.

Today the Owl takes a look at one of the grants that were given this year, in this case for the third grade classes at Country and Woodland Schools, including students in the Remote Learning Academy.

Turtles of Massachusetts

In Grade 3, students have a year-long curriculum that focuses on turtles–“The Turtles of Massachusetts”. The students start off by learning about all the turtles in Massachusetts and how many of them are on the threatened or the endangered list.

A WEEFC grant provided the third grade students to attend a program with Wellfleet Bay Audubon Society. An Audubon Society scientist explained the many factors that lead to sea turtle cold-stunning as well as learn about how civics also plays a role in the rescue of these turtles. Students learned about the science of cold-stunning, the important factors when the turtles are rescued, and how many different groups collaborate in the rescue. They also learn the importance of data – in both investigating water temperature and wind direction, what type of data is taken on rescued turtles and data about the turtle stunning season this year.

Getting “science-y” in the classrooms. Photo credit: Susan Erickson

“Studying threatened turtles always leads to great discussion about habitat change – both for freshwater turtles and sea turtles,” says Dr. Susan Erickson, the K-5 Curriculum Leader for Science and Social Studies.  ‘Turtles have been around before (and after dinosaurs), so this allows us to compare and contrast turtles from long ago to those who exist now.”

“Weather is another Grade 3 learning standard and is integrated into our learning about turtles.  Cold stunning is a big problem for our sea turtles.  Students can analyze patterns such as air temperature, wind conditions and water temperatures to determine when you might see more sea turtles being stranded on the Cape.  The students also study magnetic forces, which sea turtles use to come back to the same beach to nest. ”

Leatherback Turtle at Dusk, poem by a third grader with the assistance of a WEEFC grant that brought Lyn Littlefield Hoopes, poet, to Weston.

Those who have or had kids go through elementary school in Weston may remember the Blanding’s turtles project which had classrooms “headstart” young Blanding’s turtles before releasing them at Assabet Valley conservation wetlands. In 2015, Speedy and May were cared for by my twins’ classrooms, and were released by the kids in the spring.

For the Blanding’s turtles, students learn about how temperature in the summer influences turtle gender, and how Blanding’s turtles adapt to winter conditions. This year the Blanding’s turtles live with Dr. Erickson and have scheduled weekly zooms with the kids. Who would like to be a fly on that wall? Dr. Erickson has also created a monthly newsletter – The Turtle Times– where the students get the opportunity to suggest investigations, analyze data, and write their own story problems.

Silver Linings

A silver lining of the pandemic is that there are many more opportunities for virtual programs that are accessible to both in-school and Remote Learning Academy students.  

“While I would love for our third graders to be able to travel to Wellfleet Bay Audubon Sanctuary to participate in an in-person program, having our students participate in this virtual program allowed the students to talk with people who work with the stranded, cold-stunned sea turtles.  The students had great questions during the program.  I am  grateful to WEEFC for providing our students with this great learning experience.”

Support WEEFC and our students (and turtles)

1. Venmo (@WEEFC-Weston)

2. Online at westonschools.org/education-enrichment-fund-committee-weefc

3. Check payable to Town of Weston — WEEFC, mailed to WEEFC, 89 Wellesley St., Weston, MA 02493


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