Sunday, June 24, 2018

Community Partnerships: River/Wetlands Study and Stewardship

What are the best ways to connect young students to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Program?
Thanks to a grant from SUASCO, fifth graders at Happy Hollow School were able to learn a lot about river/wetlands study and stewardship.

Our grant is complete and here is what we did and what we hope to do in the future.

Wayland citizens supported our grant. In particular, Tom Sciacca advertised the grant funding via email and at school committee meetings. He has been an ardent supporter of environmental study especially study connected to Wayland's historic, scenic, and recreational Sudbury River which is a National Wild and Scenic River.

The first step to completing the grant included meetings with Sarah Bursky, National Wild and Scenic Rivers Community Planner and Rivers Manager, and Robin Stuart, Drumlin Farm’s Education Coordinator. Both environmentalists provided terrific resources, information, and consult related to meeting the grant’s proposed goal to engage children in river and wetlands related study so that they will become knowledgeable and enthusiastic stewards of wetlands and rivers beginning right away at their intermediate stage of elementary school.
Drumlin Farm Naturalist teaches students.

Education and Exploration
We began reaching our goal by teaching children about wetlands and river habitats via classroom science study which included showing Bill Nye’s Wetlands video, a visit from a Drumlin Farm naturalist, headstarting wood frogs as part of the Drumlin Farm/Grassroots Wildlife Conservation Program: Heastarting Native Frogs: Life Cycles and Conservation Science in the Classroom, and teaching the state’s fifth grade life science standards. Student were enthusiastic about this study as noted in these survey results:

To learn more, students worked on a standards-based River and Wetlands Stewardship Study packet, a Jr. River Ranger Activity Book and Guide provided by OARS, and a Great Meadows Field Trip Packet. They also viewed an introductory slideshow which further introduced them to the National Wild and Scenic River system as well as the Great Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary Field Study.

Great Meadows Naturalist Exploration

The Great Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary field study allowed students to explore the rivers/wetlands habitat in small groups led by parent chaperones and teachers. The students moved throughout eight stations, two of which were led by Drumlin Farm naturalists. The naturalists led students in ponding activities and water quality testing and study. The remaining stations introduced students to the wetlands including the animals, plants, and naturalist skills and perspective.


The final activity included a stewardship hike from Happy Hollow School to the Sudbury River. A local environmental activist and former Wayland Public Schools teacher, Pat Conaway, led the students in a hike to clean up the roadway and riverway leading up to and around the Old Stone Bridge which lies at the Sudbury River’s Framingham/Wayland border. Pat brought 60 grabbers, landscaping sheers, and containers to support students’ efforts to clean up the area. He also introduced students to what it means to be stewards of the environment and the detrimental effects of invasive species. Two students wrote a news article about our stewardship hike. We sent the article into the newspaper and hope to get it published soon. Again students' survey results demonstrate that this was a successful learning event.

Students earned Jr. River Ranger badges for their efforts. They were proud to receive the badges as illustrated in the pictures below.

Jr. River
Ranger Badge
Memory Book

June 21, 2018

We shared all information related to the events with school administration and parents through newsletters and these photo albums: Sudbury River Stewardship Hike, Great Meadows Naturalist Exploration, and Naturalist Visit. We also sent the news article written by two students into the local newspaper which we hope will be published. We had hoped to include the high school students, however we ran out of time to do coordinate that.

We believe that the grant funding positively supported river/wetlands student education and stewardship. We hope to continue similar efforts next year and have already been invited to partake in a grant obtained by Drumlin Farm to promote greater environmental stewardship and education.

As we develop the program, we hope to do the following:
  • Analyze the informal and formal assessments of the events and think about how we might improve the programming to gain even better results.
  • Look at ways to stretch out the events throughout the year.
  • Revisit the Great Meadows Field Trip to see how we might even make it better.
  • Consider a field trip to the Greenways Conservation Area in Wayland
  • Consider more ways to embed our standards-based science and STEAM study into our local habitat and classroom efforts
  • Invite Pat Conaway back to lead another stewardship hike
  • Continue the Jr. River Ranger efforts to build awareness, education, and stewardship related to the National Wild and Scenic River System

Next Steps
I will collect a number of links to help us build our efforts in the days ahead: