Not only will they be studying the pond, but also the woods and nature trails that lie behind HMS. The nature trails have always been behind the elementary school, but it is not until this year that they will be used to the greatest advantage.
The Barrington Education Foundation recently funded a grant for Hampden Meadows to work with the Audubon Society to create a science curriculum utilizing the woods and pond to become a part of the science lessons that every fourth- and fifth-grader in Barrington will be exposed to.
The idea to use the trails and woods initially came from fourth grade teacher Carrie Clegg and fifth grade teacher Jennifer Reynolds who had heard of a school in Bristol that was embarking on a similar program.
The two teachers then contacted the Audubon Society to inquire about creating an outdoor science program.
“They came in and had their education program create a variety of levels of outdoor experiences….they showed us everything they had to offer and completely tailored it to our school,” Mrs. Clegg said.
The Audubon came to Hampden Meadows, completely assessed the available area which included the woods and pond, and created investigations and science lessons for the students to take part in that directly correlated to the pond, different types of plants, wildlife, weather, and other geological features in the environment.
The grant from the BEF essentially all went towards the production of the curriculum and science kits that contain different types of tools that can be used during labs and investigations. These kits contain everything from butterfly nets, to magnifying glasses, to field guides of the wildlife that can be found outside the school.
“A huge thanks to the DPW … we wanted to leave the area the way it was and not to touch anything,” said Mrs. Clegg.
There was only one space in the woods that had to be cleared due to safety reasons, but in that space now lies a quad of tree logs that is a common area where not only can classes hold science lessons, but also write poetry, reflective writing, and do theater activities.
The lessons that utilize the outdoor space also directly correlate to standards and requirements that the traditional HMS fourth and fifth grade curriculums require.
“The kids are so excited about it, even the adults too,” Mrs. Clegg said.
“In the introduction they did mention the BEF which was really great and how the three teams came together.”
Another nice part of the new program is that the Audubon prepared lessons for each season and every kind of weather, so the students aren’t restricted to the indoors for science when there is snow on the ground. This winter, lessons include using water thermometers to observe and collect data about the freezing pond. And rather than using the bugs and other critters that the science companies typically send to the elementary schools for science lessons, students now can catch their own specimens in Kent Street Pond.
Mrs. Clegg explained an instance in which she took her class out “ponding,” and they used nets to catch different types of water creatures. When they took a look at what they had caught, they observed that they had caught one frog for each phase of growth and life — tadpoles, tadpoles with their tails and legs starting to grow, frogs with larger legs and disappearing tails, and finally fully grown frogs.
“It was great for the kids,” Mrs. Clegg said.
Her students were later able to bring the frogs into the classroom and observe and sketch their new specimens. Come rain and other harsh weather, students can still track down what is going on outside using the new weather station that was a part of the BEF grant.
Using special remotes, they can see data that can be converted onto computers and look for trends, patterns, etc.
The BEF has granted nearly one million dollars to the Barrington School Department community to date. In a typical year, the BEF funds about 10 to 15 grants per year, approximating about $50,000 per year.
“This was a really exciting grant enabling HMS teachers to partner with the Audubon Society, an inspired opportunity. BEF feels this $6,500 grant will have a positive impact on all 500-plus HMS students each year and for many years to come. We are giving the Hampden Meadows students a hands-on experience they otherwise wouldn’t have had.”
— By Katie Marra