Carrie Clegg, the science curriculum coordinator for Barrington elementary schools, moved slowly along the bank of Kent Street Pond. She crouched down, pausing for a moment, and then swung a net swiftly at the ground.
“I got one!” she yelled.
Mrs. Clegg, who is also a teacher at Hampden Meadows School, lifted the net, revealing a large green bullfrog. Students scrambled to see the frog while Mrs. Clegg placed the amphibian into a clear plastic bucket filled half-way with pond water.
The quick catch was a treat for students, but a slight distraction for the fourth-graders as they worked through the first part of an outdoor classroom activity run in part by the Audubon Society.
The Hampden Meadows School students also tested the salinity of the pond water and the pH level. A short while later, the group of focused fourth-graders were rewarded for their hard work — Audubon instructors told the students it was time for them to get their nets, wade carefully into the pond and scoop up whatever caught their eye.
One pulled out a tadpole. Another fished out a freshwater snail. One boy scooped up a small plastic monkey.
“Does this count?” he asked.
Celina Hoar, an instructor from the Audubon Society, broke the bad news. No, the figurine that once graced the game “Barrel of Monkeys” would not be logged into the list of finds from Kent Street Pond. The boy seemed unaffected by the news, but as a whole, the students in Mrs. Clegg’s and Dana Ingram’s class were very pleased with the opportunity to take their learning outside.
The environmental lesson is made possible through funding from the Barrington Land Conservation Trust, while the outdoor curriculum was created with a Barrington Education Foundation grant. The students were far less concerned with who was paying for the outdoor class and much more focused on catching critters in the pond and better understanding how healthy Kent Street Pond actually was.
“They’re so excited about being outside,” Mrs. Clegg said. “But we talk about the outdoor expectations — we tell them, ‘You’re outside, but it’s not recess.’”
All fourth- and fifth-graders at Hampden Meadows are able to spend some class time outside, both in the fall and the spring. Mrs. Clegg admitted that she too enjoys the experience … especially the opportunity to show her students that she has always been pretty good at catching frogs.