In early April, Crossett Brook Middle School fifth- and sixth-graders spent Tuesday through Friday, April 3 through 6, on an in-depth study of ecology. A small group of students stayed local and went to the Audubon Center in Huntington each day to study maple sugaring and bird-friendly sugaring, aquatic ecosystems, wilderness skills and spring inquiry. A larger group of 130 students spent the four days studying coastal ecosystems and field ecology at The Ecology School at Ferry Beach in Saco, Maine.
The program at Ferry Beach teaches students about how natural communities work and how humans can impact those environments. The site at The Ecology School includes 7 miles of sand beach, a coastal forest and state park, an organic garden, several acres of salt marsh and access to the Saco River. The students also visited the rocky shore where they participated in a hands-on, scientific study of tide pool ecosystems. The students were divided into small groups of approximately 10 students and assigned an educator who was their group leader for the week. Each day consisted of several lessons based on studying the interactions of living and nonliving things in these ecosystems. Concepts like nutrient cycling, resource availability, animal and plant adaptation and habitat are studied and compared in each ecosystem.
Songs and skits in the dining hall helped to incorporate ecology into all aspects of the week. In addition to academics, the students were able to spend their recreation time on the beach or one of the outdoor play spaces. Students also participated in aspects of community living such as sharing bunkrooms with their classmates, helping to serve the family-style meals and cleaning common dorm areas.