Though much of our conservation work takes place out in the field, we also spend time in classrooms around the region teaching children more about marine life. Terrapins in the Classroom is one of our most successful classroom programs because is combines animal care, research, and field work. The students have face-to-face interactions with baby diamondback terrapins in an effort to foster respect and stewardship for the Chesapeake Bay.
Hatchling terrapins are collected from Poplar Island as a part of a research study and distributed to teachers throughout Baltimore City and the surrounding counties. Students care for the terrapins and collect data on their growth, and at the end of the school year they have the opportunity to go on a field trip to Poplar Island to release the terrapins into their natural marsh habitat. Research scientists are hoping to prove that this program is mutually beneficial; the children make strong connections with the terrapins and are thus driven to keep the bay they live in clean, and terrapins get a “head start” with a safe place to grow throughout their first winter. When they are released in the summer, they tend to be notably larger than a wild terrapin of the same age.
Thirty schools are participating in this program, and it is safe to say that all of the students who even have a passing interaction with the terrapins will find a new purpose in cherishing the Chesapeake.