As children from across Maryland head back to school, students from 32 schools are welcoming baby turtles to their classrooms!
Through the National Aquarium’s Terrapins in the Classroom program, hatchling diamondback turtles are collected from Poplar Island and placed in schools across the state. This year’s terrapins hatched in late July and early August. Aquarium staff cared for them until they began to eat regularly. This week and next week, the terrapins are being delivered to their new schools!
Students are charged with collecting growth data on the terrapins, observing their behavior, and researching their natural history. Along the way, they learn basic husbandry (animal care) skills and gain a unique connection to the Chesapeake Bay. At the end of the school year, students will release their terrapin back on Poplar Island.
Last school year, Matthew Floyd, an eighth grader from Lime Kiln Middle School, made a special connection with the terrapin at his school. Nicknamed “Leo” by the students, the terrapin was a key component of the school’s special education program. Every day Matt made sure to stop by to check on Leo and feed him. Matt’s experience with Leo taught him about how his actions can impact the environment. “We humans are finally learning from our mistakes, and that means everyone’s happy, including our animal friends,” he said.
This school year, hundreds of students, just like Matt, will develop a meaningful connection with their terrapin. Through this hands-on approach to conservation, the Terrapins in the Classroom program hopes to inspire life-long environmental stewardship.
The good news is there are many ways that you, too, can help diamondback terrapins! You can do your part by protecting wetlands, helping to ensure trash does not end up in our waterways, and practicing terrapin-safe crabbing!