The diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) is a symbol of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and has been Maryland’s official state reptile since 1994. The diamondback terrapin is also the mascot of the University of Maryland. This predator is the only North American species of turtle that lives exclusively in brackish water (water that is less salty then sea water, but more salty then fresh water).
Why Should YOU Teach about Terrapins?
In your classroom, you can use terrapins to teach students about a wide variety of topics. Terrapins can be used to teach about life cycles, ecosystems, predator-prey relationships, and animal adaptations. Teaching about how humans impact diamondback terrapin populations can also help teachers introduce topics such as pollution, development, global climate change, sea level rise, and more!
In the early 1900s, diamondback terrapin were considered a popular gourmet food and unregulated harvesting resulted in a population decline. In Maryland, taking or possessing terrapins for commercial purposes became illegal in 2007. However, diamondback terrapins can still be harmed by human recreation activities; turtles can become entangled in abandoned fishing nets or hit by motor boats. Talking about terrapins in the classroom can help teach students to be responsible stewards of the environment.
How Can YOU Teach about Terrapins?
There is no lack of resources that can help you incorporate terrapins into your classroom lessons. Here are some to help you get started:
Lessons and Programs:
- Climate Change, Wildlife, and Wetlands: Impact of Climate Change on Diamondback Terrapin Lesson Plans for grades 5-8 – NOAA
- Turtles in My Sandbox Teaching Activities – Sylvan Dell Publishing, book written by Jennifer Keats Curtis, illustrated by Emanuel Schongut.
- Terrapins in the Classroom – University of Maryland
Diamondback Terrapin Resources: