Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School fourth grade students spent an exciting and motivating school year learning about and caring for baby Diamondback Terrapins. The terrapins named Ledo, Waffles, and Pebbles were located in a large aquarium in my Gifted and Talented classroom. They were on loan from the Terrapin Institute located in Neavitt, Maryland, as part of their Head-Start program.
The goal of the program is for the terrapins to spend the first 9 – 12 months of their lives eating and growing until they are large enough to increase their chance of surviving in the wild. This program was a natural extension for the Triadelphia Ridge fourth grade students who had just completed a unit that focused on the conservation and stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay. The children were amazed to learn that the diamondback terrapin is believed to be the only turtle in the world that lives exclusively in brackish water. Throughout the year the children participated in feeding, weighing and measuring the baby Terrapins. Students enjoyed learning about Terrapin biology, diet, behavior, and most importantly threats to Terrapins in the Chesapeake Bay. These threats included loss of habitat, pollution, and frequent drowning in crab traps. The fourth grade students learned that installing a bycatch reduction device to crab pots is an effective way to reduce drowning of terrapins.
The program allowed for the students to experience a meaningful real-life connection to the Bay and will without a doubt positively affect the choices that the children make as they live and grow up in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. It is amazing how three little terrapins can light a fire of conservation and stewardship in a child. The students understand that terrapin health, as well as the health of all living things in Bay is directly impacted by the health of the Bay waters.
On a sunny Saturday morning in early June, Triadelphia Ridge Families journeyed to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum to release the Terrapins into the Bay. Jeff Popp from the Terrapin Institute tagged the Terrapins and coordinated the release. The students gently placed the baby Terrapins into the water and watched them swim out to a bright and promising future. The baby Terrapins carried with them a wish and a worry that each student whispered as they were released. The students were proud of how large their terrapins had grown but most importantly they have a new awareness of why and how they should and can make a difference in the health and well being of our local treasure, The Chesapeake Bay. This was truly a memorable experience for the students and staff of Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School.