CHATHAM ─ Clad in tall hip waders and bright blue rubber gloves, Monomoy Middle School student Yoangel Rodriguez reached into a purple mesh bag and began scattering what looked like peanuts onto the flats at Mill Creek in Chatham. Rodriguez was really laying down quahog seeds that should come to maturity around the time the young man who planted them graduates high school. The bond between student and shellfish is one of many Principal Mark Wilson hopes will continue to be fostered by a special estuary reclamation project he and MRMS science teacher Mike Schaffer recently put in motion.
The program is a service learning project involving a small group of MRMS students, with the goal not only of helping improve the water quality at Mill Creek and Taylors Pond, but also encouraging the students to form a connection with the region they call home.
“I've been an advocate of service learning for a while,” said Wilson, a member of the Statewide Task Force For Civic Engagement and Education.
The MRMS project, which kicked off last week, will see students venturing out to the flats to spread shellfish seeds, study the impacts of human activity on the area, and learn through testing what effect the shellfish filtering is having on the water.
Already the students have learned important information about the invasive green crab species (which they've been removing), how shellfish are necessary for healthy water, and how they can help, all through hands-on activities that align with state curriculum standards.
“The kids get to earn and work and have fun,” said Wilson, who noted that the group will be working with Rachel Hutchinson, Shellfish Propagation Specialist, Brian Wagenaar of Americorps Cape Cod, and Chatham Shellfish Constable Renee Gagne.
Wilson said that since the project includes student ownership, curricular integrity, and community partnership it's a win-win-win. The project offers Wilson an opportunity to once again step into a teaching role, which he greatly appreciates.
“For me as a principal it gives me the chance to stay fresh with the classroom and with the kids,” he said. “I get to spend time with kids teaching, and to see them passionate about ideas and caring something outside the school is great.”