August 3, 2020
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Saybrook Teachers Awarded Grants to Advance Local Conservation Efforts

Published March 12, 2020

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Old Saybrook science teachers Karen Carlone and Mary Looney were each awarded a grant from the Rockfall Foundation, a Connecticut non-profit organization with the mission of promoting and supporting environmental education and conversation in the Lower Connecticut River Valley. Both of the proposed conservation programs will begin during the 2020-’21 academic year and will enhance classroom curriculum through field work that is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Students in each class will have a hands-on opportunity to explore, learn about, and participate in various aspects of local plant and animal conservation through the newly developed programs. The Old Saybrook Public School District is supporting Carlone and Looney’s project by partnering with them to share research results, post newly created conservation signage, and create an informative video featuring the work being done on both grants. The final video will be shared throughout the community on the district’s website and YouTube page.

At Old Saybrook High School, Carlone has partnered with the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center to educate students in the environmental field biology class about local bird life. Participating students will meet in the classroom and in the field with naturalists from the estuary center. During these sessions, students will observe and collect field data across two different habitat sites, conduct a habitat comparison using birds as an indicator species, analyze and interpret data, explore the human impact on the habitats, and learn how to use evidence to explain observed phenomena. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop students’ knowledge about their natural world in an effort to increase their desire to take care of it. According to Carlone, “If we are going to continue to live comfortably on Earth, it is our responsibility to cultivate environmental stewardship.”

Looney, a 7th grade teacher at Old Saybrook Middle School, is also partnering with the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center to help students complete an investigation of their schoolyard habitats to determine the current level of biodiversity of both plans and animals.

Speaking to the project’s objectives, Looney stated, “The goal is to allow students to experience real-world, hands-on, project-based learning that will hopefully instill the enjoyment of their natural environment and the importance to conserve it.”

As part of the project, students will collect data over a three-year period to establish long-term monitoring of the various species within the Old Saybrook Middle School yard. Students will have the opportunity to use high- and low-tech science tools, including field computers, sensors, binoculars, and field guides. Using these tools, students will investigate how human impact can affect plant and animal populations and habitat.

Superintendent of Schools Jan Perruccio spoke about the significance of students participating in these new programs.

“As part of our district’s strategic plan, we encourage our teachers to find or create opportunities for our students to participate in real-world experiences that connect them to the community and the world at large,” Perruccio said. “Both of these teachers have developed field work that will not only help our students apply their learning in an authentic way, but also develop a passion for the preservation of the environment through the understanding of how their actions and presence in the environment might impact the natural world.”

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