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A career in environmental science transformed to one in environmental education and now elementary education for Dana Skidmore, but the Clinton teacher has brought her science background and enthusiasm with her the whole way. (Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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Though teaching at the Abraham Pierson School in Clinton since 2008, Dana Skidmore says that “teaching was for sure a second job for me.” Before she was interested in becoming a teacher, Dana was interested in working in the science field.
Dana, who can recall catching frogs and other critters during time spent in Cape Cod, originally went to school to get an undergraduate degree in zoology and marine biology. After graduation, Dana spent time working on a boat that launched out of New Haven, taking students out on educational field trips.
“My job was educating kids all about the animals we caught in the trawls, from lobsters to crabs to flounders,” says Dana.
Little did she know it at the time, but that job on the boat eventually lead to her second career of teaching.
Many of the kids Dana with whom worked were inner-city kids who had never had the opportunity to come on a boat and see the diverse animals.
“I loved seeing the sense of wonder in their faces,” Dana says.
To further her education, Dana went to Southern Connecticut State University to earn a master’s degree in environmental science and was also certified to teach kindergarten through 6th grade. Dana spent time teaching at The Country School in Madison and at the Red Barn in Clinton before arriving more than a decade ago at Pierson, where she teaches 4th grade.
“When I became a teacher and teaching all the subjects, it was just that much better,” Dana says.
One way Dana has been able to maintain her interest in science is through the much-loved marine science day that takes place each year at the Clinton Town Beach.
“That’s definitely my baby,” Dana says with a laugh.
The event started in 2008 when Dana approached school officials with an idea about how to incorporate the town beach, which is within walking distance from Pierson, into the school curriculum. During the day at the beach, the kids learn about a range of topics including biodiversity, shorebirds, and tidepool ecosystems, with help from Pierson and Morgan School teachers, the Clinton Land Trust, and the town’s Shellfish Commission.
“It’s gotten bigger and better every year and it’s really evolved into a wonderful community event,” says Dana.
During her time with the students on marine science day, Dana tries to impart what she calls her mantra about spending time in nature: “leave only footprints, take only photographs.”
Next year’s marine science day will have a different vibe to it, because Dana will be moving to the Joel Elementary School to teach 4th grade as a result of the closure of the Pierson School. Due to a declining enrollment and the costs associated with running the school, the Board of Education voted in the fall of 2018 to close the school and move the 4th grade to the Joel School and move the 5th grade students to the Eliot School.
When she learned of the move, Dana made it known to school officials that she wanted to continue to do the marine science day, and was met with support from those officials.
“The only bummer is we can’t walk there now,” she notes.
Dana says that she will miss Pierson, especially some of the colleagues she has worked with, but is also excited by the change.
“Like anything, change is good and change can be hard, but it will be good,” says Dana.
During the summer months, Dana stays busy and connected to the science world by running the ecology camp sponsored by the Clinton Parks & Recreation Department.
Dana has been involved in the camp for 13 years and is “proud to say I’ve had over 1,000 kids.”
During the camps, Dana and her 12 counselors spend three days exploring aquatic areas around town and two days in woodland habitats. Additionally, Dana runs a one-day ecology camp each summer, from which she donated her proceeds to her school.
“I want to give back to provide the students with cultural arts as related to science,” Dana says.
The idea for the one-day camp came in 2012 after the Sandy Hook tragedy, which she says motivated her to find a way to give back to her school community. This year’s one- day camp is scheduled for Monday, July 8, and interested parties can register through the Park and Rec Department at 860-669-6901.
Dana originally grew up outside of Boston, but moved to Clinton in the early 2000s after her husband Ken got transferred to the area for work.
“I love the small community village feel. I feel like the friends I’ve met here are friends for a lifetime. I feel like people in Clinton are real,” says Dana.
In her spare time, Dana says she like to be outdoors traveling, sailing, kayaking, or biking. Dana also can be seen at soccer fields, watching her kids Savannah, Carter, and Max—”I have three busy kids and they all play soccer.”
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