Lydia the Limulus and Watershed Watch at the Lloyd Center for the Environment ~ by Katie Houseman, Lloyd Center Educator/Naturalist

In accordance with the Lloyd Center for the Environment’s mission of protecting nature through education, research and outreach, educators such as myself visit classrooms in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

This month we visited multiple grades in Little Compton, Rhode Island, spreading environmental awareness to students.

Using a large model of a Limulus, we examined horseshoe crab anatomy with kindergarteners. Throughout this program, students are able to interact with the model and learn about their ancient adaptations.  Students are also presented with the opportunity to observe and touch several species of live, true crabs. Students are challenged to compare the external body parts of crabs and the horseshoe crabs using descriptions and drawings.

This lesson is reinforced with a craft in which students build their own horseshoe crab, connecting important body parts like the cephalothorax (head) and telson (tail) together. Students are then able to better understand the parts of living crabs that help them get the resources they need to survive in their ocean home.

Working alongside fifth grade students, we explored the Watson, t, and Stafford Ponds watersheds through the use of models. Stafford Pond, the most densely populated of the three ponds, is a highly valuable resource in southeastern Rhode Island. Students and educators discuss conflict of use issues regarding the reservoir, as it provides not only drinking water, but is seasonally stocked with bass for recreational use. It also serves as a popular destination for swimmers and boaters. Surface water and ground water are connected. As water flows underground from Stafford, t, and Watson Ponds, it adds to the ground water in this area.   The land surrounding the ponds and the ground water, recharge areas that comprise the watershed in the Tiverton/ Little Compton area.

One of the sources of ground water pollution in this region comes from septic systems which leak or overflow. When a leaking system is identified, this type of pollution is called point source pollution, since it can be traced back to the source. Students observe how pollution can travel underground from its origin, often showing up miles away in ponds or reservoirs. As the surrounding areas around t and Watson Ponds begin to become more residential, the risk for septic system and lawn fertilizer pollution rises.

We also discussed how run-off from roads and farms has caused pollution in Stafford Pond by adding gas and oil residue, as well as excess nutrients (nitrogen) and bacteria from fertilizers and pesticides. t and Watson Ponds are also surrounded by farmland, meaning they too are susceptible to pollution from chemicals and waste washed out by rain. In these cases, since it is not possible to pin-point which exact farm in the watershed the pollution came from, it is called non-point source pollution.

More than 50% of this watershed is at risk of being polluted. By using models to represent the local watershed, students not only observe what is happening to their own drinking water supply, but develop possible solutions to protect and preserve this valuable resource for the community.

Working with southeastern coastal communities to educate about local species like the prehistoric horseshoe crab, as well as discussing environmental issues like watershed pollution, helps to inform the young thinkers of tomorrow, preparing them for future environmental stewardship.

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