BOWDOINHAM COMMUNITY SCHOOL students do fish printing using anadromous fish, samples like shad, smelt, striped bass, Atlantic salmon, sturgeon and snapping turtles.

BOWDOINHAM COMMUNITY SCHOOL students do fish printing using anadromous fish, samples like shad, smelt, striped bass, Atlantic salmon, sturgeon and snapping turtles.

BOWDOINHAM

It was the mud. That was the best part.

So said two students from Woolwich Central School who joined more than 100 other fourth-graders from Bowdoinham, Bowdoin and North Yarmouth on Tuesday to participate at the annual fall Bay Day at the Wildlife Management Area in Bowdoinham.

DURING THE FRIENDS OF MERRYMEETING BAY'S BAY DAY for local fourth-graders held in Bowdoinham Tuesday, volunteer Leslie Anderson shows students sample of tree leaves and birch bark, which is waterproof if not torn, once removed in sheets from large trees by are Native Americans to make canoes.

DURING THE FRIENDS OF MERRYMEETING BAY’S BAY DAY for local fourth-graders held in Bowdoinham Tuesday, volunteer Leslie Anderson shows students sample of tree leaves and birch bark, which is waterproof if not torn, once removed in sheets from large trees by are Native Americans to make canoes.

The event concluded the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay’s Hands Around the Bay education program for this year, which has been in place now for two decades. A Bay Day takes place in the spring at Chop Point School in Woolwich and at the Wildlife Management Area along Merrymeeting Bay in Bowdoinham each fall.

The Bay Day events are part of the FOMB’s education program, in addition to the advocacy, research and land protection, said Dup Crosson, the organization’s coordinator and organizer.

“We focus on fourth-graders in particular,” said Crosson of Bay Day, a culmination of the class visits FOMB does.

The volunteer-run activities cover a variety of topics, from archeology to wetlands ecology — beach seining, building wigwams, he said, “a little bit of everything.”

The program helps invoke stewardship in students, who learn to appreciate and take care of the resources around them, Crosson said. FOMB also works with schools in all the towns located directly on Merrymeeting Bay as well as some beyond. All of the guides try to point out the bay and test students on the six rivers that flow into it (Androscoggin, Kennebec, Cathance, Muddy, Abagadasset and Eastern rivers).

As a couple of eagles flew overhead Tuesday morning, each group of students shuffled through three stations out of the 14 activities taking place, from wigwam building and the Japanese art form of fish printing to watershed modeling and the short walk to the edge of the bay, beach seining — which consists of casting a large net. New this year was the last period age. FOMB often conducts pre-Bay Day classes with students and also will follow up with classroom visits after.

The students are generally excited about Bay Day, though it’s harder to grab the attention of some students, a large part of why FOMB tries to keep the topics so diverse, Crosson said. Some students really respond to learning about anadromous fish with art. Some kids respond to the science, some the history, Crosson said, “and we really try to cater to all those different inputs.”

“There are so many local experts around here, our job is just trying to gather everyone in one spot and a lot of the activities have been going for years,” Crosson said.

The curriculum for Hands around the Bay was developed years ago within the Maine Learning Results and allows expansion of what happens in the classroom, or helps fill in the gaps.

Bay Day focuses on students who are at an age where they have a good level of curiosity and ask the right questions, Crosson said.

“We work with some pretty big concepts here …,” he said of the reason for the age focus. “It connects them with local issues but it uses their local resources as a guide.”

Ed Friedman, FOMB board chairman, believes the information the group’s volunteers bring into the classroom are something teachers can adapt to — whatever standard is in vogue. When you talk about the biology of animals and the adaptations an animal may go through in the course of the year, variation in the species. They can get into math, and the history of the animals as they talk about how settlers used the animals when they came to this country; and English as they talk about how we name, sort and classify animals.

Having never missed a Bay Day, Friedman said his favorite part of the event is seeing the kids having a blast, “and they’re seeing cool stuff.”

For many of the guides and volunteers working with the children, he said, they had a formative experience of some sort in nature when they were young, “and I really hope we can provide that for kids.”

For him, his school’s science adviser showed students the big garnet crystals in the rock, Tuesday, it may have been the kids looking at the mussels.

Students also watched one of the volunteers Tuesday working with a dog trained to retrieve ducks during duck hunting, illustrating the practice of harvesting what we kill.

“We’re about conservation, making sure that generations to come have resource available to them,” Friedman said.

“It’s great to get the kids moving,” he added. “We try to get them as dirty as we can — the kids love that — and learn in a fun environment.”

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