Bath Middle School is celebrated at the Hall of Flags in Augusta for being one of the case studies chosen for inclusion in the 2019 Census of Community-Based Environmental Learning in Maine. Contributed photo

A project which has been a keystone of 7th grade student learning at Bath Middle School since 2013 has been highlighted as an exemplar of extended interdisciplinary learning. “Sustainable Seas” was one of seven case studies chosen from 404 submissions to be included in the 2019 Census of Community-Based Environmental Learning in Maine, a joint project of Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance and Maine Environmental Education Association.

Sustainable Seas rose from a need to address the invasive green crab, a species that has been plaguing shellfish for over a century.

In 2013, Science teacher Monica Wright reached out to the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust and asked if they would be willing to help her and her students study the crabs. With the trust’s support, Sustainable Seas was formed, and students began studying green crab populations in the field.

Every fall, Wright’s students head to beaches like Reid State Park, Robinhood Cove and Fort Popham to collect data according to procedures outlined by the Vital Signs program, a statewide effort to document and address invasive species. By studying the crabs within a 1-meter square plot over the course of two days, students are able to estimate the population of crabs in the area and gather metrics on their size, color (not all green crabs are green!), and sex.

As each year passes, students have more information to analyze when they finish their research.

Two of Wright’s students were published last year in “Findings from the Field,” a middle school journal of scientific research published by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. “Crab Per Trap to Year and Location 2013-2017” by Adriana Gonzalez and “Effects of Climate Change on Green Crab Population in Maine Coast” by Riley Dunn explore the negative impacts of the crabs and how their population has changed since the first class of students recorded their findings in 2013.

Wright elevated Sustainable Seas to an exemplary level by inviting BMS teachers to use the theme as a platform for interdisciplinary learning.

“It’s really been a motivation for me,” said English Language Arts teacher Adelle Carter in a news release. “I’ve become a marine-based thinker.”

According to the release, Carter was key in developing the idea for a 7th grade Shark Tank this past December – a convention where students were asked to invent and present a product that would benefit the ocean environment. Students presented their products, which ranged from seaweed wrappers as an all-natural substitute for plastic food bags to biotive fuel technology — a diesel substitute made from algae — to a panel of four teachers. Some students even found uses for green crab by turning their meat into empanadas and their shells into jewelry.

“I think that the Shark Tank was a great way for kids to take (Sustainable Seas) to the next level: to think critically and be inventive,” said Carter. “I had really high expectations – (the students) had to memorize their pitch and make a commercial to advertise their product,” which they did with the help of technology coordinator Bob Jordan.

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