Greenfield Center School Students Travel to Ecology Camp in Maine

Donna Elwell,
Admissions Director
Greenfield Center SchoolGreenfield (November, 2003)

Did you know that Star Fish are really called sea stars and that their stomachs come out of their bodies to digest food? Elita learned that “a radula is a type of tongue that some sea creatures have that help drill wholes into its prey and suck food out of its shell.”These facts and many other reflections are being shared and further explored by the Greenfield Center School 6th graders who have just returned from spending three days at Ferry Beach Ecology School in Saco, Maine. When Sashi was asked to name one thing he did, he said, “I saw a fox on our night hike!”

“They not only saw a fox”, said their teacher Alison Ryan, “eleven of us were absolutely silent as a red fox with its big fluffy tail approached us, studied us, and walked by us.”

Greenfield Center School classes focus on a science or social studies theme for approximately three months. The 6th grade class has been studying ecology. In September they collected crayfish from the Green River and analyzed their habits, eating preferences, and physical characteristics. Each student had a specific crayfish, which he/she diagramed. Cory’s was named “chlorophyll”. Some students created mazes to test the agility, speed, and dexterity of crayfish. A month later and after discussing the ethical implications of removing an animal from its habitat, the 19 crayfish were released to the same location of the Green River.


On October 27, 2003 through October 29, 2003, these students participated in the Ferry Beach program. Through the study of coastal ecosystems and field ecology, students learned about how natural communities work and how humans can impact those environments. The site at Ferry beach includes seven miles of sand beach, a coastal forest and State Park, an organic garden, several acres of salt marsh and access to the Saco River. The students also visited the rocky shore where they participated in a hand-on, scientific study of tide pool ecosystems.

The students were divided into small groups and assigned a naturalist. Each day consisted of several lessons based on studying the interactions of living and nonliving things in these ecosystems. The Ferry Beach curriculum is designed to be sequential. Concepts like nutrient cycling, resource availability, animal and plant adaptation and habitat are studied and compared in each ecosystem. Jeff, one of the instructors said, “I have never had a group with so much background knowledge of ecology – I was able to teach (the Center School students) much deeper concepts.”Songs and skits in the dining hall helped to incorporate ecology into all aspects of camp. In addition to academics, the students were able to spend their recreation time on the beach or one of the playing fields. They also participated in community living such as sharing bunkrooms with their friends, helping to serve family style meals and cleaning common dorm areas.

The three days culminated with a lesson called “Connections”that reviewed larger concepts and also examined the role humans play in these ecosystems. Students looked specifically at their individual impact on the environment and then strategized ways to minimize that impact and to educate others to do the same.

“We filled out a survey to find out what kind of impact we have on the earth”, explained Jobi Dan’Sy, the other sixth grade teacher. “It asked questions like: Do you reuse plastic bags?

Then we got a ‘earth friendly’ score.” Dan’Sy concluded, “It was a marvelous experience!”

For more information, contact Alison Ryan, Jobi Dan’Sy, or Laura Baker at Greenfield Center School (413-773-1700).

Or contactFerry Beach Ecology School5 Morris AvenueSaco, ME 04072207-283-9951email: fbes@fbes.orgWeb site: Dumsch, FBES Executive Director

Excerpts from this news clipping appeared in an article titled: Greenfield Center School Kids visit Maine to study ecology, human impact. (Local/Region, The Recorder, Greenfield, Mass, Wednesday, November 5, 2003, p. 4)

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