To explore options for a service-learning project in their science ecology unit, fifth-grade students in York, Maine met with York Land Trust (YLT) staff. YLT needed help documenting and inventorying local vernal pools, and students decided to partner with YLT to conduct an inventory of vernal pool indicator and facultative species on the Trust’s 38-acre McFeely Preserve in Cape Neddick (a site jeopardized by nearby development).
Through field trips, internet research and classroom work, the students learned about the life forms found in and around vernal pools in southern Maine. They also researched approaches to inventorying wildlife. After selecting Global Positioning Systems (GPS) as a way to track vernal pool species, the students learned how to use GPS from staff at the Kittery Trading Post Outdoor Academy (KTP). With YLT and KTP staff, the students made several trips to the McFeely Preserve to inventory and document the vernal pools and their inhabitants—recording written observations and taking digital images.
The students compiled their findings and presented them to YLT, KTP and local ecologists. By documenting the presence of spotted salamander eggs, students helped YLT’s efforts to prevent development on the McFeely Preserve. Students also mapped vernal pool sites in the area and wrote up materials on vernal pool species so that visitors and community members could learn more about local vernal pools.