For the past four years, the first and second grades at Cole School have participated in a year-long study of the Boxford ecosystems through a grant funded in part by the Boxford Trails Association, the PTO, BEST, and student contributions. The Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary's Audubon staff comes to Cole School three times during the year to teach students about: habitats, plants, trees, life cycles, seasonal changes, birds and insects. The Audubon education staff has created a two-year curriculum so that students have a unique experience in both first and second grades.
First and second grade classrooms are matched up each year, and students are partnered with students from other classes. This fall, we studied three unique animal homes: forest, field and wetland. At the end of each "home" visit, students journaled about what they saw. These journals will be used in the winter and spring to record seasonal changes and observations.
In the forest, students learned: the difference between white pine and red pine needles, how to estimate the age of a pine tree by countine "whirls," how to find signs of animals living in the forest, and what types of food are available in the forest.
In the field, students used nets and plastic jars to collect and observe creatures. Spiders, grasshoppers, stink bugs, and beetles were among the many treasured finds.
Our last visit was to the wetlands, where we learned about the Boxford homesteader, the beaver. Students identified the special adaptations of a beaver, including its shart teeth, its powerful tail, and its fur. Real beaver fur, beaver "chews" and beaver fur were passed around for students to see.