NARRAGANSETT - Third graders at Narragansett Elementary School (NES) got a literal hands-on experience with sea life last week, when Save the Bay brought its “Bay Classroom Experience” program to the school. More than 70 students got the opportunity to handle crabs, sea stars and other marine animals that populate the Narragansett Bay.
NES special education teacher Karen Festa received a Rhode Island Foundation Classroom Spark Grant to fund the program, and has used leftover funds from the grant to host a community-based beach clean-up, scheduled for May 24 at Narragansett Town Beach. The Bay Classroom Experience serves as an opportunity for students to learn about the anatomy and adaptation methods of various sea creatures living in the Narragansett Bay. Students can see these aspects of the animal up close and personal with live examples being brought into the classroom.
“It filled my heart to watch the students explore and handle live animals from the Narragansett Bay,” said Festa. “You could feel the buzz in the room from excitement and curiosity. I also learned a bit or two about sea animals. If you’d like to learn more...ask one of our amazing third graders!”
And, when asked, those students were eager to share what they thought of the whole experience.
“I thought Save the Bay was really fun because we learned about animals and actually got to explore what they do in real life,” said Siena Taliani.
“I liked how we got to touch the animals,” said Will Harris. “It was fun looking up facts and then drawing about each animal.”
In addition to the live demonstrations, the mission of Save the Bay, to protect and improve Narragansett Bay, was not lost on students. NES third graders got to learn about ways to advocate for the health of the bay and its upkeep. When finished, the young marine biologists completed an observation form describing the animals’ common name, facts, adaptations and habitat.
While Festa and the students certainly enjoyed the Bay Classroom Experience, the event is not over. Festa hopes students will see the power of communities in action with the culmination of the planned community beach clean up just before the onset of summer. The third graders are preparing for the event by designing promotional posters and providing information on how to best “save the bay.” Students will also share their knowledge gained about the local sea creatures from the Bay Classroom Experience.
None of it would have been possible, however, without the help of the Rhode Island Foundation’s Spark Grant. The grants are designed to give teachers the resources to offer innovative and creative learning activities. Launched by philanthropists Letitia and the late John Carter, the program targets third and fourth-grade classes.
“Once again, the Carter family is promoting change through leadership,” said Neil Steinberg, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation. “Their foresight and commitment is inspiring new creativity and engagement in teachers and their students.”