Sixth-graders in Nicki Taylor’s class at the Miller School in Waldoboro were pleased to welcome local residents and longtime shellfishermen Glen and Melissa Melvin into their classroom recently. The students wanted to learn more about clamming because they are creating a quest, or a clue-to-clue exploration, about this fishery in Waldoboro. To create their quest they need to know this industry’s importance to their town and its connection to the Medomak River watershed.

Three of the students in the class clam with their own families, but none has been at it as long as Glen Melvin. He’s been clamming for 35 years, much of that time in the Medomak River estuary. He shared his hands-on knowledge of clam ecology and created a picture of clamming as a way of life. By sharing his own stories of clamming with the students, he helped the children who clam to connect to the places they know and the information their family members had given them. For the others, Glen’s talk was a introduction to a very important local fishery.

“Of the 1,600 licensed clammers in Maine, Waldoboro residents hold 180 of them — the highest number in the state and one-third of all clam landings in the state are from the St. George and Medomak rivers alone,” Melvin said in a news release. “It is an important industry here — and one not many folks know much about.”

One of the students asked, “So after the clams get dug up by you, where do they go? How do they get to my plate?” Although Glen explained the buying process well, teacher Nicki Taylor also hopes to get her students to learn it the hands-on way. She wants to get them out clamming, following their clams to market, and making clam chowder together at the end of the year.

Another concerned sixth-grader asked, “Yeah, but what about when it rains? You can’t clam and then can’t make money.” This comment created the opening for Melvin to teach the students about food safety rules, the role of Waldoboro’s Shellfish Conservation Committee in regulation and conservation, and the role clammers play in these research and policy processes.

Now the sixth-graders will combine what they learned from the Melvins, with information from a presentation by terrestrial ecologist and local resident Janet McMahon, as well as their own additional research, to create a quest that will teach everyone else about clamming in the Medomak River estuary.