Students are encountering seaweed and sea creatures in the classroom and in Camden Harbor as part of a collaboration between teachers and a volunteer organization in Camden.

Grants available for teachers in School Administrative District 28, Five Town Community School District, and private schools in Camden are supporting the creation of hands-on courses and projects that teach students about caring for the local watershed

The grants are made possible through the fundraising efforts of the Stewardship Education Alliance, part of the Camden Conservation Commission, and donations from local businesses and individuals.

Last year SEA helped sponsor Saltwater Classroom ®, a nonprofit organization founded by Lexi Doudera, for fifth-graders at Camden Rockport Middle School. SEA also assisted seventh-grade science teacher John Deitter take his students out on the water to investigate whether there are plastics in Camden Harbor.

For this coming year, Children's House Montessori School teacher Zoe Foster will bring hands-on learning into her classroom using aquaponics tanks, and what she learned about them at the Herring Gut Learning Center in Port Clyde this summer.

Jenny Gold, fourth-grade teacher at Camden Rockport Elementary School, will share what she is learning about kelp at the Herring Gut Learning Center, with her students this coming year, both in the classroom and at the nearby shore in Camden.

"The mission is to increase community awareness of how we can all be better stewards of our environment," said Barbara Lawrence of SEA. "We've hoping teachers can come up with projects they would like to do. If it helps move our mission forward, we want to help."

Lawrence said teachers know best what will fit into their curricula, and that the SEA grants inspire hands-on learning that really interests students. The program is starting small, but aims to increase awareness among elementary, middle school and high school educators of the importance and excitement of teaching stewardship of local waters, as well as effective tools and strategies.

"We have great teachers, and I'm excited that Zoe and Jenny are the first to take us up on the professional development, and we hope others will and that we'll do more projects," Lawrence said.

 

As part of its mission, SEA has funded Data-Collection Discovery backpacks that contain microscopes to view phytoplankton and zooplankton in drops of water, tools to measure water salinity and transparency, and a journal for jotting down observations. Backpacks are available to check out at the Camden Public Library, and are used during the summer by the Camden Yacht Club's youth seamanship program.

SEA also donated books about the sea and its creatures that can be checked out at the library.

And the Herring Gut Touch Tanks will return to the Public Landing at Camden Harbor Aug. 7 and 14. These midweek visits are scheduled with local families in mind, Lawrence said. For more information about times, see the Camden Conservation Commission bulletin board at the harbormaster's office.