Last week, Upper Elementary students welcomed two new baby Blanding’s turtles to their classroom. Blanding’s turtles are semi-aquatic and are considered a threatened species by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Last year, the Upper Elementary teamed up with Dr. Bryan Windmiller at Great Meadows Blanding’s Turtle Conservation Project to foster two Blanding’s turtles before releasing them at Assabet River Wildlife Refuge in the spring. After the release, Dr. Windmiller and his team track the turtles to research their whereabouts during the winter and study their natural habitat tendencies, all in an effort to restore the population. In the early 1970s, the population of Blanding’s turtles was more than double the total of 60 adults and juveniles that populate Great Meadows today.
In fostering the two Blanding’s turtles, Upper Elementary students help protect them during their infancy in order to reach adolescence. As the weeks go by, students learn about the importance of nature conservation, and measure and weigh the turtles to mark the progress of their growth. Students also explore the wetlands habitat and adaptations necessary for survival, as well as how turtles fit into the evolution of vertebrate species. Caring for the turtles, however, is truly a highlight. “Taking care of the turtles is the most popular chore,” said fifth grader Ava Goldman. Certainly the turtles will be in good care until their release next spring.