CyberFair Project ID: 1834

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: Terrapin Troubles
Category: 7. Environmental Awareness
Bibliography: No bibliography page cited

School: Jordan Road School
    Somers Point, New Jersey, United States

35 students, ages from 12 to 13 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 13, 2002. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): none

Classes and Teachers: Mary Rydzewski and 7th grade Social Studies classes

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

Our local community consists of 152 7th Grade students at the Jordan Road School in Somers Point, New Jersey. They are 12-14 years old. We included the K-2nd grade students, R. Stockton College students and professors, the Jordan Rd School Parents Group and community members. We are located in a small seashore town along the Great Egg Harbor Bay.Our small town was founded in the early 1700s but has experienced sudden urban development recently. We are concerned that people do not understand the value of the wetlands that surround our town. Our roads and stores become very crowded with summer tourists in a hurry to reach the ocean. We used webpage construction and email to extend our community to global partners. Our partners include the Birkdale South State School in Australia and the Lahainaluna High School in Maui, Hawaii. Visit our website at to view our community

2. Summary of Our Project Our students researched and debated the management of natural resources using a neighborhood example.They identify the issue of the best use of local wetlands. This topic reflects the dilemma of preservation versus economic development replicated globally. Students researched to decide whether a nearby wetlands island is a valuable habitat for local and migrating animals. Students identified one species,Diamondback Terrapins,that personalizes the issue. Students identified the reasons for their community's economic growth and development of open land. Students debated the best use of wetlands resources and decided local wetlands should be preserved as animal habitat. They formulated an action plan to communicate their concerns. The Student Action Plan includes hands-on experience preserving a "backyard species." Our students are experiencing environmental activism first hand by raising Diamondback Terrapin to release in June. We are caring for turtles that are orphans hatched from the eggs of roadkill. The use of a "backyard species" is replicable globally. Environmental groups offer opportunities to volunteer. Cross-curriculum activities in science include identifying the basic needs of wetlands animals, how the loss of habitat affects animals, and understanding the interdependence of life. Working with scientists at our local college helps students understand scientific goals and methods. The Action Plan includes showing K-2nd grade students that we care. 7th graders are positive role models for younger students when they explain our methods of animal husbandry, the threats to wetlands animals, and issues about development of wetlands. This activity builds self-esteem in the 7th graders. We are extending our plan to show how we care by using international email and a website. Our students have developed an awareness that individual action makes a difference.

3. Our Computer and Internet Access

A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:21-50%

B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:4-6

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dial-up modem

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:4-6

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

One problem we did not anticipate was the need to keep the classroom between 70-80 degrees so the terrapin hatchlings would not be harmed. Schools usually lower temperatures during weekends and holidays. The school custodians offered advice and help. They even provided a space heater. Parents offered to keep the hatchlings in the homes during school closings. Our school bus schedule prohibited taking the students to the Marine Biology Lab at our local college. The Parents Group provided funds to hire the busses. We planned to upload our Terrapin Troubles website onto the school server. But technical problems prevented access to make edits. We actually lost some valuable files from past terrapin releases. We overcame problems by using an internet website host. The Atlantic County ETTC (technology training) provided advice and a digital camera. The Parents Group funds provided a scanner and software. Email has been a valuable tool for parents, community members, and vacationing students to participate in the project.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

Young hands can help a threatened species is the motto of our project because we have learned that each person can make an importance difference in the world. We became aware that taking personal action demonstrates to others that age, geography, or economics doesn't matter when it comes to caring for even the smallest of creatures.

6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards? We met School & District Goals: 1.Cross-curriculum staff collaboration. Our project pulled our staff together. 2.Student-based inquiry constructing learning. I learned students will extend learning beyond my expectations. 3.Develop good character and self-esteem by being positive role models and interacting with positive role models (scientists). I learned young teens react positively to increased responsibility. 4. Integrate technology into the content areas. Use of technology has been vital to implementing the student action plan. National Geographic's 5 Themes of Geography: Understand Human and Environment Interaction became a real-life experience.

New Jersey Core Curriculum Standards: Social Studies:6.2; 6.3: 9,10 ;6.4: 7; 6.9:4,5 * Develop sense of civic responsibility. * Evaluate decisions about balance between economic growth and environmental preservation. * Discuss/analyze management and use of natural resources. * Explain/predict how physical environment can be affected by human activity. Language Arts 3.1: 15,16,17; 3.4:25 Gather/ synthesize data for research from variety of sources. Speak for variety of real purposes and audiences. Science:5.6:11;5.7:8,9;5.12:4,5,6,7 Discuss/analyze management and use of natural resources. Understand goals and methods of scientists. Gain understanding of basic needs of organisms and explain affects of an ecosystem. Investigate diversity and interdependence of life. Compare/contrast practices affecting use and management of natural resources. Recognize individuals may have differing points of view on environmental issues Workplace Readiness: Demonstrate self-management skills. Apply safety principles while handling animals and using the Internet. Use technology and information in a real-life situation. Use critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving skills.

Project Elements

1) What information tools & technologies did you used to complete your CyberFair project?

We used 6 IBM computers in our Social Studies classroom to research the rapid development of wetlands and the loss of animal habitat. Multiple sources of information included the Somers Point Environmental Commission Survey (provided by a councilwoman) and the local newspaper website. Our research identified species, including Diamondback Terrapins, that need the wetlands habitat. We used the Internet website TerraServer to view satellite images of the region. We researched community development by comparing satellite images taken in 1988 to satellite images taken in 1996. We used the US Census website to discover the increase in population and the need for additional housing. Students interviewed parents and community members to discover taxpayers' opinions regarding the need to lower taxes. Students used websites at, US Census Bureau, and to gather data about the community's median tax bill and tax rates. Students discovered a point of view that permitting new development on wetlands might increase tax ratables and lower each resident's tax bill. Internet research ( reveals this local viewpoint is replicated globally. Student inquiry resulted in discovering their wetlands environment is challenged by the need of their community to develop. Students developed an awareness that development threatens the habitat of animals. We received a $600 grant from the Jordan Road Parents Group for supplies. Students email project updates to the Parents Group.Students have maintained and extended our Terrapin Troubles website, located at They use Microsoft FrontPage for webpage editing, a Sony digital camera to take photos and videos, and Adobe PhotoShop for editing. The website construction activity is open-ended. It will continue to be extended and updated by student volunteers.

2) In what ways did you act as "ambassadors" and spokespersons for your CyberFair project both on-line and in person.

The 7th grade students periodically invited students from K-2 grades to view the terrapin hatchlings. The 7th graders explain the reasons why wetlands species are threatened and describe their action plan. Self-esteem is enhanced as our students assume the roles of environmental activists and positive role models for the younger students. The success of this portion of the project is evidenced by the patience and care shown by the 7th graders as they work with younger students. Offering students the opportunity to work with younger students is easily replicated. The benefits are obvious when we view the photographic record. (photos available at The project was extended with a $600 grant from the Jordan Road School Parents Group. Students participated in field trips to the Marine Science Lab at R. Stockton College. Marine Science researchers, Dr. Rosalind Herlands and John Rokita, offered students the opportunity to participate in real and meaningful research. Students use email to continue their collaboration with researchers at R. Stockton College. (Photos, email, and anecdotes at jordanroad/terrapins02stockton.html) Students plan to meet Dr. Roger Wood and Dr. Rosalind Herlands in June 2002 to release the terrapins. They will be provided the opportunity during the release to interact with researchers and college interns from other countries; such as, Vietnam and Indonesia.

3) What has been the impact of your project on your community?

We hope our project will make people aware that young teens do care and can make a difference through individual action. We have achieved this goal through the use of our website and email. Local college interns and professors have viewed our site and offered scientific advise about terrapins.(see email samples). Our home-school community has improved because parents can view classroom activities and offer support. Our community's webmaster has put a link to our site. Our international email partners have shared their stories and shown interest in our wetlands animals. We feel we have made a significant achievement by making people aware that densely populated areas like New Jersey still offer an opportunity to improve the environment.

4) How did your project involve other members of your community as helpers and volunteers?

 Dr. Roger Wood and Dr. Rosalind Herlands at Richard Stockton College. Thank you for sharing your vision with us.  The College Interns who save terrapin eggs. They have proven their courage facing gnats and curious 7th graders during terrapin releases.  Mrs. Liz Crocos of the Birkdale South State School, Queensland, Australia for her continued reliability and patience working out our differences in school calendars and time zones. We loved your story about making road signs to save koalas. Mr. Rudy Reed,, of the Lahainaluni High School, Maui, Hawaii. We appreciate your students showing concern for our little turtles when you have such beautiful and rare seaturtles.  Mrs. Lynch, FCS teacher, for you advice and support during our chocolate terrapin fundraiser efforts.  Mr. Ragan, 7th Grade Science, for your collaboration and initiative in joining our cross-curriculum project.  7th grade webpage designers, photographers, and reporters for your assistance in the creation of our Terrapin Troubles website.  Mr. Miller, Principal, and Ms. Meagher, Supervisor of Instruction, for taking the time from their busy schedules to offer enthusiastic support. Thanks for allowing release time and providing the necessary substitute teachers.  Support staff (custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, secretaries) for your patience and advice.  Ms. Arleth, former city council member, for providing environmental commission surveys.  The staff of the Atlantic County ETTC for technical advice and cameras.  The Jordan Road School Parents' Group for their financial support and encouragement.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

We were very surprised to learn that students in faraway and exciting places like Australia and Hawaii showed concern about our little terrapin hatchlings. We think their koalas and sea turtles are very exciting and exotic. It was great to discover people around the world care about little animals in the muddy wetlands too! We discovered the adults in our local community were willing to save animal habitat even if it might mean spending more on taxes. This surprised us because we often hear complaints about the smelly marsh at low tide. People in our town don't like the mosquitoes and greenheads that come from the wetlands but they said they wanted to save the habitat for animals like our terrapins. We hope to spread the news of our action plan to surrounding communities when we release the terrapins. Reporters from our local newspapers are interested in our story. Communicating our story will help people become aware that our young hands really do make a difference. We care about our environment and its animals!


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