Show and tell and touch at NPES

Published 8:16 pm Monday, June 5, 2017

Suffolk kindergartners enjoyed a closer look at some local wildlife on Monday.

Members of the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance held an environmental education program for students at Nansemond Parkway Elementary School. Approximately 85 kindergarteners met the members in the school cafeteria for an interactive presentation about local waterways and native wildlife.

“We bring the outdoor classroom into the school,” said NRPA president and chief executive officer Elizabeth Taraski.

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The children were fascinated by the eels, mud crabs, skilletfish and periwinkle snails in small plastic tubs. Cindy Pinnell, NRPA high school program manager, collected the animals from her oyster gardening “Taylor Floats” to present them to the students on Monday.

Johnson and Sons Seafood in Eclipse provided blue crabs for the program. One of the highlights for the students was witnessing some of the crabs shed their shells and emerge larger than before.

“I didn’t know they could get out of their shells,” said 6-year-old kindergarten student Cameron Booth.

The students could feel the soft exterior of the crabs after they molted.

“Some of these kids might not get the chance to see, touch and feel these otherwise,” said kindergarten teacher Crystal Boone.

Taraski showed the students a map of Suffolk and its waterways and a series of bird pictures that was taken for past photo contests held by the NRPA.

“Birds of the Suffolk Waterways” brochures by Paul Kuzio of Boys Scouts of America Troop 16 were distributed. The brochure was for an Eagle Scout project, with images of various birds found in Suffolk.

“During the summer months, the students can look for the birds at home,” Taraski said.

The NRPA environmental education committee began these kindergarten programs last year as an introduction to the natural resources found in Suffolk, and as a lesson on how to protect those resources.

“They gain an appreciation for keeping things clean,” said kindergarten teacher Bridget Dennis. “We’re trying to reinforce that connection between their behavior and the cleanliness of local waterways.”

The NRPA members were rewarded by the look on each student’s face when they realized that what they were looking at happens in the Nansemond River watershed daily.

“You see that aha moment with the kids, and it’s great,” said volunteer Mike Reiss.

At the end of the program, Taraski called told the students they were now “river saviors.”

“We explain to them that all of this belongs together in the ecosystem, and we’re part of it,” Reiss said. “That’s why we have to save it.”