A Blue Crab Rescue in Westerly: What a Way to Spend a Summer
by Mary Klimasewiski, Save The Bay educator
This summer, Save the Bay partnered with Tower Street School in Westerly and the Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative to offer a summer camp experience that combined marine science and summer fun. What could be better?
Over the course of six weeks, students visited six different publicly-accessible shoreline locations in Westerly, Watch Hill and Weekapaug, each one giving the students a different ecosystem to explore and learn about right in their backyards. In a directly hands-on experience with the plants and animals that live in their own hometown, the students learned what a watershed is, tested the water chemistry, completed plankton tows, learned about buoyancy and density, built aluminum foil boats, learned how to use a seine net and caught many native and invasive species of crabs, shrimp and fish. Some students even experienced their first boat ride when we pulled up lobster traps to see what kind of marine life lives beneath the water’s surface and used binoculars to identify marine birds in the area. It was a busy summer!
The most memorable day of the summer though, was when a group of students using the seine net caught two blue crabs. The students were very excited with their catch, and at first glance, they thought the blue crabs were fighting. However, upon closer examination they soon realized that both of the blue crabs had tangled themselves up in fishing line and in fact were now attached to each other.
Immediately the students realized it was now their duty to help these two blue crabs. We grabbed a pair of scissors, cut the fishing line and untangled both of the blue crabs. Both blue crabs were happily released back into their water. Right away, the rescue of these two crustaceans brought to life for the students the concept of a watershed (a topic often difficult for students to fully grasp) and acted as an anecdote that helped these future Bay stewards understand that our actions on land do indeed have an impact on the life in the water.
At the end of our six week, the students were equally sad to know the BayCamp was coming to an end, excited to look back on all they had learned and accomplished, and hopeful to think about next year and the many more “blue crabs” out in the world needing their help. And since each location the students experienced during camp publicly accessible, they can go back to on their own time, any time, and of course bring along family and friends to share their newfound knowledge of the habitat that exists right in their own backyards.