Talecia Lankford described how it felt strange but normal to put on the boots and waders to pull in Bennetts Creek’s seine nets. These nets contained tiny fish and other water life.
Kennedi White and Kennedi White, both seventh-graders at John F. Kennedy Middle School were part of the team that pulled the nets thanks to Mike Reiss and Cathy Roberts who are volunteers with the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance.
Lankford stated that she thinks it is more interactive because you actually experience the activities, rather than just watching.
Lankford stated that she works a lot alongside children and has spent time on water with her grandmother. However, for others, despite being near multiple bodies of water, it was their first ever immersive environmental experience.
White described it as strange touching the mummichogs they had pulled in. These small killfish were easy for White to spot.
Mummichogs are often found along the U.S. Atlantic Coast in brackish and coastal water, which is a good indicator about marine water quality.
Reiss stated that students were also finding grass shrimps, some of them with eggs, and baby flounder. They see more as the tide comes in.
Elizabeth Taraski is the president and chief executive officer of the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance. She said that Marshfield Study was a program for seventh-graders in Suffolk Public Schools. It features several interactive stations to help them learn about the environment.
The stations were set up next to Bennetts Creek. They included a GIS, stormwater station and river critters and water quality stations. A seine net station and a nature station with artifacts from the local environment. This year, there was a station to teach students about fire and rescue as well as what it does on the waterways.
Over the course of two days, about 250 seventh-graders came out to Bennetts Creek Park. A second group went on an environmental boat tour a week earlier.
Volunteers and staff from the NRPA, Kings Fork High School Ecology Club students, and General Federation of Womens Club members were on hand to assist with the hands-on activities. Also, members of Engine 5 of Suffolk Fire & Rescue, and the city’s Public Works Department were there.
Taraski said that this is a fantastic opportunity because it is, for most students and probably all students, their first Marshfield Study opportunity. We have all these components to get them interested. This is their home.
The program is funded by grants from the Dominion Foundation and the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund.
Seventh graders of Kings Fork and John Yeates middle school were at the park Wednesday. Col. Fred Cherry, Forest Glen, and John F. Kennedy middle school students were there Thursday. Over the two-day event, approximately 250 students participated.
Melissa Leuschen, a seventh and eighth grade science teacher at Forest Glen Middle School, said that the program is valuable for her students.
Leuschen, who has been bringing students into the program for eight year, said that it gives them more hands on experiences. They are no longer stuck at a desk in a classroom setting. They can be more hands-on. They love coming here.
Taraski stated that the program’s goal is to teach students about the environment.
Taraski stated that this is a chance for them to develop a greater appreciation for their community. We want them to be aware of the natural assets that we have. Our ultimate goal is for them to be environmental stewards, and to protect and preserve the waterways. It is working.