Anacostia River Mussel Power: Into the Classroom!

Anacostia River Mussel Power: Into the Classroom!
December 7, 2018 by: Maddie Koenig

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This week our mussels traveled again!  

After adjusting to life at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (KAG), we transported 40 of our eastern pondmussels (Ligumia nasuta) to two elementary schools in Washington, D.C..  These pondmussels will spend the winter living in classroom tanks, where students will observe their behavior, monitor their growth, and help feed and care for them.  Once the weather warms up, students will take a field trip to KAG.  There they will return the mussels to their baskets, participate in mussel-themed activities, and enjoy a boat ride on the Anacostia!  

Yesterday was just the beginning! 1st  graders at the Maret School and kindergarteners at School Within School @ Goding helped us get off to a good start, learning:

*How their schools are connected to the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers.
*What they can do to help keep their rivers clean - including caring for freshwater mussels!
*What mussels are, and how they "see", breathe, eat, move, poop, clean water . . . you get the idea!
*How mussels grow and change throughout their lifecycle.

Students considered where rainwater goes once it falls on their playground (to the river of course!); examined adult mussel shells (DYK some mussels live to be 100??!); compared mussels to other animals they already know (slugs, snails, and clams); pretended to be "baby" mussels hooked onto the gills of a fish; and examined their new classroom companions with most (but not all!) of their five senses.  

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1st graders at the Maret School meet their mussels!  

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Students at the Maret School act out the lifecycle of a freshwater mussel.  Here we had just grown from juvenile mussels into adult mussels!

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2nd graders at School Within School @ Goding practiced their observation and recording skills by making drawings of their mussels.

First graders wanted to know if mussels can ever move out of their shells (the answer is no); and kindergartners thought their mussels smelled like wet socks (I disagreed, but was quickly outvoted). 

These two schools are part of a cohort of brave teachers and students who are giving the pilot "Mussel Power" program a try!  Other participating schools for the 2018-2019 school year include Brent Elementary School (DCPS), Gladys Noon Spellman Elementary School (PGCPS), Fairmount Heights High School (PGCPS), Parkdale High School (PGCPS), and Bladensburg High School (PGCPS).  Class visits and associated activities will vary based on the age of the students (don't worry high schoolers, we won't make you act like baby mussels).  

Last winter, we came across a program run by the Ohio River Foundation called "Mussels in the Classroom".  We thought, "Hey!  We could do that!"  And now we are! 

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is making the restoration work we do accessible and participatory for children, and mussel restoration is no exception!  It's been exciting to build this program from the ground up.  

Thanks for following me into the classroom, and stay tuned for more updates!

For the River -


P.S. Want to learn more about our other environmental education programs?  Click here!

Maddie Koenig

Maddie Koenig

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