Activities around Hemmingford’s turtles

photo : Roland Worms

 by Catherine Stratford  (June 2017)

In March and April, volunteers from Hemmingford Environment Committee and biologists from Ambioterra (www.ambioterra. org) offered children from Grades 3 to 6 at Hemmingford Elementary and the Grade 3 students at Ecole Saint-Romain a project to help them learn to identify turtles from our region.

As an introduction, the students watched the National Film Board documentary on Painted Turtles, “Creatures of the Sun” which is now available at the Hemmingford Community Library.

The children learned about several parameters to help identify the differences between the five species of turtle: physical appearance, habitat, hibernation, feeding habits, reproduction, predators and other dangers faced, and their official status in Quebec. Using these parameters, the children filled in a grid for the five species studied: the Snapping Turtle, the Painted Turtle, the Map Turtle, The Wood Turtle and the Spiny Soft-shelled Turtle.

Tamlin George, a Hemmingford artist, drew the turtles for the children to colour, to help them identify the various species.

Texts at the appropriate reading level were supplied to AudreyAnn Michel from Ecole Saint Romain and Andréane Nolet at Hemmingford Elementary. Ambioterra gave the students copies of their colourful flyer: “Turtles Need our Help” promoting conservation practices. They also supplied the text: “Felix et la Tortue des bois” prepared for children by Le Mouvement Vert Mauricie. Thanks to the teachers for taking the time to study these texts with their pupils.

Other activities took place to help the children visualize and compare the sizes of the different turtles and the size and shapes of their eggs.

Jean-Martin Veilleux, a biologist working for Ambioterra, gave a presentation to the Grade three students at Ecole Saint-Romain, describing the job of a biologist. The children were then able to ask him questions that had arisen from their research.

At Hemmingford Elementary, the Art teacher, Mary Aboud, studied turtles in Native Art. the Children decorated the school with wonderfully designed turtles.

It is by learning about things in their immediate surroundings that children develop the urge to protect their environment.