Fourth graders at Warwick Neck Elementary have a lot to look forward to in the upcoming school year thanks to the Rocky Point Foundation and George Shuster, a Warwick Neck School parent, board member for Save the Bay and a founder of the Rocky Point Foundation.
With Shuster’s $5,000 donation to the Rocky Point Foundation, Warwick Neck will be able to continue their Save the Bay educational program. His donation will help cover the cost of the program until 2017.
Save the Bay will visit the fourth grade classrooms at Warwick Neck four times next year, twice in the fall and again in the spring. Two of the visits, run in the classroom by Save the Bay’s professional educators, will introduce students to live creatures and habitats. The students will also take two trips to Rocky Point to investigate the differences of the ocean and marshes between seasons.
Patricia Cousineau, principal of Warwick Neck Elementary, said, “I love this program. It gives the kids a great sense of community. We thank George Shuster for his donation. He and his wife, Stephanie, are big supporters of the school. Both of them help in improving our school. It shows the value of public education.”
The program hopes to educate students on the aquatic habitats of Rhode Island.
Bridget Kubis Prescott, the director of education, said that the lessons teach the students about watershed, the lives of all the animals and adaptation, how the habitats are changing.
“It’s an experiential education,” Prescott said. “Children learn in so many different ways and this program gives them a hands-on view of the world. They can take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to real world concepts; they get a different perspective on things. They turn over every rock, discovering things all along the beach like hermit crabs and such.”
Alexis Theberge, a student in last year’s program, said she had a lot of fun in the program. She enjoyed the trips to Rocky Point’s shoreline the most; finding fish skeletons and different animals in the water.
She said, “We learned how to keep Narragansett Bay clean and help the environment so animals can keep their home. I know how to keep the bay clean so animals can have a habitat to live in.”
Shuster said he would like to see other public schools invest in a program similar to the one at Warwick Neck and Robertson Elementary. Robertson began the program with the help of the Defenders of Greenwich Bay. In a perfect world, Shuster would like a marine science program to be in all Warwick public schools and for every grade.
Without the funds for such a project currently, Warwick Neck has kept the program to fourth grade because their science curriculum incorporates marine science.
“Fourth grade is a good age for the program,” Cousineau said. “The students are old enough to follow directions, walk safely to Rocky Point and work with their peers, but are still so interested in everything.”
Prescott also said, “We run different programs from kindergarten to 12th grade and at the elementary level students really see it as an educational opportunity, where sometimes in the older grades students just see it as a time to goof around.”
Lisa Leitao, a fourth grade teacher at Warwick Neck, similarly said, “Our fourth graders care. When they become aware they can do something to help; they want to. Sometimes as kids grow up, they begin to take those things for granted and it’s best to instill a need to contribute early.”
The collaboration between the school, Save the Bay and the Rocky Point Foundation also aims to instill an appreciation for all of Narragansett Bay in the students.
Leitao said, “It helps raise awareness. Students are learning what they can do to help the environment and how their behavior can impact everything. All the students love the program.”
Cousineau said, “I think elementary school students don’t know what’s around them. We have all four seasons and a diverse ecosystem. This program educates kids on that and they can appreciate what they have here in Rhode Island. Not only that, but they learn how to preserve the environment.”
“They are a part of nature and this fascinates the kids,” Prescott said. “And they come to appreciate their part in the ecosystem. They become decision makers through the program and we hope those decisions later in life are environmentally conscious.”
Shuster said that the project tries to get the students to appreciate not only Narragansett Bay, but Rocky Point as well. He said, “The children are going to have different memories of Rocky Point than their parents did with the amusement park. And we wanted to address what we would like those memories to be like. We hope that these students become the next generation of stewards for the property. They are so close and intertwined with the environment and community.”
Save the Bay began going to Warwick Neck in 2011. Shuster’s eldest daughter, Greta, has since been through the program and loved it.
Save the Bay has many educational programs available for schools and groups as well as after school programs. For more information, contact Save the Bay at 272-3540
WATER SEARCH: Nathan DosRemedios and Austin Smith search the shallow waters to observe different organisms.
DON’T BE CRABBY: Save the Bay educates students in the classroom about numerous animals that live in the Bay. When the class travels to Rocky Point twice a year, students have the chance to find the animals for themselves. Connor Williams and Kaden Madden, pictured, are holding a small crab found at Rocky Point.
SOMETHING’S FISHY: Emily Mathieu holds up a flounder she found during a trip to Rocky Point with Save the Bay. She also has a Rhode Island Shoreline Explorer Guide in her other hand. The classes can explore Rocky Point identifying and observing the different habitats and animals the bay has to offer.