On November 30, 2018, the seventh grade traveled on a field trip to The Connecticut River Museum in Essex, Connecticut, to participate in a river science lesson and a history lesson. The river science lesson began with a lesson on water supply, watershed, and water quality. Students viewed some of the permanent exhibits on the Connecticut River that are on display in the museum's first floor. Following this introduction, they participated in "hands-on" environmental studies activities including measuring the water's depth using traditional tools and testing the water quality of the Connecticut River. Students were surprised to learn that the Connecticut River water quality rating used to be a "D," which meant that no one could drink, swim or eat the fish from it. When the students completed their water quality testing, they were pleased that the river now rates as a "B," which means that the fish are safe to eat, and people can swim in the river. Our seventh graders are looking forward to performing similar tests using the Rectory pond in their Earth Science course during the spring term.
The history lesson provided students with an opportunity to explore the ivory industry through artifacts, images, and historical documents. The students were divided into cooperative groups, and each group examined a different issue: human slavery, the plight of the elephant, international trade and treaties, and the production/consumption of ivory products. They brought their new knowledge to the whole group and worked toward understanding contemporary issues of modern-day trade, economics, and the environment. Through this experience, students used their previous 7th-grade American history study of slavery and abolition, refined their strategies for examining primary sources, and began to consider the compelling question of the winter term, "What should be the role of the United States in world affairs?" They were surprised to learn that Connecticut was the major port of entry nearly all of the ivory imports for over one hundred years, and the nearby village of Ivoryton produced 90% of all ivory goods in the United States.
The museum staff gave us a pleasant surprise while we were there. They allowed us to visit The Holiday Train Show on the third floor where students were able to view artist Steve Cryan's fully operational 26-foot model train layout. We were delighted to enjoy the electric-powered model trains and the beautiful scenery surrounding them. Students quickly made connections between this train display and our study of the Transcontinental Railroad in U.S. History class.
We enjoyed a nice lunch provided by the Dining Services and had good, yet cold, weather for our trip. The students would like to thank Ms. Euglow, Mr. Fuller and Ms. Morano for driving the busses, Mr. Ames and Mrs. Hart for helping to plan the trip, and the staff at the Connecticut River Museum including Suzanne Burns, director of education, for sharing their talents with us. We hope to visit the museum again with next year's seventh graders.