Just beyond Hutker Yard, above the beehives and koi pond, past the chicken coop and greenhouse, next to the wind turbine, and above the cedar swamp lies a not-so-secret sanctuary for our community to explore. Falmouth Academy’s vernal pool—part of the school’s Living Classroom—was created in 2016 thanks to the generous support of the Edward E. Ford Foundation and scores of individuals who supported the creation of the Falmouth Academy Science, Engineering, and Technology Scholars (FASETS) program. In addition to increasing the number of student internships and mentorships with local doctors, scientists, and engineers and funding the purchase of specialized gear for student projects and science activities outside of the classroom, FASETS funds were used to create this special ecosystem located at the upper edge of our campus.
In March of 2016, after two years of environmental site research, an excavator arrived along with students and teachers to dig up huge glacial boulders and create a slight depression in the earth. With stretching and hammering, participants laid out a biological-aquarium pad and liner and placed tree limbs, hay, and natural seed to grow into what is now a habitat for a variety of creatures.
Though the Falmouth Academy bees were the first to arrive for a drink in what was once just a bare puddle of water, the habitat has, over time, become home to a variety of wood frogs, green frogs, American toads, snakes, red-back salamanders, butterflies, dragonflies, and backswimmers. Students have discovered eggs from a variety of vernal pool creatures, but, thankfully, no mosquito larvae (they get eaten!). In addition, a number of feathered friends such as Red-Billed Blackbirds, Canvasbacks, and Herons frequent the vernal pool.
Our classes use the area to learn more about the science of vernal pools, studying water quality and the organisms found there. We continue to hunt for the elusive and endangered spotted salamander and spadefoot toad, and future plans include installing bat boxes and even a game-cam to learn more about the animals visiting the pool day and night. On any given day I notice students strolling (or skipping) along the adjacent Scholars’ Walk to visit the vernal pool to catch a glimpse of this ever-changing environment.
With all the threats to natural habitats these days, it has been a pleasure to create something that gives back to a wild community that gives us so much.
--Jill Reves, Science Department Chair