Elementary school concentrates on tracking turtles
Parr's Ridge brings oceanic species to Mount Airy classroom
Bill Ryan/The Gazette
On a sunny afternoon at Parr's Elementary School in Mount Airy, teacher Kimberly Prati stands in the middle of a group of 3-and-a-half-foot-tall kindergarteners, speaking about size comparison.
She pulls a blonde girl to her side.
"Is it bigger than Bella?" Prati asks.
"Yes!" comes the definitive answer from the classroom.
Prati pulls another kindergartener, Keeley Amoss, adorned with a glittery crown and beads, toward her.
"Is it bigger than two of you?" she quizzes.
"Yes!" chorused the kids smugly.
She looks shocked.
"Even all three of us?" she said.
The kids giggle.
The monster Prati is talking about has been adopted by the school, and although it is not quite cuddly, it certainly is not vicious. Instead, it is an 800- to 1,000-pound leatherback sea turtle named Jamur.
"As a school we just adopted the turtle in January," said Prati, who got the idea from her mom who had done the adoption for Prati's son a few years ago as a Christmas gift.
"I thought what a great idea for a class,'" she said.
The turtle's adoption costs $25 and the school received a certificate of adoption, a small plastic turtle and information on why the sea turtles are endangered. Many people adopt the same turtle, and both individuals and organizations can do it.
Jamur was adopted from a nonprofit group called the Caribbean Conservation Corporation. The adoption helps raise awareness for the turtle, which is endangered.
"Our turtle is swimming against marine debris," Prati said.
According to the corporation's Web site, millions of sea turtles once existed, but now only a fraction remain due to the destruction of feeding and nesting habitats along with pollution of the world's oceans.
The turtles are outfitted with a GPS tracking system that the school can track online and Prati is maintaining a large map on a wall that shows her progress.
"There are lots of ways we can incorporate technology," she said. "We've been guessing where she will go next."
She said the GPS transmits a signal every time the turtle comes up for air. Since 2007, the turtle has traveled from Panama, across the Atlantic Ocean, and down the coast of Africa.
"Last time I checked, ours is off the coast of Africa," Prati said.
She said the project has crossed over to other subjects and classes other than her art.
"I've made a book for the other classroom teachers," she said. "The kids learn a lot of science — observing the turtle, and learning the traits of the turtle."
Besides being an interdisciplinary opportunity, the school has also used the adoption to make a difference for more than just Jamur. A January plastic bag drive collected almost 9,000 plastic bags.
"Plastic bags are being mistaken for jellyfish," Prati said, explaining that if the creatures mistakenly eat the plastic bags, they get sick or die.
Farther down the school's hall in a glass case is another display related to the turtles. Books and stuffed animal turtles festoon are surrounded by photos and a certificate of adoption.
Prati said the kids have responded well to the projects.
"They're so excited; they're like sponges — they remember everything," Prati said. "I love it."
E-mail Angie Cochrun at email@example.com.