Ten Lawrence School 8th graders and their science teacher were the first to participate in a pilot program on Cuttyhunk, in which they went on historical and ecological walking tours, heard a presentation on shipwrecks, made an art project using collected debris and visited the island’s oyster beds to learn about aquaculture.
The program was the Cuttyhunk STEAM Academy, which was held from May 28 to May 31 on the small island in the Town of Gosnold. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math.
The students, all girls, were Morgan Chaves, Caroline Chute, Bryce Costa, Morgan Cusolito, Nya Furey, Juliyanna Grilo, Elizabeth Litton, Mady Moldinado, Anna Pohlman and Kristyna Wills.
Kristin H. Tribou, an 8th grade science teacher at Lawrence School, gave a presentation about the trip with several of the students during the Falmouth School Committee meeting Tuesday, June 11.
“Cuttyhunk has a one-room schoolhouse with one student, Gwen Lynch, who is graduating from 8th grade on Monday [June 17], so the island’s teacher and principal, Michelle Carvalho, [along with Cuttyhunk’s superintendent, Margaret Frieswyk], thought up the STEAM Academy as a way to keep the school open. Getting the STEAM program up and running is vitally important to them,” she said.
Ms. Carvalho offered the Falmouth Public Schools the chance to be the first district to take part in the pilot program because Bryce Costa’s parents, Dr. Michelle Costa-Cataldo and Ralph Cataldo, own a home on Cuttyhunk.
“As members of the community, they heard about the program and presented Ms. Carvalho’s proposal to our school. They generously provided food and living space for the girls while they were attending the academy,” Ms. Tribou said. “It was the trip of a lifetime. I’ve never seen kids in my education career so immersed in field study. They were engaged in school for 10 hours a day, and there were nonstop smiles the whole time. These girls had an incredible experience, and I hope it’s one that more Falmouth students get to have in the future.”
Because the trip coincided with a writer-in-residence program on the island, the students had a surprise visit and lecture from Jenny Slate, an actress and writer who recently appeared on the TV show “Parks and Recreation.”
They also got the chance to meet and work with Gosnold student Gwen Lynch, who was “a little overwhelmed by the large group of girls after being the only student in the one-room schoolhouse,” Ms. Tribou said.
“They all got along great and enjoyed themselves,” she said.
In addition to the scheduled activities and a culminating project, the students were also responsible for completing all their regular school assignments during the week.
“I thought this was a fun, cool field trip that had a good effect on us because we don’t learn these types of things in regular school,” Bryce Costa said. “For example, we did water chemistry, and we went into [concepts like] dissolved oxygen and pH. We did stuff with microinvertebrates. It was really interesting to see how many ways there are to test water to see if it’s clean.”
Caroline Chute said the group was “constantly doing different activities and learning inside the schoolhouse and walking from place to place outside.”
“My favorite thing was picking up trash from one of the beaches. It was crazy to see how much trash there was that we found,” she said.
Morgan Chaves said she enjoyed using the trash to make sculptures of marine organisms—whales, jellyfish, crustaceans—to show the importance of recycling.
“My favorite part was hiking up to the peak of the island, where we learned about the electricity and how everything works in the community, how they deal with their garbage, how they try not to pollute the island and take care of the ocean,” Anna Pohlman said. “You don’t learn that stuff in class. Going on this trip with a bunch of my friends, it didn’t feel like school, but we still learned so much at the same time.”
Nya Furey said she liked visiting the oyster farm to learn how aquaculture affects communities around Cuttyhunk, including Falmouth.
“It was really interesting to see how they raise the oysters and how long it took for them to grow. That was one of the best days of the trip,” she said.
Ms. Tribou said the group included only girls because they were staying at a private residence, but once the program begins in earnest for students around New England—possibly as soon as this fall—it would be open to boys and girls.
She thanked the school committee for their support of the pilot program, and committee chairman Terri Medeiros, who later in the meeting passed her gavel to committee member William S. Rider as the new chairman, thanked the hosts for their generosity and applauded the students for their hard work.