Friday, January 6, 2017

Hemlock Happy

Fifth Graders from northern Massachusetts are happy about what they are seeing in their study of Hemlock trees.

Toy Town Elementary School Students have  collected 7 years of field data for the Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology Woolly Bully and the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Project, led by Ecologist, David Orwig.  They are among a network of students throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont helping to monitor the spread and impact of this tiny insect which is currently causing major changes in New England's forests. Toy Town students have not seen any adelgid in Winchendon as of yet, which indicates the hemlocks they are monitoring are still healthy.  Many hemlocks from Connecticut to southern NH, Vt. and Maine are not so healthy, as the adelgid is capable of sucking the life out of these sometimes giant trees.

Excerpt of Toy Town Elementary Fall 2016 data from Harvard Forest Schoolyard Ecology database

Toy Town Field Site in Red above, among Schoolyard Ecology Network field sites

Students are working in partner pairs to measure the new growth of the sample branches to the nearest .10 of a cm..  They double check their measurements and record them on their Data Collection Form.  Then we average the new growth for each tree and submit the data in the Harvard Forest Database.

-Toy Town Elementary School Teacher, Anne McDonald


The students also make observations about what they observe around the tree.  We discuss what species might grow in place of the Hemlock tree, if it were to die. *


In the classroom, we study the life cycle of the adelgid, and the attributes that make the adelgid invasive.  We also look at other invasive species and find commonalities.  Finally, we look at ways we can prevent the spread of invasive species and how we can inform others! *

Teacher, Anne McDonald, integrates activities from Project Learning Tree and other sources in order to deepen the understanding of the impact of invasive insects on the ever changing composition of our local forests.  

Toy Town Elementary Fifth Graders visit Lake Dennison and Otter River State Parks each year in the Fall to enhance the Forest Ecology unit.   


We Hike the MacKenzie Trail...observe and record our observations in Coniferous and Deciduous areas. *

 Students come back into the classroom and draw their observations in detail.  They identify the layers of the forest and the Producers, Consumers, and Decomposers in them. We also practice identifying leaves.

* Quotes and Photos provided by Toy Town Elementary School Teacher, Anne McDonald

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