On June 8, 2018 the STEM Academy and Sandwich High School will construct a vernal pool, and create a rich outdoor living laboratory. This wetland habitat will be created, thanks to an $7,500 grant Mass Audubon's Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary (LPWS) received from The Horizon Foundation. STEM science teachers, Amy Ferreira, Renee Fudala, and Betty Hyde-McGuire worked with Ian Ives, Sanctuary Director at LPWS, to make this exciting project come to fruition.

Vernal pools typically fill with water in the autumn or winter due to rainfall and rising groundwater and remain ponded through the spring and into summer. They dry completely by the middle or end of summer each year, or at least every few years. Occasional drying prevents fish from establishing permanent populations, which is critical to the reproductive success of many amphibian and invertebrate species that rely on breeding habitats free of fish predators. (from

The vernal pool to be built at the STEM Academy will be the 7th wetland to be constructed on school grounds on Cape Cod. In the last two years, Falmouth High School, Lawrence Middle School in Falmouth, Monomoy Regional Middle School, Cape Cod Academy and Falmouth Academy have all received new wetlands. This year both the STEM Academy and Barnstable High School are constructing one.

The wetland will be built using the techniques described in the book by Thomas R. Biebighauser Wetland Restoration and Construction – A Technical Guide. The wetland will appear natural and will require no maintenance. Ian Ives and Tom Biebighauser, a wetland scientist, are consulting and assisting in project design and planning, as well as directly involved in the construction and instruction to students and school staff on construction day. Students will be engaged in a real life ecological engineering project as a result. .

Wetlands provide great opportunities for outdoor learning. Students can learn about science, mathematics, engineering, history, and art by experiencing lessons firsthand at a wetland. Adding a wetland to STEM will provide students with unparalleled opportunities to investigate animals, plants, soils, and water chemistry, and ecological succession in an ecosystem that is uncommon on Cape Cod.

Students were introduced to the project and wetland ecology through an in school presentation provided by Mass Audubon in March 2018. On construction day, interested students will be involved in several design and building steps for the wetlands.

By creating a wetland on campus, students will have the opportunity to compare and contrast biodiversity, colonization rates, hydrology and animal and plant composition among this newly created wetland and an existing naturally occurring wetland on campus. In addition, more wetlands means more rare species habitat resulting in conservation biology, stewardship, and protection of rare ecosystems on Cape Cod.

Read more about STEM Academy to Create a Vernal Pool: An Outdoor Living Lab