Yarmouth Shellfish Nursery: The Synergy of Teacher Passion, Student Interest, and Community Commitment
by Michael McNeil

For over three years, five Yarmouth High School sophomores have ventured outside of the walls of Harrison Middle School and Yarmouth High School to work on a project dedicated to protecting soft-shelled clams from invasive species like the European green crab.

Clementine Blaschke, Duncan Birkbeck, Grady Welsh, Connor Senger, and Ben Cox-Faxon have worked very hard on this project- and have been recently been highlighted in
The Forecaster and Maine MEA Educator Magazine.

The Yarmouth Shellfish Nursery has won almost $45,000 for their research and work.  This includes $35,000 for winning the first round of Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow Challenge and $10,000 for the Lexus Eco Challenge by Scholastic, Inc.  With this money, they’ve bought an upweller, which pumps water from the mudflat to feed the clams being nursed in it.  This allows the clams to grow in a safe environment.

Grady Welsh described the overall motivation for students involved in the project.

The goal of the nursery is first and foremost to raise clams from seed. With this, we are able to spread a love of biology to younger students who have taken field trips to the nursery to learn more about the Maine ecosystem.

Grady further outlined the ultimate goals of the project with an eye for the future.

We will be able to grow larger and larger clams that soon will be large enough to survive in the wild. Because of the failing clamming industry, our project could really have a huge impact in the coming years.”

The project started out as an independent study, but the dedicated kids have taken it a step beyond that.

Ben Cox-Faxon described the commitment students developed towards the project as they moved from being middle school students to walking the high school hallways.

We instinctively knew we couldn't abandon such an issue that had roots into the welfare of the community, even though our impact to that point may have only been a few more souls knowing about it as an issue. In transitioning to high school, a core group of five participants continued on with the project.

Ben was quick to acknowledge all of the people who have helped the students along the way. 

We have coordinated and are coordinating with a scope of professionals who have graciously offered their time and knowledge to assist us in the success of our project, from Town Manager to a university professor. This includes Morgan Cuthbert. To abandon the project would mean to leave behind all the relationships and opportunities we made throughout the journey so far- simply put, it would be selfish. Plus, helping out the community with your buds is a blast!”

Morgan Cuthbert, the current sophomores' old seventh grade teacher, has helped these students learn about the clams and plan out the shellfish nursery.

[The project] has become a model for our state and country as to a way to teach students.  Students who can learn and connect to their own communities have a greater understanding and I feel the learning becomes more authentic.  It feels like you are not just learning but making a difference.”

Both Grady and Ben pointed to the nursery’s very existence as an example of Yarmouth’s commitment to the education of its young people.

Grady said, “The Yarmouth community has been really supportive throughout the project, helping to fund our project with grants and donations. This connects to the education because it shows the success of the schools and the support the community has for our educations.”

Ben concluded, “The beauty of Yarmouth is that it nurtures responsibility to prepare students for the world beyond- whether in the high school that is being responsible for one's academics, interests, or future plans.”