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Education programs

School Programs

Several local schools use the river and restoration project to teach students about the ecological importance of rivers and the organisms that rely on them.

Falmouth 4th Grade Why Restore the Coonamessett River?:

The Coonamessett River Trust (CRT) partners with the Falmouth Schools to participate in the Green Bus Tour. It is a springtime field trip for all 4th grade students to showcase Falmouth’s environmental projects. It is organized by Falmouth’s STEM Boosters,

The focus of this trip is present the problems the river had before the restoration and to ask the students about possible solutions.  The field trip is organized around these three essential questions:

  1. Why were members of the community pushing to restore the river? Why did it need to be restored?

  2. How did the restoration make the river a healthier and more sustainable ecosystem?

  3. Think of one environmental problem in your neighborhood or community. What are some steps the community could take to solve this problem?


The students learn what is needed for the health of a river ecosystem and focus on a particular organism: the river herring – both alewives and bluebacks. Herring illustrate the need for river restoration by highlighting the difficulties they face in traveling through the river from the ocean to their spawning areas and back. The students are guided through the perils herring face on the previously unrestored river. Then the students brainstorm ways of reducing or eliminating those perils and roadblocks. Their solutions are matched with the actual engineered solutions.

During the Green Bus field trip the students are guided around the lower section of the river seeing first-hand the work and success of restoration. They can see some of the solutions they discussed in the classroom become reality. They also experience the diversity of wildlife in a restored river system. Students can search for animals and wildlife during the walk using the “Scavenger Hunt” handout.

A favorite part of the field trip is when students watch a demonstration of the CRT electronic herring tagging.  Prior to the trip, each student “adopts” one of our tagged herring.  In this way, they learn how herring move through the river system and what obstacles they may face.  For the demonstration, PIT tags are taped inside plastic Easter eggs and dropped by the students from a bridge. As they pass through one of antennas, it beeps.    

Falmouth 5th Grade “Is the Coonamessett River healthy?” Did the restoration “work”?:


Building on the success of our 4th grade spring field trips, we now offer a fall field trip.  This trip builds on lessons learned from the spring by offering a “hands-on” experience. For the 5th grade trips, the students will test whether the scientists and engineers who restored and built the restored Coonamessett got it right. Students test these hypotheses by:

  • observing the physical features of the river (habitat)

  • testing the water chemistry (water quality)

  • sampling the biology for macro-invertebrates on the river bottom (healthy biodiversity)

The students wade into the river to collect these samples. Based on the ratings from the observations of the three areas, the student make an assessment of the overall health of the river.

This links geography, ecology, restoration and sustainability to lessons learned in the 4th grade tour.


Green Bus 4th grade Scavenger Hunt-1_page-jpg.jpg

Coonamessett River Restoration Videos

4th Grade Classroom Videos

The CRT developed these videos for teachers to show to classrooms to field trips to the river.  Part 1 introduces the problems the river had before restoration and why these are a problem for fish and other animals. Part 2  explores the solutions to these problems.  Part 3 is an overview.

Part 1: The Problem
Part 2: The Solutions
Part 3: the self-test

5th Grade Classroom Video

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This video reviews what the students learned during the previous spring 4th grade field trip and prepares them for what they will be doing for this "hand-on" field trip.

Independent Education

Kiosk information: Information about the restoration is illustrated by posters, maps, and photos about where we were, where we are, and where we are going in our restoration process. 


Coonamessett Greenway Heritage Trail: Interpretive panels along the pathway tell the natural and human history of the Coonamessett River valley.


Restoration Brochure: Want to learn more about the restoration of the Coonamessett and answers to such questions as the purpose of the vertical posts along the river?  The CRT developed a self-guided walking tour brochure for visitors to learn historical, ecological, and restoration facts about the project. The free brochures are available at the kiosk at Dexter’s Crossing or can be downloaded here.


CRT Field Guide: The CRT developed these guides in conjunction with the Woods Hole Sea Grant program for our popular school field trips.  We found that everyone enjoys using these animal and plant guides so they are now also available at  the Dexter's Crossing kiosk or here.

River Activities to do at home


What is a watershed? 

In most discussions of rivers and streams, the term “watershed” is used. What actually is a watershed and how is it formed?  Find out using this simple activity.  You’ll need: crumpled paper, a pan, water-based markers, water, and a spray bottle to make a watershed.  Here is the link. There’s some educational jargon in this activity, but scroll down.  It’s pretty fun to do.  On a nice day, do it outside.


Read about Rivers

One of my favorites about stream restoration is Come Back, Salmon by Molly Cone.


Reading Suggestions for kids

Save Our Stream!  by Colin Polsky and Jane Tucker 

Chattanooga Sludge by Molly Bang

Night of the Spadefoot Toads by Bil Harley


Look back at this site for further adventures, activities and good reading about rivers and streams. Please also send us your suggestions!


Banner made by Teaticket School 2nd grade after a visit to the river to learn about herring.

herring muralJane Baker.jpg
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