Friday, February 20, 2009

Mission for Third Graders at EES:
Help Save Endangered Species

By Devin Beliveau
Staff Columnist
The New England Cottontail is on the Maine endangered species list, and 19 local third graders have decided to do something about it.
In mid-January, Melanie Dodge’s third grade class at Eliot Elementary began a six-week service-learning project. The first job was to choose the way they would serve their community.
“We started with 30 project ideas,” Dodge explained, “but children love animals. That is definitely where their passion lies. They decided they wanted to save an endangered species.”
Selecting which animal to save turned out to be an easy decision.
“I researched what actual endangered species there are in Eliot, and there was only one, the New England Cottontail, which is a little gray and brown rabbit. It’s already extinct in Vermont and there are only about 250 left in Maine,” according to Dodge.
After deciding to help the New England Cottontail, the students split up into groups, and worked on various tasks to start fighting for their cause.
One group has focused on making posters. “They’ve completed - and I’ve laminated - over 30 signs already. They’re going to put them up in businesses, municipal buildings, telephone poles, and also in the Eliot schools,” Dodge explained.
Tech-savvy students focused their efforts on creating a PowerPoint presentation about the endangered bunny. The presentation will be shown in all the Eliot Elementary classrooms, and it will also be sent to teachers at the Marshwood Great Works School, Middle School and High School.
“We’re going to put it online too, and it will be part of the Eliot Elementary web site,,” added Dodge.
Another student subcommittee composed letters to get the word out. They already sent one letter to the Portsmouth Herald.
“Next, there will be a letter to Eliot residents, and also one for President Obama. They will send those letters after school vacation because they’re not finished editing.”
One student wanted to write his own letter to President Obama and hand-deliver it.
“That would have been interesting,” laughed Dodge.
Students’ efforts on behalf of the Cottontail have recently expanded beyond the classroom.
“The kids are really into going into the woods and making habitats, it’s the number one thing they want to do. They want to grow plant shrubs so the rabbits have a place to hide and find food,” said Dodge.
Whatever the result of their efforts, Dodge hopes that the students will learn “that they can make a difference, that Eliot is their community and they should care about everything that has to do with their community.” She wants them to know that “they can change the world, but first start with their community. They can make things happen; they have power and a voice.”
The students hope to get the New England Cottontail on to the National Endangered Species List. It is currently no. 2 in line to make it on that list.
Dodge requests Eliot residents contact the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (207) 646-9226 if they see rabbit tracks, so that staff there may track and continue to monitor the endangered animal.
Photo caption: The Eliot Elementary Third Graders decided to help the endangered New England Cottontail for their service-learning project. (Courtesy photo)

Goggles Teach Valuable Lesson

By Magen Petit
Staff Columnist
South Berwick Police Officer and Marshwood High School’s School Resource Officer Jeff Upton and Race Director of the Pumpkinman Triathlon Festival Kathleen Donatello have recently teamed up to promote safety to MHS students.
Donatello approached Upton with a $2,500 donation to help educate students about the dangers of alcohol abuse, which resulted in the purchase of six Fatal Vision® goggles. These specially designed and manufactured goggles simulate the visual impairment caused by alcohol or other drugs.
According to the Fatal Vision® web site, “Viewing through the goggles is rather clear, but confusing to the mind. The wearer experiences a loss of equilibrium, which is one of the effects of intoxication. Both the wearer and those observing are convinced that such impairment makes activities with known risks, such as driving vehicles, very dangerous.”
Donatello and the Festival partners with different organizations in the South Berwick, Berwick, North Berwick, and Eliot area to give back to the community. In two years, the Festival has donated over $50,000 to local sports teams. For more info, visit
“We made a $2,500 commitment,” said Donatello. “If it makes a huge impact with the kids, we can make adjustments to see if we can purchase more or others like it.”
Upton believes MHS is the only school with these goggles.
“We had a “knockoff” version of these goggles before, but these are better,” explained Upton. “These goggles have different impairment levels, ranging from a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .06 to .25. And we even have a nighttime vision pair. I think this will make a huge impact and I believe we’re the only school system [in the area] that has these goggles.”
The legal limit to drive with a BAC level is at or below .08 percent. This varies from person to person.
“On average, the body metabolizes one drink per hour, which is either a 12 oz. beer or a shot of liquor,” explained Upton.
The one issue Upton is concerned about with these goggles is whether the students will take them seriously or not.
“They are a lot of fun, but we don’t want to present them as a toy,” explained Upton. “We want to send out a positive message in the process of a school assembly. We are aiming to present it just before prom, which is usually at the beginning of May.”
Upton and Donatello are hoping this will make an impact on the students and open their eyes to this reality.
“I think it will be key - and hit home - for the kids watching the teens who are experiencing [the goggles],” said Donatello.
Upton added, “We will look at the kids reaction to this and the questions they have. Even if we have one student that says, “I didn’t know this could happen” or “It made me think twice” then that’s success.”
Innocorp, Ltd. introduced Fatal Vision® at the Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Highway Safety in June 1996.
“Innocorp’s mission is to promote safety in our schools and communities and to contribute to the reduction of alcohol and other drug fatalities and injuries through innovative, interactive, and fun educational programs,” according to the Fatal Vision® web site. “When people experience impairment first-hand while trying to do a task, the lesson sticks. Research shows that those who learn from hands-on experience retain two to four times more than those who learn from just listening or listening and seeing.”
Photo caption: MHS School Resource Officer Jeff Upton and Pumpkinman Triathlon Race Director Kathleen Donatello teamed up to provide students with Fatal Vision® goggles. (Weekly Sentinel photo)