Rare toad babies being nurtured on Gloucester's Main Street

Gloucester Daily Times: May 17, 2016

Kestrel Educational Adventures is taking care of about 300 rare tadpoles at its Get Outside Center, located in the Brown Mall at 186 Main St. in downtown Gloucester. 

The tadpoles are larvae of the spadefoot toad, which, according to Kestrel founder and program director Jessica Kagle, is classified as a threatened species in Massachusetts. The spadefoot toad is very rare on the North Shore. The 300 tadpoles were collected on Cape Cod. Kestrel is not sure precisely how old the tadpoles are, but the tadpoles typically metamorphose into baby toads, or toadlets, after about three weeks. The idea is to nurture the tadpoles and keep them safe from predation until they become toadlets.

“In the wild,” said Kagle, “most of these would be eaten before they became adults.” 

According to “A Field Guide to the Animals of Vernal Ponds,” by Leo P. Kenney and Matthew R. Burne, the spadefoot “is a lightly warted toad with two wavy yellow lines on a dark brown to gray body. Unlike any other frog or toad in (Massachusetts), the pupil is vertical. It is most obvious when viewed in bright light. On each hind foot is a sharp, black tubercle used for digging, from which this uncommon species derives its name.

“The tadpoles feed on algae and carrion and develop rapidly. Metamorphosis into a toadlet may take place in as little as 2-3 weeks if conditions are appropriate. Toadlets move away from the temporary pool, construct their own burrows, and begin the secretive life of the spadefoot toad.”

Kestrel naturalists plan to reintroduce the toadlets into the wild at Massachusetts Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln. In the meantime the public is welcome to visit the Get Outside Center and help the staff care for them.

City seashore becomes an explorer's paradise

By Sean Horgan Staff writer | Posted: Saturday, October 10, 2015 6:24 am

City seashore becomes an explorer's paradise

MIKE SPRINGER/Staff photoWest Parish second grader Sophia Collins holds a tiny crab she discovered in a tide pool Friday during a field trip to Pavilion Beach in Gloucester.

The basket of the long-handled net that Thelmo Borges was carrying was bigger than his head, but not nearly so big as to dent his focus while hunting Friday afternoon along the Stacy Boulevard spit of Pavilion Beach.

His prey? The elusive seaweed.

Into the roiling water the intrepid Borges would dip the net, and in the net he would spy just a strand of the marine algae, enough to crease his face with a jack o’ lantern smile that revealed he might also want to be on the lookout for a couple of new front teeth.

But there was no stopping Borges, a 7-year-old in Adrienne Cormier’s second-grade class at the West Parish School, nor any of his more than two dozen classmates, who spent much of the afternoon darting over the beach, scampering over the rocks, racing the waves and searching for all manner of sea life, all in the name of science.

And fun.

With two adult members of Gloucester-based Kestrel Educational Adventure serving as guides and consigliere, Maryanne Shatford’s second-grade class was the first to set out from the school at the intersection of Pleasant and Prospects streets at about 12:20 p.m.

Their arduous journey took them past the Sawyer Free Library, down to Main Street and on through the frontier of the West End, where few second-grade explorers have dared to tread.

The indigenous natives gazed at them in awe, while the kids seemed fully in touch with their surroundings. They should have been. They touched everything. Glass. Buildings. Parking meters. Walls. Fences. Benches. Leaves. And, of course, each other.

They crossed Washington Street and onto Western Avenue and finally to the beach, where Clay Kern, the Kestrel program coordinator and naturalist, gathered them on a grassy part of the Boulevard.

“Let’s see you guys make the best circle in the whole world,” Kern implored of the kids, and they pleasantly complied.

The first order of business was naming the expedition. None of that boring Lewis and Clark stuff for these pioneers. They went with the Flippin’ Narwhale Dolphins, and that became their rallying cry whenever Kern wanted them to assemble.

Then it was time to haul on their rubber boots and head down to check on the movement of the tide, which was heading out on this blustery day, with the wind blowing better than 20 mph out of the south under skies that looked bruised and swollen with impending rain.

Across the beach the kids scurried, looking for inter-tidal creatures or some evidence of their recent presence. There were barnacles and periwinkles, clam shells and mussels. Then Camryn Rodolosi, 7, dressed in dark sweats and his maroon Gloucester Youth Fishermen hoodie, let out a whoop.

“Look, it’s a crab,” he said extracting his hand from between two large rocks. “I got a crab.”

While the tiny crab made the rounds of the other kids, 7-year-old Michael St. Peter was busy cornering the periwinkle market, and Zackary Soundis was proudly exhibiting a very fine chunk of sea glass. Sophia Collins, 7, first found a clam shell and then made perhaps the most important discovery of the day.

“This,” she said, holding up a smooth, dark gray stone, “is a very lucky rock.”

On it went, one shriek of discovery following another.

Logan Jones, 7,  from the Cormier class, reached into a small tidal pool and yanked out a periwinkle, turned it over in his hand, studied it, and then put it back in the water, a proud member of the periwinkle catch-and-release program.

By 1:50 p.m., the expedition began to retrace its steps toward civilization, up Middle Street and back toward the school. As the procession wound its way toward the Lester S. Wass American Legion Post, Emma Alves, 7, did an impromptu math lesson trying to figure out if the lottery scratch ticket she found on the beach was a winner.

As the minions trudged happily back to school, they were comforted by the best words a teacher can possibly utter on an expedition of this magnitude and daring:

“Hey, we didn’t lose anyone,” Shatford said. 

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT



Blog connects kids to nature

By Deborah Gardner Walker /

June 26. 2015 11:21PM

Collins and Bowditch Middle School students were challenged to work in teams to build a shelter with materials found in the woods behind the Collins Middle School. The students took part in an Outdoor Science Adventure after school program twice per week and blogged about their experiences. WICKED LOCAL PHOTO / DEBORAH GARDNER WALKER



Thirty Salem middle school students learned about natural science and ecology while visiting the city’s natural sites and shared what they learned with the world.

The group of Bowditch and Collins Middle School students participated in the Expanding Horizons after school program, based at the Collins Middle School, this past year. They chose the twice-weekly section called Outdoor Science Adventure and took field trips all over the city to sites many of them had never visited before.

They got to experience the natural world close to home and blogged about what they found and thought. Their blog is like a Salem tourist site with a compendium of beautiful photos and comments about Forest River Park, Forest River Conservation Area, Salem Maritime Historic Site, Gallows Hill Park and Winter Island.

They even explored Collins Wood, located behind Collins Middle School, where they were tasked with building a shelter out of materials they found in the forest.

Alicia, 11, who will be in seventh grade next year, said that she enjoyed going on field trips and “finding all of the things.” Her favorite trip was to Forest River Conservation Area where she loved getting to explore the woods.

“It was my favorite, because there’s a lot of stuff in the woods that you can find out like plants, animals. We found a tadpole. Then we learned how to catch a fish,” she said.

Alicia had never been in the woods before, but she’s caught the bug for hiking in the woods again.

Alicia said that she had fun in the program learning new things and meeting friends. She also enjoyed working on the blog.

“It’s fun because there’s certain people that don’t know what Salem is. People from around the world can find out,” she said, adding that she had never blogged before, but checks out YouTube.

Owen Young, also a seventh grader next year, said that Forest River Park was his favorite site, because it had something for visitors of all ages – the river, beaches, playground, an area for picnicking and Pioneer Village, a recreation of a 17th century fishing village.

Kestrel Educational Adventures, an environmental education organization from Gloucester, runs the program. According to Jessica Kagle, Kestrel’s founder and director, the after school program follows the service learning model, which offers students like Alicia and Owen leadership opportunities.

“Each student takes on different jobs -- editor, photographer, safety (which involves keeping a head count on field trips), equipment manager and sketch artists,” Kagle said. We give them all different avenues to find their strengths in the team. Students receive peer review of their blog posts.”

Kestrel Educational Adventures has been providing environmental education in the Salem Public Schools for a decade. They take elementary students out to look at vernal pools in addition to the middle school program. Expanding Horizons is funded by a 21st Century grant from the Massachusetts Department of Education.

Kagle said that she noticed a lot of interest and investment of the middle school students as a result of having created the blog. “The program connected to things that students are interested in – media and communicating with their peers.”

Ironically, according to Kagle, at the beginning of the class, many of the students didn’t think that there was anything fun to do in Salem. They know differently now.




Here are some of the students’ impressions of the places that they visited as shared on their blog “Wild Salem Adventures.” You can visit the blog at The photos are terrific!

Gina: My favorite thing about this program has been going on mini field trips…. I really loved the Saturday Field Trip, we did so much fun things there like playing the games and climbing. My favorite game was Elbow tag, it’s super fun…. I also liked building my shelter with Guelmi, Inavi and Lindsey. We had a lot of fun building it. We had to make like 564198 shelters cause our first one had a big spider and we didn’t know were it was so we didn’t stay. Then our second one collapsed, so we were getting really aggravated. Then our THIRD one, the branches kept on falling but Guelmi ended up keeping them up. So we stayed with that one plus it had a lot of shade so we were good :). It looked very nice.


Forest River Conservation Area

Anonymous: We caught a fish it was very small and cute.

Clay: At the conservation area there was a lot of mud but plenty to see. The nature walks were short but lasting. And the air was amazing especially up near the water. When we got to the creek we walked past a big marsh with the most soothing sound of water crashing on the small shore. Past the marsh was a big area of mud that wasn’t too grand at first but once we got are boots on it was really fun. A little past the mud pools there was a handmade bridge surrounded by running water and fish…. The Forest River Conservation was really fun and we all had a great time. If you are bringing a group or just looking for a nice place to take a quick walk I would highly recommend it at whatever age you are at!

Lindsey: The Forest River Conservation Area was a very muddy yet fun day for people and we got to explore new things. We got to see amazing views on the top of a hill. We walked through muddy trails as well as water. Some people caught a fish called a mummichug with a minnow trap and it looked very cool. Hopefully you go there one day and have fun like we did.


Forest River Park

Marcus: Many people know about Forest River Park, but do you know all of the fun things you can do? You can go beachcombing, hiking and swimming!!

Owen: you should go to Forest River Park. It has a playground for the kids, a pool, and a beach for everyone, and very beautiful trees. I hope I get to go again.

Inavi: Let’s go! I think people should go to Forest River because they have a pool, a baseball field, and you can go to the park and just walk around. If you want to you can go in the woods or the beach.

Erin: I had fun in Forest River. I went on the swings at the park and I went to the beach, then learned new things at the beach. This is the best field trip ever.



Bank's new foundation awards $250K

The Institution for Savings' Main Street Rockport Charitable Foundation has awarded Kestrel a $5,000 grant. This award will finance a project-based, multi-visit outdoor nature program at Beeman Elementary School in Gloucester called Adventures in Mapmaking. We are incredibly grateful to the bank for making this generous gift. Thank you Institution for Savings!

                                                                                             Monday December 22, 2014

NEWBURYPORT — When the Institution for Savings acquired Rockport National Bank earlier this year, the agreement approved by Rockport National’s trustees included the creation of a $2 million charitable fund to support non-profit organizations in the Institution’s new markets on Cape Ann and in Beverly.

Now, the bank has made $250,000 in grants and pledges through the newly formed Main Street Rockport Charitable Foundation to The Open Door, the Gloucester-based Grace Center and a number of other Cape Ann organizations, Bank President and CEO Michael J. Jones has announced.

The largest of the awards were two $100,000 three-year pledges — one to the Gloucester-based Open Door of Gloucester toward its $1.25 million capital campaign and to support its ongoing mission to alleviate the impact of hunger in Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester, Essex and Ipswich. The other $100,000 pledge went to Beverly Bootstraps to purchase and renovate a new building for its growing organization. 

Other Cape Ann nonprofits receiving first-round grants include Care Dimension of Rockport, Gloucester Education Foundation, Beverly Citywide PTO, Kestrel Educational Adventures — the Gloucester-based educational program on Main Street — Northeast Massachusetts Youth Orchestras, the Beverly Education Foundation, Rockport Music, Rockport Female Charitable Society, Gloucester High School Stage Band, New Year’s Rockport Eve, the Grace Center, and the VFW of Gloucester.

Other grants or pledges have been given to  Pathways for Children, North Shore YMCA, Gloucester High School boys soccer boosters, North Shore Community Mediation Center, the First R Foundation reading program for schoolchildren, The Gloucester Fund, SeniorCare, North Shore Health Project, Rockport Youth Soccer, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Town of Rockport Council on Aging.

“We launched the Main Street Rockport Foundation earlier this year as a vehicle for sharing the Bank’s success with our Cape Ann and Beverly communities,” Jones said in announcing the awards. “Our vision is to have a positive effect on every person, business and organization in the communities we serve, and I believe this first round of grants will help us achieve that. 

“We look forward to continuing to assist when possible,” he said, “and to put our charitable funds into the hands of those who need it most.”