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Hatchling and Turtle Conservation through Headstarting (HATCH)

Hatchling and Turtle Conservation through Headstarting (HATCH) is Zoo New England's conservation-based education program focused on conservation and support of local turtle species including Blanding’s, wood, spotted and snapping turtles. Through the program, students and teachers from participating schools have the opportunity to actively and significantly participate in a real-world rare species conservation program by raising hatchling turtles to greatly increase their chances of survival in the wild. 

To date, over 40 K-12 schools in Massachusetts participate in HATCH. At each school, classrooms raise newborn turtle hatchlings over the course of the year and then release the turtles back into the wild during field trips to local conservation areas. By giving them this “headstart,” students directly help conserve dwindling turtle populations by dramatically increasing the odds that each turtle cared for will survive to adulthood. At the same time, students collect and analyze data on hatchlings’ growth while learning about the ecology and importance of our freshwater wetlands. By helping protect native biodiversity and restoring healthy wetlands in their communities, students learn that they can be agents of change in a small but significant way.

As an integral part of our work with schools, our scientist educators provide high-quality indoor classroom presentations and lead field trips built around the students’ participation in the turtle headstarting program. Together, we learn about wildlife conservation, wetland ecology, and landscape history, focusing on the inquiry-based skills at the center of the Next Generation Science Standards.