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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. 

Classroom Information Request Form

Fill out our Classroom Information Request Form to learn more about our programs! Please note that capacity is limited due to a limited number of turtles available for headstarting. 

Help us Conserve Blanding’s Turtles: In the classroom and the field

Blandingsmeasurement BoxZoo New England’s Field Conservation Department is currently headstarting Blanding’s turtles from several Massachusetts populations together with public and private schools in Massachusetts. Our Blanding’s turtle conservation colleagues, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Parker River Watershed Association, manage similar programs in other schools as well.

Students and teachers in participating schools have the opportunity to actively and significantly participate in a real-world rare species conservation program by raising young Blanding’s turtles and thus greatly increasing their chances of survival in the wild. We monitor our headstarting programs carefully. Together, we're caring for the young of a rare threatened species and all participating schools are required to follow our protocols for headstarting Blanding’s turtles.

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In the field

Most of our field work with Blanding’s turtles requires special skills and the ability and willingness to enter and move around in dense swamps with thick muck. However, we also rely on volunteers to help search for turtle nests, generally during the evenings in the month of June.

If you're interested in working with us in the field, please contact Zoo New England’s Field Conservation Department directly.

In the classroom

At each participating school, our biologist-educators provide high quality classroom presentations and field trips built around the students’ participation in the Blanding’s turtle headstarting program. Together, we learn about wildlife conservation, wetland ecology, and landscape history, focusing on inquiry-based skills at the center of the Next Generation Science Standards. All of our instructors have extensive experience working as field biologists with Blanding’s turtles as well as experience at leading educational enrichment programs for students from elementary grades through high school.

If you're interested in possibly caring for young turtles in your classroom, please fill out our information request form.