New Canaan Sixth-Grade Teacher Honored By EPA For Her Innovative Classroom

NEW CANAAN, Conn. — A sixth-grade teacher in New Canaan who has a tank filled with trout in her classroom is being honored for innovation by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Laura Poidomani
Laura Poidomani Photo Credit: Contributed

Laura Poidomani, who lives in Newtown, is a teacher at Saxe Middle School and has 18 years of experience. She is one of 12 teachers nationwide to receive the with the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators.  

"Her classroom vividly reflects how she integrates direct experiences with textbook learning," the EPA said. 

One feature of her classroom is a trout tank that is carefully monitored and maintained by the student “Trout Club.” It gives students the opportunity to track fish growth and development. They can also better understand the human role in the fate of trout populations in the wild, as well as how people can positively affect the environment. 

At each table in the laboratory are model aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, which students can compare with the small forest across the street, their back yards, and other settings in town. 

Around the edge of the classroom are model septic systems that students are creating to better understand how septic systems work and their role in the ecosystem. Under the sink is a green composting bin of earthworms that the students feed with leftover apple cores and banana peels to observe an example of recycling in nature.

"Laura’s impact on the community is clear in the activities of her Student Watershed Awareness Taskforce," the EPA said. 

"Students participate in SWAT following text and hands-on studies of watersheds, including septic and sewage treatment, movement of water through watersheds, and visible and invisible components of those waters." 

SWAT participants research the contributions of their families and their communities to a local body of water—collecting data, determining where water from their homes and community flows, and identifying designs for improving water quality. 

They design presentations to audiences that recommend activities to maintain a healthy watershed. 

Currently, about 360 sixth-grade students present their SWAT projects to about 1,000 people in the community. 

She has also encouraged other community groups (Pootatuck Watershed Association, Trout Unlimited, and Aquarion Water Co.) to implement a similar activity in other towns. 

She also delivered a presentation on SWAT to a conference on “Authentic Assessments in Action” attended by teachers and administrators from the Tri-State Area.

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