Lutherville Laboratory students get their hands dirty in the name of science


On a sunny, fall afternoon Lutherville Laboratory Environmental Club members decided to put on a play. No, it wasn't by Shakespeare or Tennessee Williams, but rather a collaboration between the club and Towson University students.

This play was about succession, and told the story of Lutherville's meadow turning into a forest. Characters in the play included the sun, the wind, trees, plants, bushes, butterflies, flowers and rabbits; all of which were acted out by students with great enthusiasm.

Five years ago, Lutherville Laboratory Elementary had its very own butterfly meadow, where Monarch caterpillars would come and eat milkweed and eventually grow into beautiful orange and black adults. Over time, though, natural changes occurred in the ecosystem. Seeds from trees were carried by the wind into the meadow, and a lot of unwanted growth was the result. Lutherville and Towson University students worked together to put on stellar performances that helped to identify the causes of this unwanted growth and what they could do to fix it.

"The activity is a terrific example of how connecting the arts (in this case drama) to science can really make the topic come to life," said Deidre Austen, Lutherville's science resource teacher. "Our partnership with Towson showcases community involvement and the value of giving pre-service teachers multiple experiences in schools prior to their formal internship period… Talk about a win-win situation!"

After the play concluded, Lutherville and Towson students got straight to work to turn the forest back into a meadow by pulling weeds, cutting hedges and getting rid of unwanted saplings.

"Since our goal is to maintain the meadow as a habitat for monarch caterpillars and butterflies, we wanted to halt the succession and return the area to a 'true' meadow," Austen said. "To this end, we cut down many saplings, and will revisit the meadow in the spring to plant additional wildflowers."

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Story and photos by Natalie Allen, communications specialist
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