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The Port of Baltimore TERP Headstart Program 

What is TERP Headstart 

The Terrapin Education and Research Partnership (TERP) places young turtles in classrooms across Maryland. These turtles are raised by classrooms and released on Poplar Island in the spring. These turtles grow to the size of a 3- to 5-year-old wild terrapin. By giving hatchlings a “head start,” Maryland students hope to give terrapins a better chance of survival once they’re released back into the Chesapeake Bay.

Headstart History  

Prior to the restoration of the Paul S. Sarbanes Ecosystem Restoration Project at Poplar Island, the amount of available terrapin habitat had declined significantly in the Chesapeake Bay. Within the first years of operations on the island, terrapin nests were discovered in the sandy areas of the island. In response to these terrapins nesting on Poplar Island, the TERP program started in 2005.

Headstart In the Classroom 

When turtles first arrive to schools in the fall, they are the size of a quarter. Students name their turtles and over about a 10-month period watch their turtles grow. Each week students take measurements of the terrapins and report the data back to the partners. Having hatchlings in classrooms allows students to have a hands-on learning experience and personal connection to the environment around them. MES staff on Poplar provide release field trips for a portion of students in the TERP program. Teachers are also provided with training and support needed to integrate terrapin education into curriculum by the partners.

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Terrapins have been head started by Maryland students 


Classes have released head start turtles on Poplar Island. 

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The TERP Partnership

Distributing turtles to classrooms and field trips are made possible by the partners in the program who help support teachers by providing training and supplies needed. Anne Arundel County Public Schools Environmental Literacy and Outdoor Education Office at Arlington Echo (Arlington Echo) distribute turtles to Anne Arundel County Public schools. The Maryland Environmental Service (MES) distributes turtles to select eastern shore schools. The Schmidt Center distributes turtles to eighth grades classes Prince Georges County  and the National Aquarium partners with CHESPAX, the Environmental Education Program for the Calvert County Public School System, to include every elementary school in Calvert County in the TERP program. 

The Maryland Port Administration (MPA) is dedicated to supporting local communities and the environment. The Port of Baltimore contracts the Maryland Environmental Service to provide free Educational Programs to schools in Maryland. These Programs focus on the habitat restoration being done by MPA on Poplar Island. This restoration is restoring critical habitat on Poplar Island through the beneficial use of dredged material. Something about research……

Dr. Roosenburg and his team study how natural and human- caused environmental variations influence the population of diamondback terrapins. Throughout the year the research team collects, marks, and recaptures turtles on Poplar Island. Dr. Roosenburg assists in tagging Head Start turtles with (PIT) Passive Integrated Transponders. This allows recaptured turtles to be identified and help assess the effectiveness of the TERP program.

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Seclect any partner logo to learn more.  

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