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field conservation staff with students

Hatchling and Turtle Conservation through Headstarting (HATCH)

  • students in HATCH program
  • students in HATCH program
  • baby turtle
  • field conservationist
  • HATCH students
  • HATCH student
  • turtle measurements
  • HATCH students
  • HATCH students

Hatchling and Turtle Conservation through Headstarting (HATCH) is Zoo New England's award-winning 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 20,000 students have taken part in the program. 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.