A monthly column in the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fitting into Their Own Future

 New Club Gives Great Brook Students a Taste of Environmental Careers

Give a kid a taste of the future and pretty soon they’ll be hungry for the whole meal.

That’s the thinking behind a new program that the HarrisCenter for Conservation Education has kicked off at Great Brook School in Antrim.

The Environmental Leadership Club started this fall as a way to give willing middle schoolers a taste of careers that involve the environment or the great outdoors.

Students in Great Brook Middle School's
Environmental Leadership Club learn about
tree growth.
“It’s a chance for kids to give kids some background as to what’s available for careers,” says Jennifer Sutton, a Harris Center teacher/naturalist who’s leading the program. “It’s also a chance to get the kids outside after school and to be excited to be outside.”

The after-school program’s 10 students have so far had visits to or from:
  • Christine Destremps, a Harrisville artist who focuses on the need for clean water.
  • Eric Masterson, a Harris Center land specialist who takes care of the center’s lands and conservation easements.
  • Sunnyfield Farm in Peterborough where they learned about the farm’s operations and helped with chores.
  • Eastern Mountain Sports in Peterborough, a visit that was scheduled before the recent layoff announcement. They learned how the business environment is affected by many things, including warmer winters and the nature of changing commerce.
  • Robblee Tree Service, where they learned that tree work can also involve removing invasive species.
  • Me; I entertained questions about the broad range of work by The Nature Conservancy, from reviving shad populations to restoring rain forests. I also gave them tips on using the club’s game camera.
They will soon meet with Sgt. David Walsh, a conservation officer with the N.H. Fish and Game Department.

“It’s been great to see how the kids are starting to see the realm of opportunities that are out there,” Sutton says.

Eleven-year-old Connor Young says he loves being in the club. “I like how we go on field trips to learn about jobs in the environmental field,” he says. “And we do a lot of fun activities on days that we don’t go visit someone.”

Young, who’s in sixth grade, says he’ll be in the club next year and hopes more students join, too. “I’ve learned a lot in the club and I would probably go into the environmental field, maybe in agriculture.” 

Sutton says middle schoolers are old enough to keep focused on an after-school session and are starting to become curious about the career paths that may await them.

“We’re really delighted that, with the Harris Center, we’re able to offer this club to students,” says Jim Elder, Great Brook School’s principal. “The environmental niche is great for the future of our planet and it speaks to the students who have a strong interest in nature and the outdoors. And Ms. Sutton is a great teacher.”

After the series of visits, the club will create displays about environmental careers that visitors can see at the Harris Center. The club has also discussed holding a career fair.

The Harris Center hopes to continue the Environmental Leadership Club next year at Great Brook, and may also expand to South Meadow School in Peterborough. 

“This is a chance for kids to dig a little deeper into their souls,” Sutton says. “They’re thinking about themselves and how they fit into their own future.”

Eric Aldrich writes from his home in Hancock.

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