Environmentally Focused Initiatives at Concord Carlisle High School - Part II

Environmental Studies Field Group Sign

After interviewing one of the student leaders of Green Team to learn more about their environmentally conscious goals and initiatives, we will now profile the Environmental Field Studies Group (EFSG). EFSG is another prominent CCHS group looking to invoke positive, environmentally friendly changes in the School community and beyond.

EFSG was initiated six years ago after science teachers Ms. Murphy and Ms. Guiney attended a forum in East Boston featuring urban and suburban high school youth involved in environmental work. Inspired by the passion of the students, Ms. Murphy and Ms. Guiney sought to foster knowledge and appreciation of local nature and environmental issues at CCHS. Typically meeting on Fridays, a group of fifteen to twenty students work on an array of environmentally driven projects or explore local nature firsthand. Under the tutelage of both Ms. Guiney and Ms. Murphy, as well as fellow science teacher Mr. Nichol, EFSG combines long-term efforts spanning several years with field trips designed for students to gain familiarity with the environments their initiatives serve to protect.

Blanding’s turtlesCurrently, one of the annual long term projects is the raising of four Blanding’s turtles in the Fall that concludes with a release into their native habitat. Blanding turtles are a state threatened species and the hope is that re-introducing them to their native habitat will benefit the species as a whole.

In both the Spring and Fall, data is collected for the Harvard Forest Tree phenology project. One of dozens of schools in New England to provide data on the timing of leaf fall and leaf out, CCHS and EFSG are helping the Harvard phenology scientists better understand the effects of climate change on the length of the growing season.

On top of their admirable efforts aiming to help understand the effect we have on the environment, EFSG goes on a variety of field trips to further their learning. As previously mentioned, these trips serve to give students hands-on experiences with nature to foster a love for our planet that will help encourage environmentally conscious lifestyles in the future. Trips include canoeing the Sudbury River, birding, snowshoeing, nature sketching, and walks in Estabrook woods, Fairyland woods, and other areas, like the Carlisle cranberry bog. These trips are led by local experts, including Amber Carr of Mass Audubon, CCHS alum Dan Wells, Bryan Windmiller, and Dick Walton, further emphasizing the symbiotic relationship between CCHS’s environmental focus and the existing progressive, environmentally conscious community in Concord and Carlisle.

EFSG students also participate in a wide range of other pursuits connected with the environment; for example, this past Fall, several EFSG students attended a climate change talk in Concord given by Professor William Moomaw. Several years ago, after students learned how to identify invasive plants in the area, they participated in two removal efforts on CCHS’s campus in 2014 and 2015. Students have also worked with Ms. Ericksen’s fourth and fifth grade classes at Thoreau Elementary School on tree phenology and identification and proper removal of invasive plants to help ignite a passion for the environment in local children at a young age.

In addition to the large scale projects the group continuously works on and the many local nature experiences the group strives to give participating students, EFSG aims to educate those at CCHS and beyond about the environment, sustainability, and conservation through a variety of approaches. During group meetings, passages of Thoreau’s writing are read and reflected upon in both historical and contemporary contexts to solidify the bond that the area has had for centuries with the local environment. EFSG created several art pieces made from natural materials that include Thoreau quotes to offer inspiration to students that are displayed in the School’s library, otherwise known as the Learning Commons. The group also created a long flowing wave sculpture outside the School composed entirely of plastic and styrene cups that had been used by CCHS students and faculty. Suspended from the campus driveway fence in the Spring of 2015, the wave sculpture was accompanied by signs asking the CCHS community to reduce their waste and go green by using reusable drinking containers, a powerful message when accompanied by the visual cost of CCHS’s container usage. The sculpture effort was supported by Emerson Umbrella Musketaquid teen arts coordinator Nancy Lippe, who guided design and provided materials and working space for the process. This is merely one of many examples of how EFSG manages to include both the community and School in its efforts to promote environmentally friendly values. The relationship between Musketaquid and EFSG was further emphasized by a banner that EFSG students painted, under the guidance of Musketaquid, to carry in the annual Earth Day parade a few years ago. Relationships like these help unite the entire community towards a common, admirable pursuit of greener living.

One of EFSG’s most impactful pursuits within the CCHS community has been the TerraCycle efforts that began over four years ago. TerraCycle is a non-profit recycling effort for materials that are not normally recycled and thus end up in landfills, including old writing instruments, cereal bag liners, and energy or granola bar wrappers made with mylar material. EFSG collects these materials at multiple locations throughout the School and ships them to TerraCycle. Points are earned for each item shipped to TerraCycle, which are then used to donate money to charity; for example, two cents are earned per cereal bag. EFSG’s charity of choice is CharityWater.org, an initiative providing clean drinking water to those in less developed countries. Not only is this entire process charitable and beneficial to the environment, but it is effective, too; last year, CCHS was among the top state collectors and diverted 1,450 units of cereal bag waste from landfills.

EFSG’s efforts were even praised by the CEO of TerraCycle, Tom Szaky: “We’re so excited that Concord-Carlisle High has chosen to work with us to make such a positive impact on our environment.” He added, “We commend them for what they’ve achieved so far, and can’t wait to see what they continue to collect.” This high level of praise is no doubt gratifying for EFSG, but also fuels motivation to increase efforts. Landfills will continue to be filled with waste, but the work that EFSG is doing to show the community that efforts can be made to prevent the flow of waste into landfills should be an inspiration to all who intend to live ‘green’.

EFSG does not intend to bask in their previous success, a campaign this Winter in the School will be put into place to encourage school-wide participation in, and awareness of, the TerraCycle program.

Written by Conor Smyth, CCHS class of '17

Part 2 in a 2 part series profiing the environmentally focused student initiatives at CCHS.

"Don't Trash It, TerraCycle It!" article profiling CCHS's TerraCycle efforts in CCHS's Student Newspaper, The Voice

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