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FAR 2010 Ecology Camp summaries
From Allison Knight and Tessa Sanchez
added to website August 15, 2010
7-12-7/17 Monday -
10:00 am - met David Lefcourt who at the picnic tables. He had the mulch dropped off on Friday afternoon. Tessa and Allison explained to the youth why we mulch city trees as opposed to trees in the forest. David brought three wheel barrels, fire rakes, and shovels for us to use. We split the youth into three predetermined work-groups. We also allowed Bill to act as a team captain who would travel between the three groups to monitor their progress and answer any questions that the younger campers may have. The youth then assigned a runner in each group to fill the wheel barrels and deliver them to the trees. The rule of thumb was: one wheel barrel of mulch per tree to be spread in three inch layers in a ring around the tree. The youth worked steadily for two hours, there was little complaints about the heat or getting dirty today. David stayed for a lunch and answered questions about colleges, degree programs, and various questions about trees in Cambridge.
After lunch we went back to the office to work on the WIKI and select their study subject. The youth were split into five predetermined teams and given 5 prompts: First Day at FAR, Biodiversity, Gardening and vegetables, History, Chores, and Goals. The major challenge in working with the WIKI was congestive nature of it. Next week for WIKI we will be splitting them up, they were kept in the same room so they could all have Internet connection, but we can take turns with Internet. After nearly two hours in the conference room Tessa and Allison took the youth outside to do an Environmental Justice Simulation. The activity was serious and discussed the inequalities present in the act of being green. Tessa and Allison then led an reflective question and answer session.
In the morning Tessa gave a brief presentation about Water Quality and told them some key concepts they would be hearing about and learning. After that we discussed the EPA/Mystic River Watershed Opportunity. We emphasized what a great opportunity it would be and should not be taken lightly (also that if anyone was looking for extra money as a motivator, they should not apply). Five individuals expressed interest in working with the project.
At 10:00 am we met Matthew Nash at the meadow. He introduced himself, and briefly discussed his role at DCR, and fielded questions to gauge what the youth's interests were, We walked down the North Trail. Some youth were asked to carry supplies (nets and buckets) . The walk didn't go as smoothly as we would have liked. A lot of the youth were complaining about the brush and bugs (even though we gave them long-sleeved shirts and bug spray) and walked at different paces which made it hard for Allison and Tessa to regulate. When we reached at a good spot to do a survey for macroinvertebrates, Matthew handed out a worksheet which identified pollution tolerant and pollution intolerant bugs, and what the presence of each meant. The youth grasped the concepts, but seemed less than thrilled about getting dirty and being in a more wooded area. After we did a sampling for 30 minutes, we continued walking along the trail where Matthew pointed out trees and plants we hadn't seen yet. They were most impressed with Jewel Weed and to learn that it can shoot it's seeds.
After lunch we had a group discussion about expectations, and reminding them that they do have a job and need to be prepared to work in a variety of situations. Most of them seemed to understand and made some suggestions (Bill suggested we lighten the load we have to carry and Tariq suggested we provide them with guide books.),
Alton Cole came after our discussion, and was a hit with the kids immediately. His presence was informal, yet professional. He spoke about his work and some of processes in which to keep trees healthy. He didn't talk down to the youth and they seemed to respect that. He fielded many questions as we walked through the meadow and down the trail that runs along the parking garage. He pointed out many things including; a tree that was suffering from heat stress, characteristics of ALL the trees we saw. After he was through he gave us a bag of pens. We walked back to the office and everyone cleaned the shared areas.
At 9 Tessa and Allison met the youth at passenger pickup. We brought binoculars and clipboards. The youth were assigned a specific pair and "checked" them out with a sheet we made to track them. We met Roger and Barbara from Mass Audubon at 9:15 in the meadow. They started with a few icebreakers, which really energized the youth. The first lesson was how to focus and use binoculars. Then we split into two predetermined groups. Barbara and Roger led the two groups and they did a bit of bird watching. Surprisingly, the youth were not bored at all with this activity and enjoyed it very much. Then we transitioned into another activity which included how to identify foreign objects, and how to narrow your search when identifying plants. Then the youth took those skills and did a scavenger hunt with Roger and Barbara. On the scavenger hunt they identified compound leaves, invasive species, wildflowers, and various grasses. The two hours with Roger and Barbara flew by and they had plenty of material and activities which kept the youth focused. Solomon came at 10:50 to have Allison sign time sheets which were already filled out from Thursday.
At 11:00 we walked to the T-station to go to Harvard. We arrived at Harvard at approximately 11:30, where we met Stephen GIllies. We then walked through Harvard yard, where Stephen paused to talk about 19th century Harvard Yard. We ate lunch near the fountain on the large slabs of rock. During lunch Stephen brought some zucchini he grew and talked about the importance of sustainable agriculture and GMO's. It was a great lunch discussion. After lunch we walked to HMNH. We split into three predetermined group led by Allison, Stephen and Tessa. The groups walked around the different exhibits and seemed to appreciate everything. We took extra care to make certain exhibits relevant to the Alewife Reservation. For example, we noted certain animals, plants and birds (some of which had been seen in the morning). At 2:15 we all met up and split into predetermined pairs to complete a worksheet on Climate Change. The exhibit was quite informative and the worksheet reinforced things we were talking about these past few weeks. The youth were dismissed at 3:00. The youth are prepared for Monday and the following week.
Talk to you soon
Monday July 26th
Arlene came to the office in the morning. She gave about an hour long presentation on Water Quality and Macroinvertebrates. She spoke on pollution tolerant and pollution intolerant organism, many of the facts were a review from Matthew Nash. Arlene had an assistant, Alex to help her today. After a very thorough presentation we all walked to the Reservation. Allison and Tessa had all of the Macroinvertebrate equipment packed and ready to go. We did not bring the microscopes. When we got to the picnic tables Arlene had the youth do the exercises with the specimens. Having the actual specimens there seemed to be much more effective in engaging them compared to having them study sheets of paper. They really enjoyed this activity. Ernesto and Desi did exceptionally well at identifying the organisms without the guide, their drawings were great too. We then split into three predetermined teams; one team led by Allison and Tessa, Arlene another one, and Alex the other. We decided to sample the same locations we sampled last Friday with Matt Wilson (the canoe launch, bike path, and Yates Pond), this way the kids could attempt to make some assessments. Arlene brought a set of waiters and Todd eagerly volunteered to suit up. Tessa and Allison brought their working team to the boat launch to collect specimens in trays. All the participants seemed eager to get wade into the water (with their boots on) and use the skimmers to collect critters. Gentry did a great job and found quite a bit and wasn't afraid to get his hands muddy. It was rewarding to see Trey and Ruth be able to identify some of the speicies without their identification pages. After nearly an hour of sampling, the three teams returned to the picnic tables to compare their samples. One team found mollusk shells and large snails. Surprisingly, there was a diverse finding of specimens. After the lesson everything was packed and we headed to the office. Tessa and Allison asked the youth to summarize their findings and compare today's lesson with Matt Wilson's. Also, we are hoping to utilize last year's data to make a visual representation.
Today Pepper Greene came early in the morning. She dropped the supplies off Monday afternoon and Allison and Tessa set the conference room up a head of time. Pepper brought the Silver Maple bark rubbings the youth did earlier in the summer. Each person was given 2 3 x 3 slabs of synthetic linoleum. The rubbings were placed face down on the tiles and rubbed with a rubber tool. An imprint was made and then carved. After the linoleum was carved everyone was given a nice chunk of clay. The clay was then pounded and molded over the carved tile to make a vivid indentation, later it was glazed. Shakib was very happy doing this art project, he was very focused in his work. The clay was then collected by Pepper, who has committed to bringing back the tiles to the kids. Tariq and Todd volunteered to help Pepper clean (and vacuum) while Allison and Tessa took the rest of the group to Danehy Park. It was decided in the morning that being in the office all day long was too monotonous. We decided to have lunch at the park. During and after lunch we did an activity where the youth were each given an animal or plant from the Reservation that was a secret to them but not the group. The participant then had to use deductive clues to uncover what animal they had been assigned. It was impressive to see how much knowledge everyone had retained. Ruth was given a tricky animal with tick, but she eventually got it. After the educational immersion in Water Treatment, we all went on a tour of the facilities. We were priveleged to get a behind the scenes tour of the entire site. Complete with countless amounts of piping, windmills, and a control panel. Tessa and Allison told the youth that they weren't expected to retain everything they learned, but Brian McClane from DPW came from 1:30-2:45. He with him a video on Storm water and city planning. It was very informative. At the end of the video the youth were ready with their prepared questions. Katelyn asked “What can people do to reduce the amount of storm water pollution they contribute?” After the discussion Brian brought out a large display model of a sample city. The model allowed for exploration of water and the effects of pollution in water systems, the water cycle, and local ecosystems. This activity was great in putting a visual to all they have been learning. Tariq asked about the storm water project planned for Alewife, but Brian said he was not at liberty to speak on it, but someone from DPW would be back to speak on it.
Today Tessa and Allison met the youth at Government Center at 8:30 am. We met early because we had to be at Deer Island by 9:30. We arrived a Deer Island after 2 trains and a bus ride. Nobody was deterred by the public transportation. Allison and Tessa tried to direct focus by giving an overview of Deer Island and how the visit should be seen as a sort of culmination of all of their water studies. We were greeted by Nadia Caines. Meg Tabacsko kicked of the visit with a very in depth and informative presentation. It is safe to say that the presentation was eye-opening and everyone was so fascinate with what was being told to them. The presentation followed human wastewater and it's journey.
Ernesto was interested to learn all of the things that can end up in wasterwater (including animals, money, and jewelery) ands how it is filtered with crates and bars. After the educational immersion of Water Treatment, we were taken on a tour of the entire facility. The large and uniquely designed structures were intriguing to the youth.
Lucy especially seemed to like the “digestion tanks” which were shaped like giant eggs. After touring the entire site for nearly two hours, we saw an endless amount of piping, windmills, tanks, and a control room. Allison and Tessa told the youth that they were not expected to retain everything they learned today, but they would be expected to share what they thought the most valuable parts. At the conclusion of the tour, we were taken to the top of the facility and were able to see where effluent was treated and released into the ocean. Shakib noted that while effluent is considered unsafe for drinking, but safe enough for release into the harbor, in many countries this water would be safe to drink. Such is the case in Bangladesh where he is originally from. While we were traveling backed to Cambridge we had a discussion of what we had seen. Group morale seemed to be really high today. When we got back to Cambridge Desi thanked me for allowing us to go there and said he was really impressed on how technologically advanced Deer Island was and how efficient it was.
We started the day by going over a water quality worksheet that I developed so the kids could familiarize themselves with some basics concepts that I expected they would be presented with in the water quality labs we have planned for them. Concepts included definitions of pH, biological oxygen demand, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, phosphate, and conductivity. I had the kids put the definition sheet in their folder for future reference when Arlene and Matt Wilson come. Allison and I then gave a brief overview of the Mystic River Watershed Youth Program. A few of the kids seemed very interested and we had no problem getting volunteers. After going over our agenda for the day, we organized the conference room, suited up, and made our way to the Reservation to meet Matt Nash. Matt is an educator for the DCR, who works with a wide age-range of kids, so he was well suited for our program. He had brought along a few worksheets on macroinvertebrates with detailed pictures so the campers would be able to identify the organisms they found in their samples. He explained how the types of macroinvertebrates are good indicators of how polluted a waterway might be. Although it was humid and a little rainy, the kids were initially excited to take a hike through the reservation they'd been hearing so much about. Matt led us an open bank in the Little River, where he instructed the kids how to take a proper water sample to test for macroinvertebrates. Each camper took turns taking samples and searching for macroinvertebrates. We were able to find macroinvertebrates that Matt categorized as “Pollution Tough-guys” (or pollution tolerant) and pollution neutral organisms. He also explained that our sample was very small and was not conclusive to whether the waterway was polluted or not. After that we continued on the North Trail towards Little Pond and the Silver Maple Forest. Since it was so damp outside there were a lot of mosquitoes and bugs buzzing around and the kids began to complain about getting bit. We applied bug spray and reminded them again how important proper clothing is when out on the reservation. We walked back at 11:45 for lunch and were met by Lynn, another ranger from DCR. She also talked to the kids about macroinvertebrates and had a game planned. Unfortunately the game was a little too elementary for the kids and I don't think they got much out of it. While we were waiting for Peter Alden after lunch, Allison and I sat the kids down in a circle to talk about behavior issues and being respectful/attentive when a consultant is present. Allison and I feel that a few of the boys (Trey, Xavier, and Simon) are becoming a bit too comfortable with us and not treating us with the amount of respect they should pay to their bosses. We made sure they knew that this would not be tolerated. After lunch Alton Cole came from Save-a-Tree to go with us on a nature walk through the Reservation and talk about the different trees. He was extremely patient, knowledgeable, down-to-earth, and comfortable talking to the kids and answering their questions. He is someone I would definitely recommend for next year's camp. By the time we were done it was already 3:30 pm, so we took a few helpers back to the office to help us sort the boots, vacuum and tidy up. The day was an overall success, aside from the behavioral issues we had to deal with. The kids are becoming acclimated to the schedule and generally have a positive, inquisitive attitude each day. That makes our jobs a whole lot easier.
Friday was one of the most productive, interactive, and fun days of camp yet. We started off by meeting at the passenger pick-up and walked to meet Barbara and Roger at the Reservation. They led a couple ice-breakers, which woke the kids up and seemed to make them a lot more attentive. This is something I'd like to start doing with every consultant. We passed out binoculars and split the kids into two groups, one with Barbara and one with Roger. The kids were briefed on how to properly use binoculars and went into the meadow to try to spot birds. They saw a woodpecker, red-winged black bird, and a couple different types of sparrows. I was pleasantly surprised to see how interested in birding the kids were. Everyone was engaged and really excited about spotting birds with their binoculars. Next we moved onto plants. In the same groups we went out on a plant scavenger hunt, trying to find plants that met the criteria on our worksheet. They were also very engaged in this activity. Barbara and Roger were excellent resources and interacted so well with the kids. The way that they structured their activities was very concise and kept the kids on their toes. I highly recommend them for next year's camp.
We arrived at Harvard around 11:45 and went with Stephen to go eat lunch in Harvard Yard. During lunch we had a discussion about sustainability, organic food, and GMOs. The kids were pretty responsive, asking questions and voicing their opinions. After that we headed to the Natural History Museum and split the kids into three groups with Allison, Stephen and I as the group leaders. We went to all of the exhibits, including the glass flowers, which the kids were absolutely fascinated by. When we got to the stuffed mammal and bird exhibition, I had the kids go on a scavenger hunt to try to find animals on the reservation. We found a red and grey fox, the red-tailed hawk, a vole, and a couple different types of reservation birds. Everyone convened at the climate change exhibit at a specified time and I passed out worksheets pertaining to the exhibit. The kids had to fill in information they found pertaining to the causes and consequences of climate change. After they were done with that, they did an interactive activity in the exhibit and answered questions in their journals about the things they can do to mitigate climate change. When everyone was done, we had a group discussion about what they learned. By the time 3:00 rolled around, the kids were exhausted and ready to go home. Allison and I made announcement about next week's schedule and reminded the kids of what they'd need to be prepared for.
Monday, July 19, 2010
We met Tim Factor and Stephen Gillis at passenger pickup at 9:00 am, so we could spot the birds in the early morning before the afternoon heat. Tim started the activity by passing out a bird identification checklist that can be used for E-Birder. He explained the several factors a birder should consider when identifying birds: field marks, behavior, habitat, time of year, location, and sound (bird chirp). He used these factors each time one of the campers spotted a bird. For example, one could narrow down the species of a bird if one saw it foraging on the ground. Among the many birds we spotted were mourning doves, downy woodpeckers, American robin, song sparrow, American Goldfich, House Sparrow, and a wild turkey. The kids were excited for the chance to use their Audubon field guides and were constantly referring to them anytime they spotted a bird with their binoculars. The kids were very interested in male courtship behavior and why certain species of male birds are often more colorful than the females. Tim explained that the males need to impress the more drab female birds and stand out during the competitive mating season. Desi Powell and Bill Leith were setting the example for the group and asking lots of questions. During a water break, Stephen showed the campers a robin's nest that he found near the Waltham community garden, something the kids were fascinated with. After lunch we ventured onto the North Trail to search for catbirds and black-capped chickadees. Tim brought a bird call simulation recording was meant to attract the birds to enticing sound. This was great because it gave the kids a chance to see a large amount of birds in small concentrated area. At 11:45 we went back to the picnic tables to meet Pepper Greene. Overall Tim's presentation was very informative and engaging. Although I did notice that the kids began to lose their focus once they'd been birding for more than an hour. All of the kids displayed the patience a birder needs, but I think their attention spans shortened after all that walking in the heat. Thus, Pepper Greene's presentation was a welcome treat for them. It seems like they really respond to interactive activities and getting the chance to produce something with their hands. Pepper brought plant/tree rubbing materials and frames. Katelyn Hasett, one of our more artistic campers, produced some beautiful rubbings of oak leaves. Everyone seemed very proud of their works of nature art and happy to take them home with them. After we were done we walked to the silver maple forest to take bark rubbings, from older and newer trees. The kids were interested to see the contrast between different textures.
We started off the day by splitting the kids into their WIKI groups and gave them each a prompt. They were asked to summarize and reflect on the what'd they learned the previous week and how they were feeling so far about their work on the reservation. Trey, Bill, and Katelyn interviewed one another about ecoliteracy and their personal environmental views and habits. Once all of their responses had been uploaded to the WIKI, each camper did an interactive Q&A to determine their ecological footprint. They were asked about their daily water consumption, dietary choices, modes of transportation, what they throw away, what they recycle, etc. Once they answered all of the questions the program calculated their carbon, land, water, tree and total ecological footprint. According to the results, it would take 4 earths on average to sustain their lifestyles. Desi had the lowest ecological footprint and Xavier had the highest. The kids really seemed to be shocked by the results that they received. We had a discussion afterwards about how their daily actions affect the world around them and talked about how we can all be more conscious of the resources we use. Don McCasland met us in the lobby after lunch and had set up kite making stations for all of the kids. Don is a great communicator and gave easy to follow instructions on how to build our kites. He then talked about the different useful applications of kites including how they are used to measure weather events and produce wind energy. We then went out to Daneghy Park to fly the kites. Christen Jensen and Xavier Cortes had a contest of who could fly their kite the highest. After twenty minutes of fun, we convened and prepped the kids for Friday. Allison gave the Mystic River watershed campers parent letters and all the information they would need to prepare for their outing.
We started the day by prepping the campers for Matt Wilson's water quality presentation. I wrote the following water quality terms on the white board: pH, Dissolved Oxygen, biological oxygen demand, turbidity, and conductivity. We had them watch the Urban Stream Restoration video and take notes on important concepts. When the video was over, I had each of them write in the definitions for the terms I'd written on the board. Matt Wilson at ten gave a presentation on the importance of the Mystic River Watershed and handed out the topographical maps of the Mystic. We then suited up and went out to the Reservation to take water samples of the body of water near the boat launch, the Little River, and Yates Pond. The campers were split up into predetermined pairs and given extended arm water collectors. At Yates Pond the water was stagnant and covered with a film of algae. Matt then explained the concept of eutrophication. Desi Powell asked whether this process was a result of human activity. Matt responded that yes it was because humans have tampered with the natural landscape by building roads, rerouting water, and discharging pollutants. Once they had collected their samples, each pair did tests for pH, nitrate levels, biological oxygen demand, temperature, conductivity, and salinity. The kids were excited to be real scientists and use chemicals, such as alkaline potassium iodide and manganese sulfate, in order to determine the dissolved oxygen in the water. They recorded all of their results on a blank data sheet given to them by Matt. We plan to post these results on the Wiki and compare them to last year's results.
Matt ate lunch with us and talked a little bit about his job and how he got into the water quality field. He interacted very well with the kids and they seemed to be really comfortable with him. After lunch we went back to the office to watch the documentary “Flow: For the Love of Water.” The film concentrates on the big business of privatization of water infrastructure which prioritizes profits over the availability of clean water for people and the environment. I developed a set of questions to facilitate Socratic discussion about the different issues brought up in the film. We had a constructive conversation and developed a list of actions we could all take to reduce our water consumption. When the movie was over Allison and I went over next week's schedule with the kids and reminded them to wear proper gear for Monday.
Arlene and her assistant Alex, met us at the office at 9:00 am to give a powerpoint presentation on macroinvertebrates. She went over the basics of what macroinvertebrates are and why they are used as water quality indicators. She then took it further by going over different species of macroinvertebrates. The campers took notes while she described the tolerance level, habitat, and function of each macroinvertebrate. We then trekked over to the picnic tables, where Arlene planned to do a macroinvertebrate identification scavenger hunt. Campers were split up into predetermined groups and were asked to work both individually and as a team. Allison and I passed out a worksheet with photos of the macroinvertebrates and their classification level: sensitive, semi-sensitive, semi-tolerant and tolerant to pollutants. She brought preserved macroinvertebrates, such as damsel flies, leeches, tube worms, and conch snails, for the campers to identify by describing their characteristics and drawing. Many of the campers used the notes they took in the office to help them identify the mystery macros. Once they'd drawn and identified three, Arlene went around and checked their answers. Nearly everyone correctly identified their macroinvertebrates! After everyone was done, Arlene prepped them for the sampling collection. We had all of the necessary tools, including wading overalls which Todd Jensen was very enthusiastic to wear. We split up further into three teams: Arlene's group went to Yeates Pond; Alex's group went to the boat launch, and Allison's and my group went to the point on the Little River near the bicycle path. The campers were very excited to be scientists, get into the water with their boots, and sift through their samples. Gentry was particularly successful in collecting a diverse array of macroinvertebrates. He managed to find a water scorpion, a couple mayfly larva, two gilled snails with egg sacks on their shells, and a caddisfly larva. Trey also caught a stick bug, which was exciting for us all to observe. All of the macroinvertebrates were placed in ice cube containers with water. Once all of the compartments were filled, we traveled back to picnic tables to identify and analyze our results. Once we'd identified all of the macroinvertebrates and their classification strata, we were able to complete a numerical health assessment of the water. We are planning to record all of our data on the Wiki next week.
Pepper got to the office early in the morning to set up for her clay impression activity. She brought along the wood rubbings from the week before for each camper to make two or three of their own tiles. The room was cramped, so Allison and I made necessary phone calls, emails, and office work while the campers were in the conference room with Pepper. We ended up getting a lot done during the period. We took turns checking in with the group, making sure that the door was shut and that they were quietly behaving. During this time I went to the garden to water and check on the plants. All of the plants, especially the tomatoes, are growing at a rapid rate. I am hopeful that they will bear fruit for our picnic! At noon when all fourteen campers were done with their three tiles, we broke for lunch and made our way to Danehy Park. We sat in a circle and played an reservation plant and animal identification game. The campers had to think of one of their favorite animals or plants from the Alewife Reservation and the others had to guess what it was. Many of the kids brought out their Audubon field guides in order to guess the characteristics of the plants and animals. When we returned to the office, Catherine Woodbury's associate from the DPW was there to meet us. He brought a 4x4 foot model representation of how a watershed works, along with a video about city stormwater systems. The model was a very creative and effective approach for teaching high schoolers about the complicated geographical, geological, and hydrological processes that feed into a watershed. The kids were already very well-versed in this area and were able to answer many of his questions about water quality. I would recommend having him or another DPW representative come to the camp again next year. We wrapped up with a culminating discussion of what they'd just learned. Afterwards Allison and I had the kids write down three questions they wanted to ask our tour guides at Deer Island. Allison passed out a letter detailing all of the directives for Friday's field trip. The letter was very pointed and concise, so none of the campers would have an excuse to be late or wear inappropriate clothing on that day.
Meg Tabasco, an educator for Deer Island, gave us a wonderfully informative presentation on the wastewater treatment process. She gave an overview of the history of the plant and how it's vastly improved in the last twenty years. Apparently they used to dump the effluent sludge into the Boston Harbor every morning! The kids were very grossed out. The new plant cost $3.2 billion dollars and took nine years to complete. Boston Harbor was once considered one of the dirtiest bodies of water in the country, but now it's one of the cleanest. We had the kids take notes in their journals, while Meg went through all the steps of the treatment process. First water is filtered through bar screens to stop large objects like bottles, bags, cans and diapers. Big rakes then comb these objects out. Wastewater then flows in the ‘grit chamber,' which serves to slow down the flow. Sand, dead fish, food chunks, coins, and jewelry sinks to the bottom of the tank and is then separated. All of these residuals are then sent to a landfill in New Hampshire. Next the primary setting tank separates the ‘sludge' and the ‘scum.' Scrapers clear the bottom tank of the sludge and skimmers scrap the surface of the scum (oil and grease). The sludge is then directed to one of the twelve egg-shaped digesters. The kids were very interested to know that the digesters metabolize the sludge just as humans digest food in our stomachs. The internal temperature of the digesters are kept at 98.6 degrees and must maintain the same pH levels as the human body does. The methane that is released from this process is captured and used as an energy source for the plant. The kids were asking our tour guide many questions about the renewable energy sources that power Deer Island. There are currently two wind turbines, solar panels, a hydroelectric facility and methane gas that account for 25% of the plant's energy needs. They were all especially excited about the spinning wind turbines and could relate to it after their day with Don MaCasland. The kids asked many insighful questions throughout the tour. Gentry was especially curious about how the scrapers are mechanized in the storage tanks and why Boston, Cambridge, and Chelsea still use CSOs (combined sewer overflows). We had two guides take us through the entire facility, including the underground tunnels where all of the pipes are, the system control room, the digester barracks, and the diffuser room. I really think this trip really resonated with the kids after all of the water quality work we've been doing. We circled up at lunch and had a discussion about the importance of Deer Island and our relationship to water. All of the kids said they really hadn't thought about where their water went when they turned on the sink or flushed the toilet. We talked about the importance of being conscious about our water consumption and keeping the water free of harmful chemicals. We took the subway back to pasenger pickup and debriefed the campers about next week's schedule. Allison and I also made sure the Mystic team knew to get to Chelsea by 9:00 am sharp on Monday.
Monday, August 2, 2010
We went to the garden in the morning to weed, water, and apply more mulch. The basil is in full bloom and the tomatoes are steadily climbing the wire cages. We talked about different dishes we could all make for the picnic, and the kids thought it would be a good idea to make basil pesto. After that we circled up and talked about interesting things we learned from our Deer Island trip. Gentry was in awe of the sheer capacity of the treatment plant and Andreas was interested to learn that the entire facility only needed to be staffed by 6 engineers. We connected the water quality issues we learned of at Deer Island to the smaller scale issues at Alewife Brook. I then lead a mini-lesson on renewable energy. I thought it important after they had seen all of the solar panels and wind turbines at Deer Island. I had the kids write down their own interpretations of what a renewable and nonrenewable resource was, and then had them read aloud to the group. I then tested their knowledge with a quiz on these resources. I was surprised to see how knowledgeable they were already! A few kids (Bill and Andreas) were even familiar with geothermal technology. I went over the definitions of each resource, it's applications, and current state of technology. It really got the kids curious about all of the different technologies and possibilities for a energy transition in the United States. Ingeborg met us at the office at 10 am and gave a very informative powerpoint presentation on green jobs. She talked about the green jobs bill, . After her presentation, she engaged the kids in a debate over whether they thought green jobs had the potential to stimulate the economy and help the environment at the same time. Most of them thought yes, although there were a few skeptics who brought up some interesting counterpoints. Soon after Jason Taylor arrived for his energy efficiency talk. He immediately was able to capture the kid's attention by presenting a few hypothetical questions about public opinion and climate change. His enthusiasm and approachability really resonated with a few of the kids who usually have a hard time paying attention. Jason gave them a list of simple ways they could reduce their energy consumption, such as unplugging appliances and changing their light bulbs from incandescents to CFLs. He gave them directions to go home and count the number of light bulbs that hadn't been converted to CFLs. He challenged the kids to make their parents a business proposition: the money their parents saved on their energy bills by converting to CFLs would be given to the kids. This gave the kids even more of an incentive to go home and count bulbs. More importantly it gets the kids and their parents to start a conversation about energy conservation and the environmental effects of that. The kids become the educators, which is what we are striving for in the end.
We met Russ Cohen at passenger pickup at 9:30 for our edible plants walk on the south trail. He immediately pointed out a large patch of blackberry bushes and the kids went to town. As we continued Russ pointed out a plant about every three feet. It was incredible to learn how many plants are actually edible! The list is quite extensive, including evening primrose, queen Anne's lace, chickaree, milkweed, black raspberries, riverside grapes, crab apples, autumn olives, June berries, elder berries, bayberries, Japanese knotweed, burdock, sumac, black cherries, wild lettuce, stinging nettles, pepper grass, and Jeruselum artichoke. Whenever Russ stopped to identify a plant he made sure to give a little history, highlight which parts of the plant are edible, how to prepare, and when to forage them. He is so knowledgeable and the kids were eager to pick his brain for information. Katelyn picked a few sumac flowers to make sumac tea for the picnic. Russ also gave us a big bag of hazelnuts. We broke for lunch and met Russ Geer at the picnic tables at 12:30 pm. He came prepared with tools, pressurized wood for the bridges and protective gear. After introductions we did a brief recap of tool safety and how to trail blaze. The kids grabbed loppers, sheers, and Pulaski's and we made our way to the North Trail. We broke up in two predetermined groups and started clearing. Russ, Lynne, and Hilary hung back and cleaned up the trail with the power tools they brought. All of the boys were extremely enthusiastic about using tools to clear the trail. I was surprised to see them so proactive and thoughtful about making the trail accessible for visitors. They were moving dead trees, clipping hanging branches, and clearing out the brush. Many of them agreed that it was the most fun they'd had at camp thus far. Once the trail was cleared, we carried the wood to the third bog bridge to construct a new bridge. Again the boys exceeded my expectations with their focus and enthusiasm. Tariq and Bill measured the planks, while Ernesto and Getry sawed. Simon and Andreas made a project of clearing out a dead tree that was blocking the trail. By four o'clock we were all tired and satisfied with the work we'd accomplished.
We had the kids and Stephen Gillis meet us at the Harvard T-station at 9:00 am sharp. We then took two buses to Waltham Community Farm. The farm itself is quite impressive. It sits on 11 acres, complete with a learning garden, greenhouse, and chicken coop. The outreach director, Jericho, welcomed us and talked to the kids about the mission of the farm. As a nonprofit, the farm harvests food for two hunger relief organizations, Food for Free and Salvation Army, and also functions as a CSA. She explained what a CSA is and why it's a successful, profit-generating model for farms. Afterwards we played a team-building game then went straight to work. We split up into two groups and weeded the cucumber and beet patches. Once we finished we tackled the strawberry patches, which were overgrown with weeds. In the end we filled an entire truck bed with weeds! The kids were quite proud of this achievement and their hard work. Although pulling weeds isn't as glamorous as harvesting fruits and vegetables, Jericho explained that weeding is far more critical to the farm's survival. When we were finished we went to Stephen's community garden plots. He let the kids taste his zucchinis, blackberries, sage, raspberries, and tomatoes. While we toured the gardens the kids asked lots of questions about organic gardening techniques and community gardening. I'm glad we were able to visit Stephen's plots because it put our little plot into larger context of organic agriculture and sustainable living.
In the morning all walked to the garden. We had a smaller group because some were attending the Mystic Project. Everyone walked around the plots and we surveyed what has been growing and what hasn't. Some tomatoes have turned red and the chard and basil have come in nicely. The peppers haven't grown yet though.Gentry seemed quite excited about the progress in the garden. He was afraid nothing would bloom because he doesn't have great luck with growing plants. At the garden we did a communication exercisers. The youth were placed into pairs with one person being the listener and one person being the talker, sitting back to back. The talker was then told to talk for two minutes and the listener had to focus only on what the other was saying. This listen proved quite challenging for some who were distracted and couldn't focus on the talker. Tess and Allison pointed out that we did this exercise because communication is a major role in careers. When we got back to the office we met Ingeborg Hegmenn. Ingeborg introduced herself to the the group and talked about how she has been a part of the Ecology Camp in previous summers. She brought a great powerpoint presentation that really defined the term ‘green jobs.' Somehow the conversation segued into a discussion on the economic affects of a green job economy. Lucy voiced that she didn't think the economy could successful transition into a green job economy. Gentry was quick to rebut that he thought the economy would be stronger with a green job economy since so much had to be done.
Jason Taylor came after lunch and brought great energy to the group with his presentation on Energy Efficiency. The group were so captivated by his presentation. Ernesto and Xavier seemed particularly enthused because Jason was talking not only about the benefits of being energy efficient to the planet, but also to your wallet. He was very personable and everyone walked away with something. The kids were sent home with forms in order to take inventory and exchange their light bulbs for CFL's.
In the morning we met Russ Cohen at Passenger pickup. Russ briefly introduced himself and wasted no time walking across the street to point out some blackberry bushes. The group found themselves in an area with several blackberry bushes that no one had ever notice. Russ mentioned that he had been foraging in the Reservation for many years.
Many of the kids were apprehensive about trying the berries. Desi in particular was quite disgusted with the thought of eating straight from nature. Tessa explained that eating in the wild is the most natural thing you can do, that grocery stores are man-made. Todd and Tariq jumped right in, and were eating countless blackberries. Russ continued to take us along the South Trail where he pointed out several edible plants that were either not in season or had to be cooked. When Russ paused by an elderberry tree, he described a process he used to make fruit leather. Everyone was delighted when he took out a bag of fruit leather for us to try. Everyone was amazed at how many edible species there were on the Reservation. Andreas noted a wild apple tree that we must have walked by a half dozen times and hadn't recognized. Todd could not stop eating; everything from wild cherries, blackberries, sorrel, and pepperweed.
After Lunch Russ Geer, Lyn Hildenbrand and Hilary from DCR met us at the picnic tables. Russ was very eager to get statrted and so were the kids. We walked into the trail and and met Russ and the others who had drove over to the opening just past the construction. Our first assignment was to make the entrance more distinguished. Everyone was working hard cutting branches, clearing grasses, and shearing bushes. The path looked noticeable better and it was a great group effort.
After the trail blazing we started construction of a bog bridge. The lumber was carried onto the trail by teams and clear instruction was given by Russ. Since it was an awkward working space Simon and Andreas decided that they would be productive by helping to remove the downed willow that is in the middle of the path and people have to crawl under to continue on. Tariq and Katelynn carefully measured the 10 foot pieces of lumbered that Bill and Gentry sawed. Using the tools was a great experience for a group who had been looking forward to hands-on work. While we didn't finish the bog bridge in time (Hopefully we will finish it next week), Simon, Andreas, and Desi make a great effort and cleared away most of the tree. This was a great day, which helped to reinforce the fact that there are jobs in which you can be outdoors, doing conservation work, and doing labor.
Today we met the youth and Stephen Gillies at the Harvard Square kiosk. Everyone was on time and we quickly walked to the bus platform where we took a bus to Waverly Sq. From Waverly Square we walked to Waltham Community Farm and Gardens. On the way we walked through Waverly Land Trust and Stephen noted that it was the first established land trust. Ernesto asked what a land trust is and Allison explained that it is a private, nonprofit organization that actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting in land or conservation easement acquisition, or by its stewardship of such land or easement. Simon asked if FAR was a land trust and I explained to him that FAR was a non-profit advocacy group that wanted to protect the Reservation, but not acquire land. We were greeted at the farm by Jericho Bicknell, the education and volunteer coordinator. She introduced us to the farm, and this mission which was to provide quality food to share holders, promote community service agriculture, and to provide produce to hunger relief organizations. We did take a brief tour of the farm, however we were not able to see many crops, since season is nearly over. But many of the kids were amazed at the sheer size of the farm. Simon was really interested in the perennial crops: strawberries and rasberrles. We soon got to work in a smaller garden of greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers. We weeded the garden. Many of the kids retained that weeding was important because weeds stole nutrients from the crops. Ernesto said he liked weeding because he felt he was giving something back to the plants, but was actually seeing results. After lunch Stephen took us over to the community garden side of the farm. He showed us his plots, and talked about some of the methods he had been using to produce such high yields. Katelynn was captivated at the size of the gourds he had been growing. Todd was eager to try some of Stephen's blackberries. Gentry said that raspberries were his favorite. Our next project was to remove the tall grasses and weeds from beds of strawberry plants. This was not easy work, and everyone did a great job. We removed enough weeds to fill an entire truckbed! Seeing how much we pulled was particularly rewarding for Shakib. By the end of the day everyone was pretty tired from the work we had done, but everyone left with an understanding of farming and how much work it is to confirm to organic practices.