Summer 2007 Back to Home - Environmental Science Program
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About the Environmental Science Program

What We Do
How To Contact Us

The Environmental Science Program began as a Ford Foundation Project in 1967 headed by Dick Staley, a Newton science teacher, and continued for many years under the direction of Cole Stanton. For over 40 years, "Envi Sci" has been an alternative to traditional summer camps.

The program centers around the idea that students learn best about their surroundings when taught by other students in the specific environment. Leaders are trained to educate students while daily hiking or biking to many diverse sites in Newton and surrounding areas.

The highlights of the program include a 12-mile canoe trip on the Charles River, and expedition through the salt marshes of coastal Maine, hiking the Blue Hills and Mount Monadnock. The program ends with an exhilarating three-day backpacking trip up the highest peak in the Northeast, Mount Washington.

What We Do
The Envi Sci program combines fun outdoor activities with learning about the environment. Each year it builds on the "peer education" principle by having the student leaders design, develop, and deliver the materials that the students use. New students are encouraged to return and become leaders in subsequent years, continuing the thread of responsibility for care and teaching about the environment.

A typical activity would be a hike to an area of interest, often in Newton but sometimes elsewhere, such as the Arnold Arboretum. Other activities range from bicycle trips to night walks for learning about nocturnal wildlife. We go on a 12-mile canoe trip on the Charles River, and we take water samples to report on the water quality. The learning materials for each day may cover ecology, geology, botany, pollution issues, or other areas that the student leaders select.

Each year there is an environmental cleanup project in which participants get hands-on involvement with improving an environmental site:

For a period of seven years, the Envi Sci Program worked with Prof. Eric Olson of Brandeis University to eradicate the Japanese Knotweed population next to Hammond Pond, without using any herbicide. That effort was successful enough that in 2015, the program moved its invasive species removal day to the Auburndale Cove, where the group helped remove and measure invasive plants as part of Prof. Olson's research.

assisting Prof. Eric Olson with invasive species research

Envi Sci students assist Prof. Eric Olson with his research on invasive species at the Auburndale Cove.

In 2007, we helped the Newton Conservation Commission plant vegetation that cleans the water runoff from the Chestnut Hill Mall parking lot before it enters Hammond Pond.

In the summer of 2006, the program helped clean and prepare the growing areas of Newton's Angino Farm.

In 2005, the program cleaned the Auburndale Cove Area.

In 2004, members of the program worked many hours to remove water chestnut weeds, an invasive species, from the Charles River to improve the ecology of the river.

dumpster full of water Chestnut weeds

Shown in picture: Joey Backer, 2004 Envi Sci Student Director; Mike McLellan and Nate Kaufman, Student Leaders.

Other examples from recent years include Dolan Pond in Auburndale, and the Sawmill Brook land formerly owned by the Boston Edison Company.

The exact activities for the program this year will be available as soon as we have confirmed our dates for specific trips and workshops (see the calendar page).

Developing leaders "from the ranks" is the way the program maintains the high enthusiasm and sense of "ownership" of the program in its participants. Students train to be leaders, and in many cases go on to become the Student Director, and even the college-age Director in later years.

Student leaders have the responsibilities of choosing and developing the curriculum for the program during January through June before the program begins. Once the program is underway, the leaders are responsible for group activities.

All leaders are aware of the newly enacted requirements of both the City of Newton, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts regarding the operation of a camp program. The Environmental Science Program has been licensed for operation as a camp program by the City of Newton Health Department.

How to Contact Us
If you would like more information about the Environmental Science Program, please contact us:

By telephone:

call 617-447-9317 between 9:00am and 5:00 pm

By email:

By mail:

Environmental Science Program
c/o David Backer, Executive Director
P.O. Box 600292
Newton, MA 02460

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