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.