From Landfill Learning to Wastewater Wisdom

Authentic Settings for Science Classes.
WMS science teachers plan an exciting series of off-campus learning opportunities for students in Biology, Climate and Energy, and AP Environmental Science each spring. They work to provide students with meaningful opportunities to learn in authentic locations. In the last two months of school, students enrolled in these courses visited Pine Hill Park in Littleton, Braetzfelder Pond, Meadowstone Farm, a wastewater treatment plant, a local landfill, and a specialty foods market.
“We visit a lot of different sites that are introduced in the texts in class,” said Bamboo Feng ’14, a member of the AP Environmental Science class. “Once you’ve been there you remember things much better than if you just read it in a textbook. I learned the process of wastewater treatment so much faster when I saw it in person at the plant. We gained a greater appreciation for the people who work with our wastes, too. It makes me think twice about what I throw away and the problems it will create for others.”
Amy Bannon ‘14 says, “being at these sites and hearing from the workers puts things into perspective—about how much we waste. When we went to the landfill, we saw grassy hills, and then that giant ditch of trash. A huge tractor was pushing tons of waste into a lined deposit, yet to be capped. We noticed that there were many recyclables in the landfill. Even though there is an organized zero-sort recycling program in our town, I now understand that we can be doing things much better.”
Tyler Randazzo ’15 felt most connected to his class visits to a local organic farm. The AP Environmental class visited Meadowstone Farm during some of their Saturday morning Project Blocks this year. “The school has a relationship with the farm, because former WMS teachers work there and some of the faculty children who attend the independent grade school there. When we visited Meadowstone we learned a lot about organic farming, but we also got to pitch in.” The class helped prepare garden beds for spring planting by removing rocks of all shapes and sizes. Then students moved the greenhouse over those beds. “We helped them do work that would have taken five hours in just one hour. I know they appreciated our help.”
Tyler added, “There are also lots of opportunities for students to learn about sustainability studies first-hand outside the school’s curriculum. I also participate in the Sustainability Club. This year, one of our club outings took us to hear a speaker in Franconia, New Hampshire on climate change in the North Country. One thing that really spoke to me was a prediction that there will likely be just one ski resort in New England in the year 2100, if climate change continues to progress at its current rate. I also attended the Bioneers by the Bay conference in Boston. It was really interesting. I got to go to one workshop that was led by an international school in Kashmir where they teach really interesting sustainability practices. I was also introduced to some neat start-up small businesses from around the world. I learned about the choices I have as a consumer.”
“The biggest take-away for me is about learning to become an informed consumer,” said Tyler. “I’ve learned to look into the places that our “things” come from, how they are made, and what they are made with. I am also more aware of the conditions of the workers in factories.”
For more information about the Sustainability Studies department, click here.

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