Working with the Schools

In 2010, we worked as a community partner to the Kennedy Longfellow School in East Cambridge, helping to develop and implement an exciting new middle school science curriculum on biodiversity. The learning catalyzed by the real world and experiential components of this curriculum was significant, and many students commented about how hard they worked and how this project really expanded their experience of the world and life around them. Here are two highlights.

Removing 749 Pounds of Invasives is Just a Morning's Work for These 7th Graders!!

On May 13, 2010, Kennedy-Longfellow's fifty-five seventh graders arrived at Fresh Pond Reservation prepared for a half-day of community service. Grow Native Massachusetts organized the service day, in collaboration with the Maynard Ecology Center and the staff of the Cambridge Water Department.

In only a few hours, the students pulled about 500 lbs. of Garlic Mustard, working in teams of five students, each with an adult volunteer experienced in invasive plant removal. The students were careful to pull the plant with its roots to minimize regrowth, and the plants were bagged for disposal so that any seeds in development would not be spread. When these students ran out of Garlic Mustard to pull, they quickly identified the invasive Japanese Knotweed, and asked if they could remove that as well. Given the go-ahead, many more bags were filled until the day's total topped out at 749 pounds. A big thanks goes to the staff at Fresh Pond Reservation for picking up all 43 bags of invasive plants removed that day (bags weighed up to 29 pounds each), and disposing of them properly.

A New Native Plant Garden at the School is Expected to Increase Biodiversity

After noting the lack of biodiversity in their schoolyard as part of their studies, these same 7th graders decided to create a new native plant garden on the site. Student research teams selected species that would support life for birds, butterflies, and wildlife, and each team built a model of its proposed garden design. Planted in early June, the new garden included three tree species: Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), Eastern Hop Hornbeam (Ostraya virginiana), and Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis). Numerous native shrubs, understory ferns, and wildflowers were planted as well.

Grow Native Massachusetts prepared suggested native plant lists for the students to research, assisted in field teaching at Alewife Reservation, worked with students in the classroom, and helped to plant the garden. Kudos go to the students for their commitment of tremendous time and energy beyond the class day— and to their science teacher, Lisa Cody, and to CPS Science Coach Marianne Dunne, for the hard work to develop this curriculum and bring it to very successful completion.

Additional community partners included Wheelock College, East End House, and CitySprouts. This project is one of eleven in the state that was competitively selected as part of the program, “Green in the Middle: Enhancing STEM Instruction at the Middle School Level,” with federal funding administered by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.