The Ecological Teaching and Learning Program Summer Residency in Boston explores the urban ecosystem.
During the second residency of the Ecological Teaching and Learning M.S. Program, students spend three weeks investigating the ecological interactions in the urban ecosystem of Boston and learned how to integrate the concepts of environmental justice and civic democracy into their teaching practice.
During this past year’s July residency, students explored the diverse Boston neighborhoods by designing guided walks, exploring specific areas through an urban planning lens, and creating planetlines. As part of our exploration of urban food production, we visited Green City Growers and the urban farms that are part of The Food Project. Students spent a day on Grape Island (above) in Boston Harbor, engaging in citizen science and participating in a landscape design workshop at the Olmsted National Historic site (below). Urban forester Julie Coop taught us about the importance of the urban canopy Jenna Ide, deputy director of Massachusetts Accelerated Energy Program helped us understand how energy and water are being conserved through government efforts. Every summer, we explore issues of environmental justice by visiting the people and places directly involved in working towards creating ‘just sustainability.’ Sheila Blair '14 described these experiences best when she wrote, “The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) and Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE), which includes the Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Program (REEP), are organizations in the Roxbury/North Dorchester neighborhoods of Boston that epitomize using a socioecological systems approach to achieve a sustainable future. Both organizations are employing a social, economic, environmental, and cultural strategy to re-vision, re-imagine, and reestablish one of the most culturally diverse, poorest, neglected, and devastated neighborhoods in Boston… These organizations are inspirational and heroic in their sustainable efforts and strategies, and helped restore my faith in humanity.” Every summer, our journey through the urban landscape takes us on a trip to the Quabbin Reservoir in western Massachusetts as we study the delivery of water to Boston’s population. This past summer, we also visited the industrial plant that transforms the resulting sludge into compost. We also spend a day on Cape Cod with Annawon Weeden (left), a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag, and learn about the history of the people who are indigenous to the place we now call Boston.
After the residency, students are asked to integrate their experiences and create a final synthesis that describes their understanding of the urban ecosystem. Some samples of what they wrote:This experience gave me hope that people are viewing cities and their supporting bioregions through a systems thinking lens and that sustainability may actually be an achievable goal. My spirit was renewed not only by viewing advancements in technology, strong conservation efforts, and educational outreach networks, but also by the extraordinary strength of collaboration, grassroots activism, and community empowerment that I witnessed. Kathleen Regan ‘15Spurred on by our urban ecology discussions of patterns, metabolism, and Planet Lines, this summer I started to consider my relationship to the urban ecosystem beyond my status as mere inhabitant. Taking the city as nature concept further, I started to think about the city—the ultimate expression of an urban ecosystem—as an organism built of complex living systems, not unlike the human body…What I came to understand is that there is no natural world of the city because the city is the natural world. There is no separation between city and nature; they are one. B. Ralston ETL ‘14During my time in Boston I experienced a profound shift in how I experience nature in the city. This experiential shift is grounded in a new conceptual understanding of cities as ecosystems. B. Miller ETL ‘14My time in Boston was rich and meaningful and the experiences I had will stay with me and help me to continue to build myself as a being of Earth, as an educator, a parent, friend, and active community member. Ulu Ching ‘15 Guided Walk, Back Bay, Boston
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See related article on the rural residency, which takes place in Maine on Cobscook Bay. Pictured: Hamilton Cove.
Coleen O'Connell, Program Director207.699.8275 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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