Lauren R. Stevens: Many Berkshire schools stepping up for environment

WILLIAMSTOWN — Environmental education begins at home. Most Berkshire secondary schools follow up with classes, dealing with the subject directly or indirectly, and with environmental clubs. All should.

Here's a windshield survey of some clubs and related activities, usually run by students with a faculty advisor. Lenox has its Evergreen Club. Pittsfield has an Environmental Club. Miss Hall's has HEAT, Hall's Environmental Action Team. Rudolph Steiner School has a Green Classroom, taking classes and activities into its "big backyard." No doubt some of the clubs are more active than others.

Berkshire School has its Environmental Action Club and maintains the Elbow and other trails. Several schools, including Berkshire and Buxton, on mountains as far apart as possible in Berkshire County, celebrate a Mountain Day, excusing students from class to get into the outdoors, to celebrate their heritage.

The official Earth Day, April 22, fell at the end of public school vacations, so Mount Greylock's YES Club (Youth Environmental Squad) followed with Green Spirit Week, devoting days to specific environmental issues. On Friday, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's Carolyn "Candy" Dunn spoke about recycling in the state. Who knew, for example, that the commonwealth does indeed have recycling laws and that one of the greatest threats to recycling is contamination, especially plastic that clogs the machinery.

Dunn made these points later, as well, to a group of Williams College students.

Schools have clubs and students work with other environmental groups. For example, John Dewey students volunteer with the Greenagers. That group, based in Housatonic, provides paid and volunteer jobs for youth in environmental conservation, sustainable agriculture and natural resource management. Participants build and maintain numerous trails.

Miss Hall's HEAT sounds as though its name might be related to BEAT, Berkshire Environmental Action Team. Indeed, students from several county schools have toiled with Pittsfield-based BEAT, a "nonprofit whose mission is to work with you to protect the environment for wildlife in support of the natural systems that support us all." Its stress is on action.

Watershed associations, land trusts and other environmental groups benefit from school volunteers, as individuals, classes or clubs. Whether Earth Day or Arbor Day, town litter pickup days or even Mothers' Day, spring brings opportunities to march under the broad environmental banner. Schools should find ways.

Why? Every moment that, in whatever way, we alter our usual, callous glide over the surface of the globe is worth it, whether it involves meetings to discuss the latest local or national indignity, or picking up roadside soda cans and taking them to the redemption center. Or we could just say "Scott Pruitt" and be done with it. Anger helps.

Or we can simply say, with Emily Webb, "Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you."

At least, that's how it looks from the White Oaks.

A writer and environmentalist, Lauren R. Stevens is a regular Eagle contributor.


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