A Walk in the Woods: Night School

On an early spring evening, 20 Groton parents, a couple of faculty spouses, and a faculty child followed Environmental Science teacher David Black ’80, P’12 into the woods bordering the east of Groton School’s land. Over the course of a two-hour class, they peered into vernal pools, felt the spongy ground indicating the presence of muskrat tunnels, and learned about the insidious impact of invasive plants and the overpopulation of beavers.
To help restore this land, David began the Conservation Corps as a Faculty Sponsored Activity (FSA) for Groton students. David and five students are working to strategically remove invasive plant species from the 83 acres of woods along the School’s eastern border—an ambitious goal.

The Night School walk began in front of the Campbell Performing Arts Center and crossed Farmers Row toward Lake Romyen. Along the way, David shared the history of the land and its use. Before Farmers Row became a major thoroughfare, the land surrounding Lake Romyen was integral to student recreation, providing an ice hockey rink, a sledding hill, and a nine-hole golf course. Increased traffic along Farmers Row redirected the School’s attention toward the Nashua River and the Triangle.

The area has become a land bridge between the 1,000 acres that make up the Nashua Greenway and the 200 acres of Mass Audubon’s conservation land. David explained that black bears move through the area on seasonal routes, that a species of water shrew not seen before east of the Quabbin Reservoir was recently identified, and that even a herd of moose had been spotted.

The Conservation Corps is engaged in a number of studies, from studying the effect on herbicides on the ground water and identifying transient species to the backbreaking work of invasive plant extraction and the creation of mulch mounds for turtle breeding grounds. With David’s guidance, students are adding to the body of scientific knowledge about the changing ecosystem around Groton.

Parents appreciated the opportunity to see the work of the students up close, to ask questions about conservation and land management, and to learn how David uses the data gathered to inform his classroom teaching. All of the participants look forward to their next walk in the woods.

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