My column in today's Record
Monday Morning Mystery 0629

Winning essay on Celery Farm and teaching about nature


   Carol Flanagan, president emeritus  of Fyke Nature Association, was able to obtain the following essay about the Celery Farm written by Northern Highlands Senior Diana Wang, which helped her win the first annual Lillian and Stiles Thomas Scholarship.
   Thanks, Carol, and congratulations, Diana.

Diana Wang
A Walk in the Woods

     “Let me show you something,” Stiles Thomas, the marsh warden of the Celery Farm enthusiastically combed through a thick bush of purple flowers.
   “This is purple loosestrife. It’s pretty isn’t it?”
   I nodded, admiring the vibrant splash of color.
   “Well, it’s an invasive species.” He continued, explaining how they originally took root in the Celery Farm and how beetles needed to be released to control the population.
     What I had thought was the most attractive plant was the most harmful. Fascinating. An invasive species, I learned, was a non-indigenous species that negatively affected the invaded habitat. Then what does that make us humans, who are guilty of exploiting and taking over the land? I guess that makes us an invasive species too… 

    Click here to read more about the Lillian and Stiles Thomas scholarship.

   Click "Continue reading ... "  for the rest of Diana's essay.

     As I returned home, I was inspired at how much I could learn on an impromptu afternoon stroll. However, I was left with an unsettling realization that this small, but important lesson would not be taught at school and exposed to my peers, a generation that needed to be more active and passionate about protecting the environment.
     That afternoon, I realized a major shortcoming, but an opportunity to improve the human relationship with the environment: education.
   Too often in our school and community, I saw environmental activism as an interest of very few, reserved for “hippies and tree-huggers.”
   I believe that this is a result of a lack of exposure and immersion into the natural world. Children should, at a very young age, develop a close relationship with the environment, learn about local flora and fauna, and appreciate nature.
   Certain classes should promote stewardship, and prevent any apathy towards environmental issues. Right now, our high school is one of the few that doesn’t offer an advanced placement environmental science course.
     Everyone should be exposed to lessons like the one Mr. Thomas taught me one afternoon in the Celery Farm. That is why I have made it a career goal of mine to spread environmental awareness to our children.
    My academic interests in environmental sciences, biology, and psychology will allow me to pursue a teaching career that instills a responsibility towards the environment in future generations.
     I do not address possibilities of alternative energy, suggest policy changes to protect endangered animals, or raise possible government actions to reward energy-efficient habits.
   However, I believe that a shift in our education system to accommodate environmental awareness is a necessary change, a small step that could have major and lasting changes in the way we treat nature for years to come.