Monday, April 1, 2019

The next generation

By Beth Sullivan
Once again we are excited to have the Goodwin Niering Center for the Environment (GNCE) teaming up with Avalonia. We had our introductory meeting in early February. The students were well prepared as they have the new and improved website for reference. Archives, news stories, preserve descriptions, and management plans are all easily found online now. The first students, in 2013, didn’t have that resource. This group also has the benefit of upper class students who have done projects with Avalonia in previous years, to guide and answer questions. That is a huge help to me as their mentor and connection to Avalonia.
This year the second semester sophomore students are already deeply entrenched in their chosen projects. Despite the fact that everyone wishes for opportunities to get out onto preserves and do stewardship work, this time of year is so impossible. You can’t do plant or wildlife surveys in mid-winter. You can’t do much with invasive removal or native plantings. It’s even hard to plan a good work party as we have had snow on the ground every March for the last couple of years. This year the teams are dedicated to outreach and education.
The map of the Tri-town Ridgeline Forest Preserve is complex, but the students will break it into easy family hikes. 

At the Tri-Town Ridgeline Forest, there are a number of fun artifacts and formations to seek out.

Student teams - hard at work

One team is working with our Communications Committee to enhance our Instagram presence. They are seeking photos and doing postings for us. I have also requested that they write a blog piece that explains some of the finer points of Instagram posting, for those of us who are still not sure when to use # or @.
Another duo has chosen a project that may not seem exciting, buty is also very important: it’s about scanning documents. These documents are old newspaper articles about Avalonia from as far back as 1968. They have been kept in folders, the way old news clippings always were, but no one ever sees them. This team is taking the time to scan these articles of our history and have them as digital files, labeled and sorted, so we can have them on line for all to enjoy. It will also ensure that they are saved and not in danger from some kind of natural disaster, flood, or fire. Their work will really save us a lot of time and money. I hope they are enjoying reading through some of them, and I look forward to their final report to hear if they found anything really interesting.
One team of four students is getting out onto the new Tri-Town Ridgeline Forest Preserve. While miles of trails have already been laid out, these students are looking at easy-to-moderate trail loops that can be incorporated into the Hike and Seek program. They are out with cameras looking for targets that can be found even at this time of year. There are plenty of stone structures, water features and amazing old trees up there. The trail map is already posted on line.
This group was also planning to set up a table at the Stonington Farmer’s Market on March 30th and again on April 6. They will be available to answer questions, talk about Hike and Seek, and invite folks to become members. Stop in and meet them.
The last team is also working on enhancing our on-line resources, particularly the Hike and Seek wildlife links. If you haven’t explored Hike and Seek, please do so. We are trying to engage children and families to get out on Avalonia preserves with an educational focus. By giving them targets to search for on our website, they can use their smart phones and look for special goals and take photos. We have linked certain targets to external links to allow deeper investigation and understanding. This student team is creating cards that highlight the wildlife of all kinds, to be found on local preserves. It will not be all-inclusive, so don’t expect full bird check lists, but an overview of things that may be living near or found along a hiking trail in various habitats. I am looking forward to this one.
The bird list will not be a full checklist, but a way for kids to identify more common birds, like this red-winged blackbird.

With wildlife identification cards a youngster may recognize a red fox during a hike. Photograph by Rick Newton.

For several years, a favorite project has been a table set up at the Stonington Farmer's Market.

Maybe we can all learn more about posting our Avalonia photos on Instagram from one of the teams. 

As diverse as can be

These students are amazing, so diverse in their backgrounds and in their major fields of interest. All have chosen, and been chosen, to be part of this GNCE special program. Their majors include Neuroscience, Economics, Botany, Math, and Government, as well as Environmental Science. Their far-reaching visions are great and their opportunities for study so outstandingly different than when I was in college. This is our seventh year of collaboration. With this generation coming along to take charge, I have hope that the Earth will be in good hands.
The may be some riddles to seek and solve- like what made these scratches on the signs we posted.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan, unless otherwise indicated.


  1. It's nice to know that there's still people out there encouraging kids to form a connection to nature.Nice photos of the blackbird and fox!

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