The Next Generation Protecting our Environment

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Martha’s Vineyard ‘Day of Dialogue’ gives climate the microphone.

The Day of Dialogue hosted by the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School this year coincided with Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary’s fifth annual daylong Climate Summit — hundreds of students from both MVRHS and the charter school participated. 

Kids gathered in the Performing Arts Center early in the morning to hear from keynote speaker Marcia Macedo, of the Woodwell Climate Research Center, and her work on the function of natural ecosystems in the Amazon Rainforest of Brazil.  

Huck Moore, a junior in the MVRHS Protect Your Environment Club, took the PAC stage to encourage fellow students to take full advantage of all the workshops being offered. “I know some of you, maybe most of you, did not want to come here today — but I’m glad you are here because this event is an extraordinarily remarkable one that has been in planning for months now,” Moore said. 

Students at MVRHS prepare to edge new pollinator gardens as part of a workshop led by the school horticulture program.
Students at MVRHS prepare to edge new pollinator gardens as part of a workshop led by the school horticulture program.

Moore described the Protect Your Environment Club at MVRHS as seeking to promote a more sustainable way of life through advocacy and outreach. Part of fulfilling this mission is engaging the schoolwide community in thoughtful discussion and activities that will spark interest and concern for the climate and the environment. “Although climate change poses a big threat to humanity, I find this to be one of the most interesting times to live in because there are so many ways for us to get involved,” Huck said. “Whether you have a passion for art, nature, science, or policy, you all have a place when it comes to the environment.” 

Del Araujo, a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) provided a land acknowledgement that prefaced the day by grounding students in the fact that native people are the original stewards of the Island, and they continue to nurture and protect the land. “We have carried forward our customs, our language, and the connection to the natural world, passing them down through the generations,” Araujo said. 

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After the presentations in the PAC wrapped up, students walked around checking out the displays. Some gathered outside near the entrance to the cafeteria to turn an unused area of grass into a pollinator garden. “The students are cutting out garden beds, they are edging and taking out the compacted grasses, then we are throwing the grass in our compost pile,” Kyle Crossland, MVRHS horticulture teacher, explained. “We will bring in fresh loam and some annuals and perennials that we grew in the horticulture greenhouse.” Crossland explained that this pollinator garden will contain different colored flowers with different blooming seasons, so that a variety of insects, at different stages of their life cycle, are attracted to the flowers. “We are going to plant some tomatoes — fermenting fruit attracts certain kinds of butterflies — along with some herbaceous plants and some honeysuckle to attract hummingbirds. It’s hard work, but these kids are really dedicated,” Crossland said.

Liz Durkee, MVC climate change coordinator, speaks about various electrification initiatives on the Vineyard.
Liz Durkee, MVC climate change coordinator, speaks about various electrification initiatives on the Vineyard.

Over at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, groups of students rotated around the campus to learn about everything from electric ferries and Vineyard Wind, to methods for making “Eco-bricks” out of plastic waste. Members of Ferries Now answered questions, and Martha’s Vineyard Commission climate coordinator Liz Durkee shared the group’s ambitious environmental initiatives. There were also tables with information on Mass Audubon, the MV Shellfish Group, and Imagine Corps.

Nia Keith led a student workshop in a shady area at the rear of the grounds. “This workshop is centered around inclusive activism, and how to leverage your power and privilege for social justice,” Keith said. Keith had students fill out a diagram that she called Margins to Center, where the intersectional identities like race, age, gender, language, and more are analyzed to see if they hold power or experience oppression. “Which identities sit in the circle of power and privilege? We want to be able to encourage those with power to find ways to spread that power equitably and help those that experience oppression to be a part of climate justice,” Keith said. 

Over at the eco brick workshop, Emily Gazzaniga, who is interning at Vineyard Conservation Society for the summer, said eco bricks are a way to repurpose plastic waste that would otherwise end up in the biosphere or the atmosphere. “You take a plastic water bottle and you compact it with soft, dry plastic waste. Instead of that plastic ending up in an incinerator or a landfill or the ocean, it gets condensed into these bottles that can be used for building projects,” Gazzaniga said. Felix Neck and the building trades department of MVRHS hope to use the finished bricks to build a bench or planter. 

Sydney Pigott, education coordinator at Felix Neck, speaks to students about efforts to preserve Island salt marshes.
Sydney Pigott, education coordinator at Felix Neck, speaks to students about efforts to preserve Island salt marshes.

Over on the shimmering flats of Sengekontacket Pond, students gathered around Felix Neck education coordinator and camp director, Sydney Pigott, as she discussed salt marsh conservation. “We go down to our salt marsh monitoring station — it’s our elevation tables where the MVC comes out twice a year to monitor sediment elevation,” Pigott explained. “We are also diving a little into environmental education as a career path because I wish someone had exposed me to this when I was younger.” Pigott said she was blown away by how environmentally aware and climate-minded students on the Island are. “It’s important to give kids an opportunity to develop a strong connection with nature. They are going to turn into lifelong stewards of the environment,” Pigott said.

Before the event closed, MVRHS junior Nicholas Carpenter and senior Jack Walsh of the Protect Your Environment Club stood by the entrance and guided students to the various booths. Carpenter said he hopes to set an example for fellow students and encourage them to work on enacting meaningful change in their community. “A lot of people aren’t aware of the impact they can have, and that’s a really dangerous mindset because, as students, we really can make a difference,” Carpenter said.

Walsh said climate change has typically been seen as something that older people are more invested in, but now young people are getting involved and active. “We are so lucky that all these people came out here with tables and presentations to teach us how to live sustainably, how to consider these issues, and how to eventually approach solutions,” Walsh said.

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Lucas Thors
Lucas Thors
Lucas Thors is an associate editor for Bluedot Living and program director for the Bluedot Institute. He lives on Martha's Vineyard with his English springer spaniel, Arlo, and enjoys writing about environmental initiatives in his community.
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