Governor’s Students Lead Discussions During Great Marsh Symposium

Governor’s Students Lead Discussions During Great Marsh Symposium

Great Marsh Symposium
Woodman’s, Essex, MA
November 3, 2022

Twelve students in Jamie Brandt’s Honors Environmental Science class traveled to Woodman’s in Essex, Massachusetts, on Thursday morning to participate in the Great Marsh Symposium—not as bystanders but as leaders of discussions amongst working scientists, local leaders, and community members interested in the impact of climate change on North Shore communities.

Hosted by the Great Marsh Coalition, this year’s Symposium was titled “The Future of Roads Through the Great Marsh: Balancing Access with Natural Resource Protection.” In addition to the discussions led by students, the event featured presentations by experts about the impact of climate change on roadways and related infrastructure in the Great Marsh. The Symposium is one of a variety of events held throughout the year that brings policymakers, scientists, students, and the general public together to learn from each other in service to the Great Marsh.

Last summer, Plum Island resident and Climate Cafe leader Shari Melto asked Bass Institute Director and Science Teacher Erika Mitkus if she could gather a few students to lead a Climate Cafe discussion at the annual Symposium. 

“Learning about something like sea-level rise in school can seem very abstract, but participating in discussions with decision-makers and scientists who need to take action on these issues will hopefully be a very impactful experience for our students. Through this Cafe, we are telling the students explicitly that they have a voice in this discussion—and that we are all eager to hear what they have to say,” said Mitkus.

Melto came to Brandt's class the week of October 24 to train the students—juniors and seniors—and debrief them on their facilitation roles. The students were asked to facilitate discussions about what skills and careers are going to be important for their generation in the changing future amongst eight adults seated at a round table.

Brandt described the students’ role in the Symposium: “They led discussions learning about the opportunities and skills their generation might need to tackle issues in the future from the people doing the work today. It was a tremendous growth opportunity and a great outreach event for all involved.” 

Of the Symposium and Governor's students' involvement in it, Erika Mitkus said, "This kind of work exemplifies the kind of experiential learning we are focusing on in the Bass Institute. By taking the content outside the classroom and positioning the students as equal partners or even leaders in the conversation, we are asking them to be active participants in the solutions to these complex problems.” 

One of Brandt’s students reflected on the experience saying, “it was a great way to actually take action or learn how to take action rather than being a bystander.”

Opening in Spring 2023 and located on the banks of the Parker River and Great Marsh, the Bill ’67 and Peter ‘71 Alfond Coastal Research Center will include a wet lab fed by water drawn from the river, a workshop, classrooms, and accommodations for a scientist in residence. The Bass Institute will serve as the intellectual center of environmental teaching and research initiatives at the Academy, as well as a base for partnerships with research institutes and local agencies. Together, the Center and Institute will increase Governor’s focus on experiential and place-based learning, specifically in the Great Marsh ecosystem.