Mass Audubon Honors Conservation Teachers of the Year
Michael P. O'Connor
LINCOLN, MA—Rebecca Goodlett of Fitchburg’s South Street Elementary School and Erin Sarpard, formerly of New Covenant School in Arlington, have been named recipients of Mass Audubon’s Conservation Teacher of the Year Award for 2019, sponsored by the New England Farm and Garden Association.
The awards, which come with $1,000 gifts to be used to support the teachers’ programs, will be presented at the annual conference of the Massachusetts Environmental Education Society, to be held this year at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, March 4.
Goodlett, now a fourth-grade teacher at South Street Elementary, began bringing all her pupils on seasonal nature walks at a local Fitchburg park when she taught first grade. The walks have now become a school tradition and continue even after Rebecca moved to teaching fourth graders.
In the Fitchburg Public School’s afterschool program, Goodlett has led outdoor seminars on bird biology and habitats and initiated a “Girls on the Run” group to develop science confidence for young female students while they run and move in local outdoor spaces. Rebecca also has worked with a teacher-naturalist from Mass Audubon’s Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary in Princeton to bring outdoor science learning to students in grades 2-4 at Fitchburg Public Schools’ summer school.
Sarpard, who taught first- and second-graders at New Covenant until recently, established a field-trip partnership with Mass Audubon’s Habitat Education Center in nearby Belmont. Over multiple visits to the wildlife sanctuary’s Turtle Pond and other habitats, she introduced her students to animals and plants and their natural cycles, and the pupils have expanded on those discoveries in their writing and art lessons.
As important, if not more so, these primary-grade children have developed a culture of nurture and empathy under Sarpard’s tutelage.
Director of Education Kris Scopinich noted that nature-based education is a key element in the work of Mass Audubon, the state’s largest nature conservation nonprofit.
“Our mission is to connect people and nature,” Scopinich said. “The Conservation Teacher of the Year Award offers an important vehicle for advancing that mission, and teachers such as Rebecca and Erin have played crucial roles in helping children forge early bonds with the natural world that will guide them through their lives.”
Mass Audubon protects 36,500 acres of land throughout Massachusetts, saving birds and other wildlife, and making nature accessible to all. As Massachusetts’ largest nature conservation nonprofit, we welcome more than a half million visitors a year to our wildlife sanctuaries and 20 nature centers. From inspiring hilltop views to breathtaking coastal landscapes, serene woods, and working farms, we believe in protecting our state’s natural treasures for wildlife and for all people—a vision shared in 1896 by our founders, two extraordinary Boston women. Today, Mass Audubon is a nationally recognized environmental education leader, offering thousands of camp, school, and adult programs that get over 225,000 kids and adults outdoors every year. With more than 125,000 members and supporters, we advocate on Beacon Hill and beyond, and conduct conservation research to preserve the natural heritage of our beautiful state for today’s and future generations. We welcome you to explore a nearby sanctuary, find inspiration, and get involved. Learn how at massaudubon.org.