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 is the largest nature-based conservation organization in New England. Founded in 1896 by two women who fought for the protection of birds, Mass Audubon carries on their legacy by focusing on the greatest challenges facing the environment today: the loss of biodiversity, inequitable access to nature, and climate change. With the help of our 140,000 members and supporters, we protect wildlife, conserve and restore resilient land, advocate for impactful environmental policies, offer nationally recognized education programs for adults and children, and provide endless opportunities to experience the outdoors at our wildlife sanctuaries. Explore, find inspiration, and take action at www.massaudubon.org.