Last October, after reading a profile of biologist and author David Haskell in The New York Times, students from High Technology High School were inspired by his dedication to biology and writing. They sought out Dr. Haskell on Twitter, asking him about his career as a biologist and as a writer. He was immensely responsive and the chat led to a Skype session. Dr. Haskell inspired the students to look around campus and spend time observing the nature in their backyard. This year, students are reading Dr. Haskell’s book, The Forest Unseen, and observing their own mandalas. Projects they participated in include citizen science projects, eco-art, and science writing while learning about the habitats that make up the campus. Students and faculty have been observing daily nest activities of mourning doves in the school courtyard using an inexpensive, weatherproof, IR camera for the whole school community to observe.
The student leaders are organizing brainstorming sessions with students from their class on specific ideas for improving campus habitats, getting involved with eBird and other citizen science initiatives and suggestions for incorporating more field studies into existing curriculum and independent student research projects. The school’s goals for the remainder of this academic year involve seasonal maintenance and restoration of three student constructed rain gardens, a field session with Monmouth County master gardeners, improving habitat for Monarch butterflies on campus, a Skype session with Dr. David Haskell, and welcoming the incoming class of 2018 with strategies for how they might carry on the work started by this freshman class. Students are encouraged to share their experiences and to hopefully encourage them to act on some of the initiatives inspired by their outdoor studies and observations during the school’s monthly “FUn (Forest Unseen) days.”