By Susan Wolf on April 20, 2013
Members of the Redding Land Trust gathered at Highstead on Sunday for their annual meeting, which included a special presentation and speaker Milan Bull, senior director of science and conservation at the Connecticut Audubon Society.
Mary Anne Guitar, Land Trust president, noted that in two years the trust would be 50 years old. The first donors were Gewndolyn and Rosamund Mikklesen, who gave the trust four acres on Wayside Lane. At Sunday’s meeting, Ms. Guitar announced that the Jean Adler Estate has donated “a small but strategic 3.106 acres” that are surrounded by 28 acres of Aquarion open space and 25 acres of state-owned watershed land.
Ms. Guitar also said a partnership with John Read Middle School has resulted in helping a team of fifth grade teachers lead students into the Saugatuck Falls Natural Area; and the trust contributed to the rebuilding of the bridge there that leads to this outdoor classroom.
Bonnie Spies, an middle school integrated language arts teacher, was recognized with the trust’s first-ever Redding Land Trust Leadership in Conservation Award. She suggested students create interpretative trail signs. The first was placed last year and this year a new class of fifth graders has a sign ready to go. The sign represents the work of students incorporated into the project by artist Martha LaMarche.
And Ms. Guitar noted that board member David Heald, a renowned photographer, will do a photo workshop later this year with Barlow students. The trust’s video documents the effort of Ms. Honey and her elementary school students using Lonetown Marsh as an outdoor lab, she said.
During his slide show presentation, titled “Where is the next generation of conservationists coming from?” Mr. Bull talked about the 2012 Connecticut State of the Birds Report by the Connecticut Audubon Society.
He observed that kids don’t go outside and play in the fields and meadows like they used to do, but rather are involved in social media and electronics.
Conservation depends on amateurs, including people like Mabel Osgood Wright, who founded the Connecticut Audubon Society, said Mr. Bull.
“The key to conservation is getting the public’s support through someone’s experience with nature,” he added.
Recent studies show that one in 10 kids are “pathological gamers,” Mr. Bull said. Among other statistics, he said more than 60% in a state Audubon Society survey agree that “over programming” of after school activities, electronic distractions and safety concerns are among the causes for children today not being outside as much.
Today schools are heavily focused on student scores on standardized examinations but environmental and conservation programs are not part of the science curriculum, said Mr. Bull. He said teachers make the difference.
He praised the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts for their continued interest in conservation, The Nature Conservancy’s programs for youth and the National Environmental Education Act of 1990 that provides money to bring in outside teachers to help with environmental education.
He also mentioned the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s No Child Left Inside program, which was started by then DEEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy, who is now assistant administrator for the federal EPA Office of Air and Radiation. She helped author the most recent State of the Birds report.
Mr. Bull said the Connecticut Audubon Society has established Conservation Centers in key communities around the sate, the most recent the Grassland Bird Conservation Center in Pomfret. It is also working to expand educational school and outreach programs and has hired a new education director to focus on schools.
On a legislative level, he said the society can encourage lawmakers to support the National Environmental Education Act and the No Child Left Inside Act.
A broad array of solutions is required, aid Mr. Bull, such as parents encouraging kids to go outside.
“There are enough ideas to make us cautiously optimistic that there are solutions,” he said.
Mrs. Bull said he is pleased the Redding Land Trust is working with the middle school. “I know of no Connecticut Land Trust that has taken the giant steps this land trust has taken,” he said.