Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


February 20, 2014

Environmental trailblazers

High-schoolers forge new paths with internship course

A pilot class at Andover High School is being celebrated for serving as a crash course in careers, so much so that the idea is expanding to other areas.

Last fall, the high school Science Department offered seniors the Environmental Sustainability Internship Course. Led by teacher Melanie Cutler, the class paired students with mentors in town government and the private sector to tackle projects with real-world implications.

“Each mentor gave the students a project to work on, something related to environmental sustainability,” Cutler said. “The students spent two days a week out in the field with their mentors, and the other three days, they were in the classroom.”

Student Matt Boulanger worked with the town’s Conservation Department on the eventual removal of the Balmoral Dam by Shawsheen Square. He also developed newly written policies for maintaining and protecting town waterways.

It was “work that really has meaning,” Boulanger said, adding that it didn’t fit within the walls of a traditional class rubric and carried more tangible, real-world impacts.

Jenny Hill also drew a conservation assignment and helped negotiate the eventual tear-down of an unusable, hazardous structure along the Merrimack River. She also put together land management policies for both that property and adjacent Phillips Academy boat house land that the town expects to purchase.

Town Conservation Director Bob Douglas, who worked with both Hill and Boulanger, said there were times that he had to remind himself they were high-schoolers he was putting to work.

“I very quickly forgot these were students and brought them on-board as trusted colleagues, and they always rose to the occasion,” he said.

Douglas said the tear-down of the Merrimack River structure is something the town had been trying to get done for some time. He watched as Hill “called up different contractors and negotiated its removal for free for the town.”

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