Local teacher Heather Maes participated in the Park for Every Classroom (PEC) program offered by Essex Heritage and the National Park Service - she implemented a project with her students at Appleton Farms as a part of the PEC graduate credit course, taught by Essex Heritage staff & offered in partnership with Salem State University. This is her story ...
"Out of all the classes I’ve taken at Salem State University, the Park for Every Classroom course has been the most rewarding. The course focuses on place-based service education (PBSL). 'Place-based' refers to local land and history; 'service' refers to community engagement. The goal is to create a project that benefits both the students and their community, all the while exploring local culture. In August, participants explored this concept in a one-week institute, where topics from sustainability to local history to youth-based, student-driven projects were discussed. The course was jam-packed with activities; everyday, we were kept busy from morning to late afternoon. A highlight for me was the trip to Baker’s Island in Salem. We spent a whole day exploring the environment.
Currently, I am in the middle of a place-based project with Appleton Farms. Thus far, we had a self-guided nature walk, a tour of the cow barn and a sorting activity with winter vegetables. I am hoping to have one more field trip by the end of the year. Our end goal for our class is to create an herb garden, using the sustainable farming techniques learned from Appleton Farms. What is great about this project – and about Appleton Farms – is that nature is the best teacher. Our trips to the farm were accessible to all of our learners, because each student was able to enjoy a different aspect of the farm. Some students enjoyed the natural landscape, while others liked the animals and vegetables. They got something substantial out of these trips, and they will be applying the knowledge from these trips in their final project.
I am glad to be participating in this course and would recommend it to anyone interested in service learning. After all, in order to be a better global citizen, you need to a local citizen first!"