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Harris Center honors area teacher, Antioch

Antioch University New England was given the Laurie Bryan Partnership Award and Stoddard teacher Laura White was named 2013 Teacher of the Year at the Harris Center for Conservation Education’s 43rd annual meeting on Oct. 20.

The Laurie Bryan Partnership Award recognizes past Executive Director Laurie Bryan’s commitment to form partnerships with organizations, groups, and individuals to further the Harris Center’s mission. The relationship between the Harris Center and AUNE began in 1974. Antioch’s president, Dr. Stephen Jones, received the award and described the organizations’ parallel missions, the value of developing a “sense of place” and the importance of promoting ecological literacy.

White, a fourth and fifth grade teacher at James Faulkner Elementary School in Stoddard received the teaching award, given annually to educators who demonstrate exemplary collaboration with Harris Center naturalists.

Last year, White worked with Harris Center naturalist Dori Drachman to teach New Hampshire history by investigating the land behind the James Faulkner Elementary School. Students studied the cellar hole in their woods, read clues in stone walls to determine if the land was once pastured or farmed for crops, measured tree diameter to estimate the age of the forest, used historical maps to match modern places with older Stoddard landmarks, and examined the town’s 19th century agricultural census reports. They then came up with their own hypotheses about historical land use, and documented their work in a large display that was exhibited at the Stoddard Historical Society last summer. “Laura develops multi-faceted studies that really engage her students. The result is kids who have a stronger relationship with the local landscape,” says Drachman.

Executive director Jeremy Wilson presented some Harris Center highlights from the year. The land program completed 9 protects, protecting an additional 665 acres in Peterborough, Nelson, and Stoddard. The bulk of new acreage was added to the Bailey Brook Conservation Cluster in Nelson and Stoddard which now includes more than 1,700 contiguous acres. The largest addition was a 361-acre parcel that encompasses a wetland complex draining into Bailey Brook on its way to Robb Reservoir. Thanks to donations from friends of the Supersanctuary, a corridor of conserved lands extends all the way from Spoonwood Pond in Nelson to Route 9 in Stoddard.

The Harris Center school program is embarking on new adventures with all sixth, ninth, and 10th graders in the ConVal School District. These programs result from an expansion of the partnership between Otter Brook Farm, ConVal, and the Harris Center. Sixth graders from both South Meadow and Great Brook Schools are travelling to a high tunnel greenhouse at Otter Brook Farm in Peterborough, where they will design and carry out experiments to learn how different environmental variables affect plant growth and survival. Ninth graders will explore energy systems, while they conduct an energy audit in an old farmhouse, and tenth graders will identify and develop management plans to address the invasive plant problems at the school and at Otter Brook Farm.

In the business meeting, board officers for the year were announced: Jack Calhoun of Harrisville, Chair; Hunt Dowse of Hancock, Vice Chair; Paul Faber of Hancock, Treasurer and; Alison Rossiter of Hancock, Secretary.

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