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  • Arleen Shea

Notes from the Field

GOMI Students at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, Newbury Massachusetts

When John Halloran, John Terry, and Marcia Samuelson (0rganizers of the US GOMI Summer Workshop) approached me to host a weeklong, joint venture with GOMI students, and children of GOMI summer workshop attendees in the last week of June, I was immediately in. It has long been an interest of mine, as Education Program Coordinator for Historic New England, to integrate history and farm science at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm. This experience, we thought, would help us determine student interest, and develop content for a possible future collaboration and summer camp for teens at the Farm.

We began the week exploring Spencer-Pierce-Little Farm's 1775 barn and collection of farm tools -- tools that were used not only on the farm but also in the great salt marsh. Students learned that John Spencer arrived from England in 1635 with his livestock to take advantage of the great salt marsh's renewable source of hay, which had lured him here. The students helped with daily chores to feed and care for the farm animals, fosters from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. We cleared the much overgrown Eliza Little Trail that connects the farm to the Plum Island Airfield, and the Parker River Wildlife Refuge and Massachusetts Audubon's Joppa Flats. The students worked each day diligently, but what gave me a renewed sense of hope for the future were our lunch conversations, honest conversations about the environment, climate change, the Gulf of Maine and even the science and politics of farm management and food! These kids are getting it. They will be the ones to help this region flourish in the future.

When the children of the conference participants arrived on Thursday and Friday, it was fun to watch the students teach the younger children what they had learned. Lauren Healey and Chris Orlando, GOMI summer interns at Parker River Wildlife Refuge from Newburyport, joined us. We went on a native vs. invasive species safari, found many insects to identify, and played fun science riddle games. We all worked on Friday to finish the newly installed butterfly garden, adding a few perennial plants, and then bedding it and the kitchen garden with salt marsh hay. It was an exciting week for me, and I think a fun and different approach to teaching students about science, and the Gulf of Maine and its great salt marshes.


Arleen Shea is Education Coordinator, Newbury Region, Historic New England and the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, Newbury, MA. Historic New England is the oldest and largest regional heritage organization in the nation. At the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, we teach history through the use of vast collections of historical artifacts from the museum house and historical archives. Historic New England's school and youth programs serve more than 50,000 students all over New England, and the organization has received national attention for the creative way in which we use historical resources to enrich learning.

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