HorizonsJul 5, 2022

updated Nov 20, 2023

Passion Project — Research in Action

Environmental Research and Action Team takes action

As an elementary school student, MHS Science Teacher Kennedy Raimer was fascinated by earthworms and how they dug their tunnels through the soil.

Emerald Power

Kennedy also spent her childhood hiking, kayaking, and camping with her family. While majoring in Biology in college, she took an Environmental Studies class and turned her interest in the natural world into a double major and a career teaching science.

“That’s when I learned how to take a passion for being outside and using it to do something impactful,” explains Kennedy, who launched a Horizons initiative last year to give MHS students a similar experience. Each week, she led six members of the Environmental Action and Research Team out and about on the Miss Hall’s campus and beyond to dig into the environment around them.

“I thought it would be meaningful for students with these interests to be out in the field,” adds Kennedy, whose college experience included an internship with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. “I wanted our students to have that authentic experience of what it’s like to be an environmental researcher.”

The juniors and seniors rolled up their sleeves to conduct water testing, soil sampling, and tree identification on the MHS campus. They conducted salamander studies by clearing leaves from a patch in the MHS woods, laying down a sheet of plywood, then returning in subsequent weeks to inspect under the boards for salamanders, measure them, and record the species.

They researched the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive species highly destructive to ash trees, and explored areas in Berkshire county that have different histories of land use, visiting Natural Bridge State Park in North Adams. They also compared the biology of the manmade pond at MHS with a natural pond at Pittsfield State Forest.

Along the way, they worked on independent research projects. One student tackled more in-depth salamander research, comparing soil samples with salamander populations on campus. Another worked to calculate the MHS carbon footprint. A third studied differences in plant growth using compost vs. natural soil, while another student conducted a forest diversity study, identifying the trees on campus and using wildlife cameras to determine the species in the forest.

“We were outside pretty much each week,” Kennedy adds. “I wanted to get students outside and introduce them to all different things they can do and then how they can use their research and results to make a difference.”