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Is nature important to you? Do you want to protect your environment? What are the threats to natural environments and native species in Massachusetts?
The Environmental Science Department at Essex Agricultural and Technical High School provides an inquiry-based, project-oriented curriculum developing student skills in the scientific methods for data collecting and analysis that answer these questions and more. Our field-based program immerses high schoolers into the full range of environments in New England, including mountains, forests, ponds and streams, coastal shorelines, and the ocean. Extended trips include an exploration of the alpine forests in the White Mountains, and several days in Canada sampling and analyzing the marine ecosystems of the Bay of Fundy.
Our overall goal for each student is to develop a well-rounded portfolio of technical and college preparatory skills necessary for employment in the competitive environmental science field. Students work together in teams to collect, measure, analyze and display environmental data from the variety of ecosystems in the North Shore of Massachusetts. Our courses emphasize EPA, USGS, or US Fish and Wildlife Service data collection methods and laboratory analysis techniques whenever possible. Local field studies have included analysis of forest diversity, wetland delineation, certification of vernal pools, monitoring for invasive species, watershed eutrophication, and rocky shoreline species inventories. Students also learn to protect endangered species by raising, monitoring, and releasing Atlantic Salmon parr, returning the final smolt stage to the Merrimack River.
Laboratory analytical skills and chemical testing using more advanced water quality methods are an important component of the junior and senior year. Students follow EPA-approved standard methods of water analyses to measure the total and reactive phosphorus and nitrogen concentrations in the local watersheds. Proper handling and calibration of laboratory equipment, quality control measurements, and correct waste management are practiced.
The results of the laboratory work are integrated into Geographic Information System (GIS) projects illustrating the impact of different land use practices on coastal water quality. Early projects require students to work with Garmin GPS units and the Google Earth application to illustrate field data. Later investigations use MassGIS web-based data as well as ArcGIS10 software to illustrate and analyze land use, toxins, and environmental sensitivity of their field sites. Students also learn ArcMap software with the hand-held Trimble units for junior and senior level field and mapping projects.
Our students understand safety on work sites, proper treatment of hazardous materials, and protection of public health through the Hazwoper 40-hour OSHA course. This certification, as well as the OSHA 10-hour General Industry course, is standard for many environmental work sites.
A student enrolled in the Environmental Science major is given a choice of two concentrations near the completion of the freshman year, either Environmental Technology or Natural Resources Management. More information about each concentration can be found by clicking on the link.