Over a decade ago, Kathleen Benoit recognized the value of teaching her students using community resources. She brought together the Math, Science, and Family and Consumer Science Departments at Gorham High School, as well as the US Forest Service, the Town Forester and other local foresters, NH Fish and Game, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and local land owners to collaborate on two projects that would create new opportunities for students. These projects allow students to gain an appreciation for the environment in which they live, learn math and science proficiencies using hands-on activities and field experiences, explore the various careers involved in the forest, and give back to the community by applying the acquired skills to improve some aspect of the community.
The first project, Freshman Forest Field Days, utilizes the local town forest (Paul Doherty Memorial Forest) as well as professionals and other community members who volunteer their time to teach the students stream ecology, forest engineering practices, trail maintenance, soils, NH wildlife, forest diseases, and tree identification. Students are actively engaged in learning about and discovering how they are connected as well as their impacts on forest ecosystems. Students are challenged to consider their actions, those of the community, and how they affect and are affected by the environment.
The second project, Sophomore Forest Survival Day, held during the winter, challenges students to navigate to a pre-determined plot in the woods to establish a Continuous Forest Inventory on the plot, which is ultimately used by the Town Forester in determining a sustainable annual timber harvest.
Kathleen Benoit is an enthusiastic educator who is never content to rely on old methods. She both challenges and nurtures her students to bring out the best in them.