What is so great about a salt marsh ?


Teaching climate literacy is one of the most impactful things anyone can do. It’s important and will affect our youth more than anything else will. The Belle Isle Marsh is the largest, and most at risk, natural salt marsh in Boston. May brings such lovely weather ( finally) in Boston. It’s the perfect time to bring the students out into the field for some first hand observations. The Belle Isle Marsh has it all when it comes to an outdoor classroom. There is salt marsh habitat, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, evidence of climate change and a whole lot of beautiful outdoors.

One of the things that really hits with students home is habitat loss. For East Boston students, the perils of immigration and gentrification are things that they are all too familiar with. The fact that the Salt Marsh Sparrow is at risk because of habitat loss is something that they understand.

Sean Riley ,Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation site manager for Belle Isle Marsh, gets up close with students from the Alighieri Montessori school and a Salt Marsh Sparrow. For these Boston Public School students, first hand experiences are crucial. One student described the experience of the Salt Marsh Sparrow as similar to his own. “We had to move, because it just wasn’t safe for us anymore and we came here” and this”little bird needs to have a safe place too”. Another student related to the perils of endangered species, as the gentrification of the neighborhood eradicates affordable housing, “the animals have nowhere safe to go, like we will have nowhere to live, my parent can’t afford these condos” referring to the buildings that seem to pop up overnight in a community where more than half of the residents are immigrants.

Felipe Ortiz is a Boston artist of Colombian heritage who has been collaborating with the Climate Nature program, in a project known as Harvest. He joined the students on this trip to the marsh. Felipe, the students are well aware, has a fondness for birds. Being up close in a habitat that hosts so many birds was exciting to both the student an the educators.

More than three quarters of our students had never visited the Belle Isle Marsh before this field trip. Most of the teachers had not visited either. If we are going to protect, preserve and rehabilitate our at risk natural areas – we need to change this. Belle Isle Marsh is approximately 241 acres of natural salt marsh habitat. The reservation is operated by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which makes the reservation free of charge to visit seven days a week from dawn to dusk. The marsh can be reached by MBTA at the Suffolk Downs blueline stop, and has free parking.

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