UMass Boston Professors Give Teens a Lesson in Protecting the Environment

Crystal Bozek | September 13, 2010
Students were surprised by what they found right in their backyards in the Neponset River.

Students were surprised by what they found right in their backyards in the Neponset River.

UMass Boston Assistant Professor Anamarija Frankić recently led a group of Hyde Park teenagers on a canoe trip down the Neponset River, collecting water samples and later testing them in a lab— all in an effort to teach environmental stewardship.

Many of these teens had never been on a canoe or inside a laboratory, and hadn’t given the environment much thought. But what they found surprised them: Their tests revealed that levels of E. coli and Enterococcus bacteria in some parts of the Neponset River were almost at the level of raw sewage, and more than 1,000 times higher than what is acceptable for boating and swimming.

“Bringing them canoeing on the river made a surprising impact on them. Actually on all of us,” Frankić said. “Because as much as we knew that Neponset River is not very clean, we didn’t realize that it is actually dangerous for humans.”

Frankić and Assistant Professor David Tenenbaum, both members of the Environmental, Earth, and Ocean Sciences Department, partnered with Southwest Boston Community Development Corporation to develop curriculum and projects this summer for the 14 teens in the SWBCDC’s Hyde Park Green Team program.

The Green Team employs Hyde Park youths to help clean, beautify, and maintain that area's parks and urban wild sites, while teaching about topics like global warming and energy conservation. The goal of the canoe trip was to show the teens why it is so important to clean up these parks and wild sites along the water.

Watch a video of the Green Team program at UMass Boston's YouTube Channel.

The students spent July 27 on canoes with the two professors, graduate students, and members of the Neponset River Watershed Association and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“That was the first time I’ve seen the river and I didn’t expect it to be as dirty as I was told it was … shopping carts, cans, bottles, bikes, tires,” Green Team member Anthony Aviles said. “The canoeing trip was a good idea and it makes me want to clean the river.”

The group brought water samples to a microbiology laboratory at Mass Bay Community College, where they spent the day learning the science behind testing their samples. The teens have since written to Boston’s Environment Department, suggesting ways to alleviate the river’s pollution problem like installing “No Dumping” signs and re-routing sewage pipes.

“Working with these amazing young people reassured me even more about the need to provide more opportunities for youth to interact and learn about and from the nature we live in,” Frankić said.

The partnership was made possible through UMass Boston’s Office of Community Relations.

Tags: community , eeos , environment , research , science , the point

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