Medford’s public high school welcomes more city residents through its doors than any other community building. While all residents are a part of Medford’s civic responsibility, the high school is the spot that most affects our social lives. Medford is a large city with significant diversity, and the one unifying bond that many families share is experiences at Medford High School. While social issues consume our attention, it is the youth of Medford who will be most affected by the decisions that are made today. This has always been true, and previous graduates can relate to most of what today’s students must face….that is, with the exception of a few new responsibilities, one of which is environmental stewardship.
There are numerous debates surrounding the environment, and all somehow play a role at global, national, and community levels. An academic understanding of how humans affect the natural world is important for longterm decision making. The topics that environmental science can envelop are too many to name, which begs the question, “What should our youth know and why?”
For many members of the Medford community, this question has been a priority for the last decade. What’s encouraging is that steps have already been taken to ensure the kids today are familiar with important issues. They’re learning what they might be up against in the real world. These steps have been both cultural and governmental.
At the core of the cultural changes at Medford High is the environmental sciences course. Beginning nine years ago, the science department began to offer an elective course focusing on the science behind Earth’s climate. Classes like this just a few years ago were rare and, compared to biology and chemistry, did not have a defined curriculum. Teachers and administrators like Audrey Carmosino have helped generate continued growth in the class, which is increasingly preferred by juniors and seniors. Honors courses are now available and students will soon be able to take AP exams that will award college credit. This puts environmental sciences on par with traditional science subjects. On In addition to student groups like “Roots And Shoots” (anthropologist Jane Goodall’s organization) and the expanding recycling program, an environmental focus is starting to take shape within the building.
Medford High is capable of recognizing growth opportunities and has recently invested in a depleted Media/Technology department. Meaningful investment in the environmental sciences may not be far behind, as national demand for premier knowledge of our planet matches that of technology and math. All of this makes sense as colleges around the U.S. look to grow their environmental science departments due to increasing demand for experts in related fields. Finding knowledgeable environmental advisors is becoming more and more necessary as the global population realizes the impacts of resource negligence.
The incentive for taking on this cultural responsibility within our schools is out there, and the day when environmental issues become as important as technological issues is not far off. The City’s government realizes this, which its recent creation of the Office of Energy and the Environment (E&E) proves. The directions this office could take are numerous, but taking care of the high school is a top priority for Alicia Hunt, the city’s senior environmental officer. With help from a resourceful community, the E&E Office has already completed meaningful projects, such as significant improvements to the school’s heating and plumbing.
There are many more opportunities for progress within the city’s most inefficient building. Residents of Medford will notice a more engaging public relations campaign over the next year, and a partnership with the public school students and faculty will be significant. The youth in our community will soon be the most educated and aware of local environmental initiatives. With them, groups like the Medford Energy Committee will build an interest cohort capable of adapting to future challenges this progressive program will face. All the focus is on the future, and members of this year’s graduating class understands their role better than any before them.
An increased commitment to understanding environmental issues will benefit the students who graduate this year as well as years to come. How that commitment is made will be determined by the people who realize that every day our future is walking the familiar halls of Medford High.
Curtis Tuden is a teacher at Medford High School and a member of the Medford Energy committee.