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Common Ground: Girl Scouts Volunteer at Fox Valley

In 2009-10, Mount Grace conducted a timber harvest funded by the federal Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program and designed to benefit birds requiring early successional habitat at Fox Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Phillipston. Responsible timber harvesting requires protecting any wetlands near a logging operation. The Fox Valley harvest required the posting of riparian boundary signs 50 feet from Popple Camp Brook along 3400’ of the brook’s length, on both sides of the brook. We offered this as a service learning project for local Scouts.

On February 20, twelve Junior and Cadette Girl Scouts from Phillipston Troops 30908 & 30904, two troop leaders, two Mount Grace volunteers, and I met at Fox Valley. It was a cold morning and it had snowed during the week. I wondered how the girls would take to the cold, and if the snow pack in the forest would lower their morale.

I began the program with a description of Fox Valley and forestry practices. We discussed land use history in New England, the ecology of forest vegetation, and local wildlife. I was pleased the girls were really attentive during the discussion, but still wondered if their demeanor would change in the woods.

Upon entering the forest there was an immediate change – an upbeat change. The girls laughed as they trudged through the snow, climbed over rock walls, and slid down steep terrain. When we reached the stream the girls worked hard at hanging up the riparian boundary signs.

The girls also had fun showing off their new looks from their beauty sleepover the night before as they hammered the signs onto the trees. Many girls had stickers of flowers or insects on their manicured nails and wondered if the species they displayed could live in the forest we were helping. The nails also led to a discussion of how a girl can still be feminine and enjoy nature or working in the outdoors.

They clearly understood the service they were providing by hanging the signs. They also could answer my questions pertaining to the property. They had retained the information I taught them, understood why the signage was important, and could explain their service to others. 

Kate Marquis served as Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust’s Service Learning Coordinator as a volunteer with the Massachusetts Commonwealth Corps Program in 2009-2010. Established by Governor Patrick in 2008, Commonwealth Corps engages Massachusetts residents of all ages and backgrounds in direct service to address unmet community needs.