Campus Wetlands, our Beautiful Outdoor Classroom

Nestled in the northwest corner of the Montrose School campus, lies a breathing, bustling ecological wonder: the Montrose School Wetlands.
Students are stewards of this delicate eco-system - routinely sweeping debris from reedy flora. They are also beneficiaries of its verdure. The Wetlands, in all their mossy glory, offer students a wide scope of nature’s beauty and a powerful lens on the scientific intricacies of life. 
It’s a lens middle school science teacher Sarah Hanna is eager to offer students. On Friday, December 3, Ms. Hanna organized a field study for the 6th and 7th grade students. Guest speaker and naturalist John Root led the excursion, where students learned about plant identification,  the significance of botany, and the importance of developing a love of nature. 
While the outward experience focused on discovery and awe of the flourishing natural world, inwardly the girls were growing as well. Prepped with magnifying glasses and a whetted inquisitiveness inspired by Ms. Hanna’s lessons, the girls were en route to developing habits of mind, heart and character through their study.  
  • Curiosity: Girls asked questions, which fostered their natural desire to know more about their surroundings and use the scientific method to find answers to their questions. 
  • Thoroughness: Students dived deeply into the experience and gained more practical knowledge of botany and of the wetland species on campus
  • Gratitude: Students expressed appreciation for the beauty of nature and the the wealth of knowledge they could discover on their own school grounds
  • Humility: Students were humbled by the complexity of their natural surroundings and appreciated how much they had to learn about their world. 
  • Responsibility: Students learned the importance of caring for the environment and the importance of maintaining our wetlands for the benefit of the broader ecosystem as well as the Montrose community.
The students raved about their excursion, citing their high engagement with the experience. 
“Being able to engage with the material helps me to learn,” said 7th grader Brooke Surdel. 

Classmates Mia Cahill-Farella and Leah Vaz agreed. 

“You get to see more and experience it,” Leah remarked of her time outdoors. “Field trips allow us to dive deeper into what we are studying.

And what they studied stuck. Some of the most memorable experiences involved novel lessons on what plants need to survive. 

“You are not supposed to decorate your home with Oriental bittersweet - even though its berries and leaves reflect the Christmas colors - because they are invasive,” advised Mia.

Other lessons prepared students to engage in the environment safely. 

“I was surprised to learn that there are a lot of weeds in the wild that you can’t touch, because they are poisonous,” Leah added. 

Back in the classroom after their excursion, Ms. Hanna tasked the students with researching and proposing experiments based on their Wetlands excursion. The girls brainstormed and suggested a number of potential labs, including
  • Seeing if plants from the Wetlands can grow in other soil
  • Testing whether water temperature affects water clarity, and 
  • Measuring the effect light has on the growth of bacteria found in the Wetlands.
In the coming weeks, the girls will vote on their favorite experiment, which they will conduct as a class. Thanks to the beauty of the Montrose campus, the leadership of Ms. Hanna, and the wisdom of guest speaker John Root, the girls learned a truly scientific approach to understanding the world - and campus - that surrounds them.