Last year Purnell’s Current Global Issues class spent the semester in direct collaboration with the Morning Glory International School in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Through the efforts of history teacher Denise Greller, the course grew out of a desire to be a part of the NAIS Challenge 20/20 program, an Internet-based program that pairs U.S. schools with international counterparts to “tackle real global problems to find solutions that can be implemented at the local level and in their own communities.”
As part of the joint project, students learned about the problems that the loss of forests causes for our environment and for the animals and birds that live in forests, most of which are caused by human activity. Both schools shared information learned and then focused on a small project in their own area. Purnell’s students had the opportunity to visit an old growth forest in Millstone, NJ. Mettler’s Woods, as it is called, has not been cut since the 1700’s and is used for scientific research by many universities, including Rutgers University, who provided a graduate student to help Purnell’s Global Issues students recognize the problems facing forests here in New Jersey. Forest fragmentation, the breaking up of forests by land development, has become the greatest problem along the East Coast, for while some parts of forests are preserved, they have become “forest islands” vulnerable to invasive species, wind damage to older trees, and loss of animal and bird biodiversity.
Taking on the NAIS 20/20 Challenge generated the idea that the class would look at the Purnell campus and decide to locate places on the 83 acres, in which they could plant trees to make the forest denser and to aid animals and birds while beautifying the campus. The students wrote a proposal that was presented at Student Council and then forwarded to Ms. Hill, who approved the project as a pilot. A committee was formed to select the site for the trees, the type of trees to be planted, and how the trees would be cared for. A dress down day was held to raise some of the money to purchase the trees and the materials for planting them. The trees will be planted on campus on April 22nd, which is Earth Day.