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Seeing is Believing for Environmental Science Students

December, 2018
  • Polar Beverages fieldd trip
    Professor Anita Soracco’s environmental science class visited Polar Beverages.
  • Professor Anita Soracco’s environmental science class learned about the Asian longhorn beetle.
    Professor Anita Soracco’s environmental science class learned about the Asian longhorn beetle.
  • The Asian longhorn beetle
    The Asian longhorn beetle caused a tremendous amount of local destruction..
  • Student Assas Haraj learns about the Asian longhorn beetle from a member of the ALB team.
    Student Assas Haraj learns about the Asian longhorn beetle from a member of the Asian longhorn beetle team.

Experiencing something first-hand can sometimes mean the difference between basic understanding to truly grasping a concept or skill. No one know this better than the students in Professor Anita Soracco’s environmental science class.

Throughout the year the students have been taking what they’ve learned in their class and seen it applied in “real life.” This past semester students had the opportunity to visit a water treatment plant in Holden, Polar Beverages and the Department of Agricultural Resources.

At the water treatment plant, which serves greater Worcester, students learned how water is filtered and how water is transferred to each town.

“I bring the students there so that they can see the hard work that goes into making our tap water potable, safe, reliable and very regulated,” said Professor Soracco.

The students said they were surprised to learn that while public/tap water is highly regulated, the bottled water industry is virtually un-regulated and contributes to a lot of environmental contamination.

“There’s a lot of stigma attached to town water, but it’s actually better,” said student Elisabeth Morgan.

“I didn’t expect it to be so big and massive,” added student Assas Haraj.

The students also visited Polar Beverages in Worcester, where they got a real insight into energy efficiency and green initiatives. They discussed the environment and the economy with Polar Beverage Owner Chris Crowley and learned how each go hand-in-hand. 

Ms. Morgan said what really stood out for her was the fact that the company does so much to lessen its ecological foot print.

“It was more about reuse and staying out of the waste steam,” she noted.

“The Polar Beverage field trip was beneficial for many reasons. First it shows the students the magnitude on the environment of just one business in one town. Second, Chris Crowley, has taken many initiatives to “green” his business such as LED lights, which are on motion detectors and reducing the thickness of the plastic on the bottle caps.”

Mr. Crowley explained to the students that by reducing the thickness of the plastic on the cap, by just a tiny amount, it will save thousands of pounds of plastic, as well as generate revenue. 

“So it hits home for them that a successful business plan takes into account the environment, whether that means reducing, reusing or efficiency in the manufacturing process,” Professor Soracco added.

 At the Department of Agricultural Resources in Worcester, students met with the Asian Longhorn Beetle (ALB) team and learned more about the beetles’ local impact and what is being done to eradicate it. Outreach Coordinator Joshua Bruckner, spoke with the class about the history of the problem and the eradication program.

“They gave us a tour of the office, which is the headquarters for the ALB team. One of the team members then hopped on our tour bus and gave us a driving tour of the neighborhoods most affected by the infestation and took us to the grounds where they grind tree stumps from the infested trees,” Professor Soracco said, adding it was the STEM Starter Academy that sponsored the trip.

Student Dominic Parretti said the field trip was particularly interesting, as ALB directly impacted him.

“I saw the effects of the Asian longhorn beetle in my own neighborhood. They had to take a lot of trees down,” he said.

Every student said they felt the field trips enhanced what they were learning in class.

 “I’m a visual learner, and seeing is believing. It was all pretty cool,” Mr. Haraji added.

Other field trips on the students’ wish list include visiting other colleges to see how the schools’ reduce their waste; visiting the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, to more grand plans of visiting  the City of Curitiba, Brazil, a place considered to be the most sustainable in the world.

“This is an awesome class. This should be a core class for everyone,” said student Julia McElroy.