Dogwood Lane

The Quarterly Journal of the Wakefield Estate

Volume Two, Issue 1 - Fall 2019
Wakefield Estate Educational Collaborations
Following Polly Wakefield’s death in 2004, the Board of Trustees convened a "visioning" session, assembling experts in a broad range of fields including education, museum management, environmental science, landscape preservation, and history to help establish a future course for the organization. From that launching pad, a commitment to educational programs and participatory learning for all ages has provided the foundation on which the organization developed its goals and objectives and designed its public programming. It was apparent early on that, in order to meet its goals, it was critical to develop a network of collaborations. This issue of the quarterly explores some of those key educational alliances and partnerships, the impact they have had over the past decade, and the promise they hold going forward.
During their field trip to the estate, each year 2000 elementary-aged students spend a full day outdoors exploring science or history up close, using their senses and tactile experiences.
Through its outdoor experiential learning programs,
the estate discovers its value to the inclusion model
In the earliest days of the Mary M. B. Wakefield Trust, an important association was made with the Milton Public Schools through its science director, Barbarb Plonski. Ms. Plonski recognized how the resources of the estate could provide a key educational context for children, especially relating to science. Together with Plonski, programs were developed that provided opportunities to explore nature, the estate’s pond, stream and woods, time to play games, and enjoy “unstructured play” as part of an after-school program.

Around the same time, a movement to bring students outdoors was started by the “Boston Schoolyard Initiative,” which helped develop outdoor classrooms in many schools throughout the district supported by a funding program through Boston Youth Environmental Network that provided funds for Boston Public Schools (BPS) elementary students to “Get Out And Learn (GOAL).” An emphasis was made by educators to provide a progression of teaching science in a more realistic environment. Over the years, the staff forged close and productive collaborations with key BPS educators who, working with Wakefield staff, helped develop the outdoor, science-based curriculum used at the estate today. Luis Arroyo, a science specialist with Boston Public Schools, immediately saw the estate’s potential value to his students and helped build our elementary outdoor environmental education program into a robust initiative that annually affords 1500-2000 elementary students the opportunity to spend a full school day at the estate for outdoor learning.
Over the past decade, the anecdotal benefits of this type of learning have been noted by staff, visiting students, and their teachers (and is documented in the first issue of Dogwood Lane), but surprising subtle yet powerful impacts have become apparent and are prompting us to bolster some specific aspects of the program that make it more inclusive for learners with different needs.

For example, after the severe Haiti earthquake in 2010, several Boston schools took in students who had been displaced by the event and had to move to Boston to stay with family members. These students struggled with language challenges, but even more with the emotional scars of witnessing such a terrifying and tragic natural disaster. During their visits to the estate and their one-on-one opportunity to get up close to a chicken and touch or hold it, occasionally students would look up and say, "my uncle or family had chickens back home" – it was clear to us, that this was, in a small way a healing moment.
An even more startling discovery occurred during the first visit by a class from the Henderson Inclusion School from Dorchester. This was our first experience with an “inclusion school” and the most notable distinction was that each classroom had two teachers – a regular classroom teacher and a special education professional. The day’s schedule included some of the standard activities – exploring life cycles of plants and animals during a walk through the formal gardens, investigating the pond and the crayfish and frogs that live there, and visits with the sheep, llama, and chickens. After a couple hours, the second teacher (a licensed psychologist) ran up to Erica Max, the estate’s Educational Director, and remarked, “That young man who is so engaged and plugged in to today’s programs, that’s Ellis – in the classroom, he cannot stay awake for more than 5 minutes!”
Later during the same visit, the class visited the chicken coop and met Prince Peep, a Serama bantam chicken, the smallest breed of chicken. When Max remarked that Prince Peep would never be as big as the other chickens, that he would always be smaller, the whole class exclaimed, “Like Sol!” Max responded, “Like who?” A beautiful young child standing next to her replied, “Like me!” Sol was a "little person" (a person with dwarfism), clearly embraced by her classmates as exactly like them, just different in size - like so much they were observing in nature. That day, Sol enjoyed the chance to be the first to hold Prince Peep and demonstrated to the rest of the class how to properly do it.
That day's experience demonstrated how effective visits to the estate can be for an inclusion class or other young people with special needs, disabilities or on the autism spectrum. The inclusion model - having children with disabilities in the regular classroom is a meaningful educational experience for both children who have serious disabilities and children who do not. The Henderson’s two-teacher model was part of a very successful pilot program that anticipated occasions when students with special needs would require extra personal attention, a fully trained teacher in the room was there to provide it while the other teacher continued the lesson. The two-teacher model is not uniformly adhered to however. (To read more about the Henderson pilot, click here .) Dr. William Henderson, visually impaired principal and co-founder of Patrick O'Hearn Elementary School (later changed to his name in honor of his pioneering work in education) remarked, "It depends on the number of kids with disabilities and the nature and intensity of their needs. If there is only one student with a disability in a class, one teacher may be sufficient. But if there are many students with significant needs in a class, two teachers may not be enough." (To read more of Dr. Henderson's views about the value of inclusive education, click here .)

In the fall of 2013, the Boston School Committee formed an I nclusion Task Force that later submitted recommendations for increasing quality inclusion opportunities in the Boston Public Schools. The Henderson Inclusion School now serves more than 800 students from early childhood through grade 12 on two campuses. As of October 1, 2018, approximately 11,360 students aged 3-21 with disabilities (21% of total enrollment) are enrolled in special education programs in BPS, and of those 46.1% are educated in fully inclusive settings.

Since that first Henderson Inclusion School visit, more and more inclusion classes have come out for field trips. We recognize that the size of the visiting class, student/teacher ratio, and teaching strategies all contribute to the success of the learning experience, especially for special needs students. In the coming year, the staff will be partnering even more closely with its teacher collaborators, utilizing the off-season months to develop fleshed-out classroom profiles and written lesson plans for the outdoor activities and curriculum to facilitate and enhance the field trip experiences for students of all capabilities.
Wakefield Estate Steps Up As Milton 5th Grade History Tour Host
Each year, The Wakefield Estate is one of a small handful of destinations on the 5th Grade Milton History Tour town’s historical landscape one school at a time. The tour was created to give students a close-up view of the sites around town that illuminate the town's history and helped shape its present. The history of the Wakefield Estate provides an instructive lens through which students can imagine the people who began and shaped the town into what it is today. The evolution of the landscape can be seen as a microcosm for gaining a deeper appreciation for Milton’s past and present as it closely mirrors changes in Milton over 300 years . During the one hour stop on the tour, students hear of the area's indigenous communities and the origin story of the Davenport Farm — how John Davenport, his wife Naomi, and seven children moved from Dorchester and became the first of ten consecutive generations that called this place home. The students walk through the early-18th century farmhouse that John built and try to imagine life before there was electricity, engines, cars, phones, even plumbing and indoor bathrooms! 
American history and that of the American Revolution - comes alive for students as they hear the story of John’s grandson Samuel, and his role as a juror in the infamous Boston Massacre trial. 

From the farmhouse, students visit the Davenport Mansion, built by John Davenport’s great grandson Isaac. Between the farmhouse and the mansion, they can observe how the changes in the family's status impacted the use of the landscape in the short span of 70 years from a small family farm to an estate of considerable wealth. Throughout the tour, students hear stories of the estate’s ten generations of occupants and the landscape's constant evolution: from subsistence farming, to country estate and rural retreat, and in the 20 th century to a designed garden and arboretum. Through the tour, students appreciate the proximity of their own lives to the history of the town, and learn that history is a living narrative that shapes our present day reality in so many ways.

After a recent tour, Milton Historical Society (MHS) posted this remark and accompanying photo album: "These impressive 5th graders learned so much about their town! They spent time in May reading our 5th Grade History Blog, they used resources provided by the Historical Society and boy did they get their history on! Just look at these wonderful projects! It all culminated in to a full tour day- visiting The Forbes House Museum, The Old Burial Ground, The Wakefield Estate and The Suffolk Resolves House." To see the MHS post, click here . To learn more of the history the 5 th graders learn about, check out the trip blog by clicking here .
Collaborating with Friends of the Blue Hills for a hands–on educational opportunity
In 2016, the Gypsy moth, a long-known invasive pest, was making a comeback in New England. Introduced to the United States in 1869, the gypsy moth population explodes to very high numbers approximately every 10 years. The regularity of these outbreaks is usually linked to a series of drought years.
During these flare-ups, the larval stage caterpillars strip trees of their leaves, defoliating neighborhoods or even entire forests in late June. In 2017, gypsy moths defoliated nearly a million acres in Massachusetts alone. While most healthy trees can survive a single defoliation, trees that are already stressed from drought or repeated defoliation often die. The Wakefield Estate, the Blue Hills Reservation, and the forests in the surrounding area have been heavily impacted by the recent Gypsy moth outbreaks. Over three hundred species of trees and shrubs are host to the gypsy moth, and the larva may feed on many species of trees and shrubs, both hardwoods and conifers. During recent infestations, however, the trees that suffered the most were oak trees - the larva’s preferred species – and many large old oak specimens in the area were weakened or killed by the moths. (The image above shows a mature oak covered with egg casings during winter.)
With our aim to help foster a “knowledgeable citizenry,” the latest outbreak became an opportunity to demonstrate how invasive pests can have a lasting effect on the local ecology and what can be done about it. Because the Blue Hills were so heavily impacted by the gypsy moth infestation, we contacted Judy Lehrer Jacobs, the Executive Director of Friends of the Blue Hills, about a possible collaboration. Together, we planned a public outing into the reservation to do some Gypsy moth casing removals - she and her organization were excited to be involved in this hands-on learning opportunity.
The day’s activities began at the estate and were led by Debbie Merriam, arboretum director. Merriam explained how the gypsy moth, a non-native pest was brought to Medford, Massachusetts in 1867 by Etienne Leopold Trouvelot, a Frenchman interested in using the larva to produce silk. The moth was accidentally released from the enclosure leading to the first great gypsy moth infestation in 1889, quickly spreading all over the Northeast. The small larvae of the gypsy moth spin silken threads and hang from them, waiting for the wind to blow. The light larvae have long hairs that increase their surface area, which are suitable for being carried aloft. Firewood transport is also a common way for the eggs to spread, since the moths will lay their eggs on dead wood.

Today, the best mitigation of Gypsy moth infestations involve a pair of naturally occurring biological controls: Entomophaga maimaiga , a kind of fungus, and “caterpillar cholera” Borralinivirus reprimens , a nucleopolyhedro virus (NPV), both heavily dependent on rain. In drought years, this fungus and virus remain dormant and cannot kill the gypsy moth. Instead of spraying chemicals that can also impact many native caterpillars and moths at the same time, the group chose to focus on a more ambitious and hands-on approach: removing the egg casings that are on the sides of trees laid by the gypsy moth females. Each egg casing can contain up to 1000 eggs. Scraping the eggs casings off of the trees and burning them ensures that they do not hatch.
After Merriam's presentation, the group set out into the Blue Hills to collect egg casings from infested trees, often mature oaks. By day’s end, hundreds of gypsy moth egg casings had been removed from trees in the Blue Hills Reservation, giving the trees a fighting chance in the spring when the eggs hatch. The estate posted a video of the group ceremoniously tossing the egg cases into a fire to ensure their destruction. Watch it by clicking here. Fortunately the following spring afforded heavy rains and the gypsy moth populations were devastated by the naturally occurring biological controls.

The act of searching in nature reveals more than just the intended purpose of the search – in this case, egg casings. An interactive exercise like this allows participants to search in the forest and experience their surroundings. During the experience, remarks were heard expressing interest in other aspects of nature, whether it is noticing fungus growing on the trees, tiny insects in the crevasses, or how different the bark of each tree can be. Such observations spark interest about what we see in these ecosystems and how species are all connected. Once the connection is made between people and nature, the experiences can deepen an individual's interest, hopefully prompting them to become greater advocates for the forest. 
Here students pull Alliaria petiolata, an invasive species commonly known as Garlic Mustard, a noxious non-native self-fertile biennial weed that spreads rapidly but can be controlled if pulled. Students learn about invasives species and how they compete with native plants during their field trips to the estate.
Estate Applauds Eagles' Contributions
In the fifteen years since Polly Wakefield’s death, the Mary M. B. Wakefield Charitable Trust has developed a wide array of educational partnerships and collaborations. One of the most tangibly productive associations has been with the Boy Scouts of America. Over the past seven years, the estate has been the benefactor of six different Eagle service projects. The Eagle Scout Service Project, or simply Eagle Project, is the opportunity for a Scout to demonstrate leadership of others while performing a project for the benefit of his community. This is the culmination of the Scout's leadership training, and it requires a s ignificant effort. Completing an Eagle Project is a requirement in order for Scouts to attain the Eagle Scout rank .

Milton's Scout Troop 3 celebrated its centennial in 2015 and the Canton troop also has a long proud tradition. As veteran journalist and Eagle scout, Michael Malone wrote in his commentary in the Wall Street Journal entitled  A Century of Eagle Scouts : "Out of the more than 115 million boys who have passed through the Boy Scouts of America in the last 102 years, approximately two million have become Eagle Scouts, a 2% rate that has climbed to about 4% of all scouts in recent years...all have been changed by the experience of what has been come to be called 'the PhD. of Boyhood.' And these Eagles in turn have changed the face of American culture in ways both obvious and unexpected."

Long-time Wakefield Estate supporter, former Milton Town Administrator, and Eagle Scout emeritus John Cronin first suggested the idea that the Wakefield Estate be a site for Eagle Projects. Another supporter and Brush Hill neighbor Nick Vinke fast tracked the process when he recruited his twin sons to contact us to find out what projects might need an advocate.
In 2012, the first twin Will set a high standard for all future scouts, directing a project to build a boardwalk at the low point of the estate property where the run-off each spring makes it impossible to access the area. Glacial deposits of Roxbury puddingstone, native plants, and beautiful stone walls make it an important educational area. Over two dozen volunteers participated in the day-long effort that involved invasive removal, path clearing and construction, and installation of the 132' wooden structure. The installation project capped months of planning and fundraising by the Eagle candidate.  
Next up, another Wakefield Estate ally and Milton Foundation for Education board member Margaret Eberhardt sheparded Blair Bowden, a scout from Milton to select the estate for his Eagle Project. Each time the trust is approached, we meet with the individual scout to see if his interests match with any of the wide array of projects the estate needs completed.

By matching the scouts’ interests with our needs, we’ve observed their enthusiasm and commitment to completion is enhanced and ensured. For Blair, his interest was peaked by our need for informational kiosks at our entry to welcome and orient visitors to the estate. After researching the types of kiosks that are used by parks and trails, he suggested a final design for our approval. He then raised the funds needed to buy the lumber and other supplies and planned a project work day involving over twenty scouts and adults, culminating with the  installation of two kiosks, both still in use and essential for the estate’s operation.
In 2013, the other Vinke twin Alex approached us to plan his Eagle Project: rehabbing the chicken coop. His project’s scope included repairs to exterior baseboards, window sills, roof, and entry doors, and repainting the entire 55 foot long structure. Following Alex, Tim Eberhardt’s Eagle Project was to rehabilitate another historic garden feature: the rope-lined fence lining the “rose allee. ” This elaborate project involved replacement and installation of dozens of heavy duty wooden posts and sourcing naval rope to match the original rope Polly used in this feature. 

Many of the scout projects have involved historic structures or features of this 300 year-old estate. Patrick Taugher focused his Eagle Project to help the organization show off some of the vintage farm equipment that had been found in the basement of the barn. These great old pieces of farm machinery draw a great deal of interest from visitors as they now are sporting fresh brightly colored rust-resistant paint and sited near the parking area.
They tell the important story of the evolution of farming here at the estate, and are used during the 5th grade's History Tour to demonstrate the progression of agriculture in New England over the past 300 years. (See the article about the 5th grade local history tour in this issue of  Dogwood Lane).

 Most recently, the estate has been the benefactor of the Eagle Project of Ryan Fitzmaurice, who took a strong interest in the estate's chickens and plan for an expanded "Agricultural Zone." As the plan is still being developed, it was suggested to Ryan that he might create "modular" elements that could be easily moved and utilized in a variety of contexts and settings. For several years, we have used "Aldo Leopold benches," but only have enough for the adults that accompany a school group. Ryan’s project consisted of building four new Leopold benches and two gorgeous hoop-style animal enclosures that can easily be moved for use with a visiting class. 
Currently, the estate has a Eagle Scout project proposal for rehabilitation of the orchard ready and waiting for a scout to step up. Other project requests are being developed and still more will be tailored to the individual interest of the Eagle candidates.
The Wakefield Estate is grateful for this long and fruitful association with the Boy Scouts and hopes it continues for generations to come.
Ryan FitzMaurice's project contributed four Aldo Leopold benches and two movable hoop style animal enclosures for use during school field trips with our environmental educational program.