Coast & Sustainability

Inspiring Young Island Minds

From the classroom to the coast, education thrives on Martha’s Vineyard year-round thanks to the Claire Saltonstall Education Program.

The Claire Saltonstall Education Program (CSEP), a fixture of the Trustees on Martha’s Vineyard, has been providing place-based education for island school children for 32 years. Through CSEP’s education model, hands-on, experiential learning is emphasized, as students are encouraged to learn, explore, lead and problem-solve.

“CSEP is a wonderful resource that allows us to connect Island students to the world around them,” shared Molly Peach Mayhew, Island Education Manager. “The program offers our youngest residents on Martha’s Vineyard an understanding of the place they call home and the chance to grow up with the Trustees, visiting our special places, gaining critical skills, and having fun in the process.”

Island second graders study erosion and weathering through hands-on activities in the classroom and venture out to Wasque Reservation to experience erosion first-hand. Trips to third-grade classrooms around the island teach kids that geology “rocks”, as they learn how a glacier formed the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Fourth graders become coastal engineers, learning about climate change, rising sea levels, and how to design a resilient coastal landscape. Trips to Menemsha Hills and Long Point Wildlife Refuge follow these classroom lessons, as students apply their learning in the field.

“It’s inspiring to support learning beyond the classroom,” Molly shared. “The Trustees has provided over three decades of place-based education through the CSEP on the Vineyard. I have seen the shift with island students as they become more attuned to climate change and coastal resiliency literacy. The information they are learning and how they are learning is a catalyst for future success in shaping the climate landscape and creates a real opportunity for continued interest in this field.”

For students who want to stay involved, CSEP offers a Youth Coastal Ambassadors Program (YCAP) and internship program, both open to high school aged students. YCAP runs during the school year, and students take part in short training sessions and hands-on site work one Saturday each month to learn about ecology, the effects of climate change on coastal landscapes, and restoration and adaptation techniques.

The six-week Environmental Training Internship program occurs over the summer and provides each student an opportunity to rotate through practical experience areas, working closely with ecologists, stewards, and property staff.

One student, Henry, has returned to the Trustees this school year through a work-study program at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS). Henry began his conservation work as a YCAP Ambassador, followed by a summer internship. He now spends time supporting our Vineyard staff in anticipation of his graduation and future career goals.

“It’s wonderful to have Henry as part of our Vineyard team,” Molly said. “His passion and dedication to the Trustees’ mission is admirable. I am glad we are part of his journey in this field and offer a place of continued learning and career growth.”

Job readiness is also reinforced through a collaboration with the Voyagers program out of MVRHS, for students ages 18-21 with disabilities. The Voyagers join the Trustees weekly on properties, assisting on the farm, in the office, and on our beaches. In early September, the group joined Trustees staff for a fun day of kayaking out on Long Point Wildlife Refuge.

Through the CSEP the Trustees are able to establish a personal relationship between students and the natural world by conducting original research and hands-on activities on Trustees properties. Students are introduced to and become familiar with our many special places across the island and are creating meaningful connections with Vineyard organizations.

If you’re a high school student who would like to become involved, please see more here.

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