Westport Central School students rake and collect debris at the town playground, as part of the celebration of the life of environmentalist Rachel Carson


NEWCOMB -- "If I had influence with the good fairy, who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life."

Rachel Carson said that decades ago.

She would have been 100 today.

Carson's life and work has been honored throughout the Adirondacks over the past few months.

The Rachel Carson in the Adirondacks Centennial Celebration -- launched in January by Paul B. Hai, program coordinator of SUNY Environmental Science & Forestry's Adirondack Ecological Center, and teacher Martha Swan -- brought a message of hope, wonder and renewal to hundreds of young people.

From North Warren to Tupper Lake, Newcomb, Minerva, Indian Lake, Lake Placid, Keene and Westport, school and community events brought Carson's work -- as scientist, author, poet and environmental activist -- to a new generation.

Swan, a foreign-language teacher at Newcomb Central School, felt Carson's 100th birthday was "a beautiful opportunity to introduce this remarkable woman in a profound way and the impact that her love of science and poetic writing had on the world."

"We especially wanted children to learn about Carson," Hai said, calling her "the point of origin for the modern environmental movement."


Artists took residencies in six Adirondack schools, exploring Carson's legacy with middle-school students.

A Women & Girls in Science Day brought female scientists working in the region together with Girl Scouts.

Guided outings, nature journaling and cleanup projects involved nearly 200 students from the High Peaks to the Capital District.

The project amassed dozens of teachers and hundreds of students around the Adirondacks.

"This is awesome and exciting to integrate so many disciplines in all grade levels," Hai said as he organized groups of students for a concert in Newcomb.

"It's a powerful way to work with core concepts and enrich the academic experience."


In one series of workshops, performance artist Lindsay Pontius of Westport collaborated with students in reading Carson's poetry aloud.

The finished work, "Rachel Carson Leads the Way," wove Carson's ideas and writing into the students' own literary creations.

Author and illustrator Sheri Amsel of Elizabethtown assisted students in drawing their views of the world around them.

Another group of seventh-graders in Westport, under the supervision of teachers Brenda Drummond and Sue Piccard, cleaned up the town beach and park along Lake Champlain.

The students memorialized their environmental excursion in journal entries and brought them to a Carson extravaganza in Newcomb, where folk-singing duo Magpie (Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner) made songs out of them.

Morgan Winslow, 12, of Newcomb was struck by the music of Magpie.

"They are exactly what communities like ours need because they talk about pollution and how it affects the environment. We need to learn about it, or before you know it, there might not be an environment."


On May 19, students from all participating schools gathered at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake to share what they have learned of her legacy.

It was an important culminating event for Swan, who recalled a photo one young boy had taken of a river in January.

"He had wanted to show the frozen river, but here was this picture that looked like summer. He held it up and explained, This is global warming,'" Swan said.

Hai said the opportunity to celebrate Carson's life relayed an important message.

"Learning about her, they discover that they, too, can make a difference in shaping events that may seem beyond their control."

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