Nature hides in plain sight and when discovered, brings unexpected rewards.
That was the collective sentiment on April 19 when approximately 20 students and three staff from Tabor Academy joined the Mattapoisett Land Trust as volunteers to help clean out a new walking trail on a parcel of land acquired last year by the MLT.
The contingent heard from the Mike Huguenin before splitting up into groups on a trail that needed stumps pulled, protruding limbs clipped and many drum-sized segments of a tree chain-sawn by Paul Osenkowski carried to wet areas for strategic placement ensuring the continuation of the new walking trail.
“I think I needed this break from coursework and everything,” said Fred Lin, an 18-year-old junior from Dalian, China who was working alongside 15-year-old sophomore Carl Qiu of Beijing.
“This is a pretty cool experience for us, to explore the nature,” said Qiu, for whom the experience was not a regular part of growing up. “Not really, because in Beijing, it’s more like an urban place. It’s a pretty special experience to, like, do something like this in a school day.”
“It’s kind of like needed in a way. It’s very … therapeutic. Being outside is really nice. The weather’s good too. It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold, kind of perfect,” said Camila Diaz, a Tabor Academy junior from New Jersey. “I think this is the first one this year where we have gone out, trying to help the community in this sense. Usually, it would just be a beach cleanup nearby.”
Diaz, who also participated when Special Olympics athletes visited the Tabor campus for activities in the fall, said even some of the classwork at Tabor takes the students outside.
“We’ll go to the waterfront and have a look around, take some samples, things like that,” she said, noting her interest in pursuing study in environmental science.
Freshmen Charlie Webb of Barnstable and Nick Parks of Marion worked together, yanking stumps out of the hard ground. It was their second workday of the academic year, having spent some hours in the fall on a Massachusetts potato farm.
Both students play soccer in the fall. Webb wrestled in the winter, and Parks played hockey. Baseball and sailing divide them in the spring, but Webb wants to give hockey another try next year. “If I kept playing hockey, this would have been my 10th year. I miss it,” he said.
According to Andrew McCain of the Tabor Admissions office, the entire student body was engaged in the spring-season service day on April 19 in various activities.
“We’re all over the place,” said McCain, who brought a group he has worked with throughout the school year to the MLT’s path-clearing event. “Today, we’re using those groups to do community service. So it’s three faculty members here with three different groups.”
Tabor Academy was also represented on the path by Stephanie Whitworth, Tabor’s director of Financial Aid and Coke Whitworth, Tabor’s photography teacher and boys’ basketball coach.
The school holds two service days per academic year, one in the fall and one in the spring. On a monthly basis, students join their Tabor Experience Group for an extracurricular activity. While most students are playing sports at a competitive or recreational level, a community-service group in all three seasons serves as a cocurricular alternative.
“Part of this was the faculty members have a relationship with community-service organizations, so we try to make that the first way to do it. Stephanie knew Mike, and Steph and I work together in the Admissions office,” explained McCain.
The land, a priority habitat for the Eastern Box Turtle, became available after it had been owned for two decades by a couple of men who had designs on building homes there until one of them moved to Florida.
Huguenin estimates that the property theoretically could have hosted two residential, buildable lots. He said there are “plenty of dry places” on the land but acknowledged severe financial challenges in accessing such a site and conducting infrastructural responsibilities.
The MLT bought the 14-acre plot in 2022 for $110,000. Together with two donated acres, the 16-acre site connects to pathways previously established by the MLT and also by abutting resident Kimberly Ward, who was thrilled to participate in a clearing effort that would connect the MLT’s emerging path to one she had cut on her own property.
While Qiu would compete later that day as a number-three doubles player on Tabor’s tennis team in a home match against Belmont Hill, Lin recently took up filming the lacrosse team.
“I basically go to every game and I’ve got film, their highlights and clips, and then post it on Instagram and YouTube. I think that’s pretty important for the team, and also it’s a really interesting thing to do because not a lot of people are doing it. It’s a fun activity. It’s also a good chance to embrace nature,” said Lin, a soccer player who wants to attend college in the United States. “I feel the same thing when I’m managing the media site. We have two games a week, and after every game, I need to rewatch it and select the things I think deserve to be put in video use.”
Lin wasn’t holding a camera on April 19, but he holds a memory now of an unusual day well spent.
By Mick Colageo