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    Mary Ann Boyer: Empowering Students to be Sustainable in School

    Mary Ann Boyer has worn many hats through her long career in sustainability, which has been extremely rewarding for her.

    After Boyer graduated from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Science, she worked as a scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency. Eight years later, she turned in her EPA badge and began teaching science. First, at Germantown Friends school for two years before becoming a science teacher and grade advisor at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.

    According to Boyer, teaching has been her most rewarding job. “Every day is different. You are always learning something as an educator.” She always looks for ways to reach the quiet children and new ways to engage students in the learning process.Mary Ann Boyer


    Currently, Boyer can be found teaching and empowering students in a new way. Along with her business partner Anne Sudduth, she co-founded Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants (BSEC). Together, they work around the Philadelphia area empowering businesses and schools to become GREEN certified, like the National Wildlife Federation Eco-Schools USA. Local school Springside Chestnut Hill Academy recently received the prestigious Green Flag award.

    The Seven Steps to becoming GREEN certified

    If a school wants to become more sustainable, the process typically follows the same process. After the sustainably-curious school contacts Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants, they would form a “Green Team.” The green team would be responsible for doing an eco-review of the school, focusing on one aspect of sustainability like waste.

    Next, they make an Action plan. The green team would create a plan to cut down on the school’s waste. “You have to make it convenient for the students and teachers,” Boyer said. An easy way to do this is put the recycling bin right next to the trash (“landfill”) bin. It’s simple things like this that make sustainability an obtainable goal for these schools.

    After making an action plan, they monitor and review their progress. The students get excited when they can see the results they are producing. As Boyer explained, “they can physically see the difference they are making and this empowers both the students and teacher.”

    In order not to overburden teachers who already have a lot on their plates, BSEC tries to link sustainability to something they are learning in their current curriculum, so it’s not an extra thing the teacher has to devote time to. Relating the content to sustainability quickly finds common grounds. “We come in and give them content about what it means to be a green school and show them nine ways they can become a green school: waste, energy, water, schoolyard habitat, transportation, healthy living, healthy food and outdoor education.”  For example, if the students are learning about electricity in science class, Boyer will relate sustainability regarding how you can cut your electricity usage down.

    BSEC also works with facilities and administration of schools to see how they can change physical aspects and behavior to achieve GREEN status. They’re careful with delivering their messages, too. Humor is key, according to Boyer. It doesn’t work if it’s finger-wagging. It has to be a positive message.”

    A considerable part of BSEC is trying to appropriate funds for schools to achieve sustainability. “Even sometimes the smallest grant can lead to excitement for teachers and students in general, which leads to other grants,” Boyer said. “I think it’s good for people to know the power of grants, big or small if you get the students involved in writing them it’s even more powerful.”

    Keeping it Sustainable Outside of Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants

    Boyer is part of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Tree Tenders program, which focuses on the benefits that trees can provide in the world of sustainability and plant trees throughout Philadelphia.

    Her work in the past 25 years has not gone unnoticed. She has won awards from the Garden Club of America for her work in getting school children out of the classroom and involved with nature. She also does some pro-bono work for BSEC.

    Despite her impressive resume, Boyer remains humble and is determined to continue learning.

    “You are never an expert at anything. There are always new things to learn in every field, you just have to be devoted to finding them,” Boyer said.

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    Meg Milligan

    About Meg Milligan

    Megan Milligan is a journalism student at Temple University. She loves writing about people's lives and the issues that affect them. Rarely will you ever see her without coffee in her hands.

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