Amherst kindergartners press for conservation permit

  • Janae Martinez raises her hand while David Ziomek speaks —Greta Jochem

Staff Writer
Published: 11/28/2018 12:39:58 PM

AMHERST – David Ziomek got an unusual visit at Amherst Town Hall on Tuesday morning. 

Ten Common School kindergarten students met with the assistant town manager and director of conservation and development to talk about their school’s proposal to use Larch Hill Conservation Area for a new initiative at the school called “Forest Fridays,” a program that spends at least one hour outdoors for education and playtime each week. A similar program has been done at R.K. Finn Ryan Road School in Florence.

Though the school has long used the conservation area next to its building, regular use of it requires a permit, Jenny Coy, a teacher at the Common School, explained. 

Accompanied by their teachers on Tuesday, the students sat around a large table trying resist the temptation to spin around in the office chairs – and sometimes inevitably giving into it. 

At the end of the table was a letter to the Conservation Commission about why the students want to use the land. It’s signed at the bottom with student signatures in orange, green and blue markers. 

It’s a first for Ziomek. “I’ve never had kindergartners come to make a presentation before,” he remarked.

Students talked about what they liked about venturing into the conservation land with their classmates.

Zafira Aquino was one of the first to offer an answer. “The tea!” she said. The class sometimes has mint tea made from leaves grown in their garden while on the land. Students are also quick to point out there’s sugar in it as well.

“I see a lot of cool animals,” Janae Martinez told the room of her time in the conservation area. 

Many other students spoke excitedly about seeing an owl and a fox while out in Larch Hill. Eric Losier said he was excited he found a slug once. Charlotte Holland later said she liked the games they play there.

Using the meeting as a moment for education, Ziomek explained what conservation land is and the rules of using it. He asked if the students would take anything with them from the land, to which there was a resounding “no.” 

Coy explained that the field trip is part of a recent unit of study. “It has to do with our study of community and commitment to providing children with real-life experience,” she said, adding that students recently visited the town’s Department of Public Works as well. Coy added that she also wanted to show her students that their voices matter. 

Coy is expected to speak this week before the town’s Conservation Commission, which must official approve the school’s plans. 

Greta Jochem can be reached at

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