a day well spent

Washington Irving Middle School
Roslindale, MA

Recently Gabby Queenan, Jonas Procton, Ellen Biegert, Steve Stanish and others participated in a Green Infrastructure training exercise with students from X-Cel Education, Conservation Corps. Gabby’s professional area of expertise as an environmental planner is water focused, mainly evaluating GI opportunities, and collaborating with community leaders to explore options for GI projects, as well as outreach and community engagement.

HW: Why is this training opportunity important?

GQ: Volunteer opportunities like this one, put our work in a different context. It is definitely an added  bonus to revisit a project and learn from it. I think there are some direct benefits to leaving our consulting bubble for the day and talking to young people about the benefits of GI. We are prompted with new questions and perspectives that make us think creatively about how these solutions can address challenges within communities.

HW: What did you take away from the experience?

GQ: My favorite part was the one-on-one conversations with the students. They are preparing for their wastewater treatment operator’s exam, and I enjoyed hearing their first impressions. Their big picture questions were appreciated by all.

The biggest thing I thought about was what happens to our project sites after our work is done. Is there something else we could be doing to make maintenance easier for the client?


If I had to choose one word to summarize the day, it would be “fulfilling!” – Gabby

HW: What is your advice to others who might be considering this volunteer opportunity?

GQ: I would tell staff and associates that it is a pretty unique opportunity and a chance to really see our projects in a different light. Programs like this can help reinforce with the next generation that GI works, and it is worthwhile to learn about how to keep these solutions operating successfully for the long term. Also, a day outside away from my desk was very much appreciated! It was a fun day, and the students were interested in learning from our experiences.

HW: How can we bring in some of our planning work into these trainings?

GQ: We could provide some background perhaps in a different session on how communities are making decisions about whether to include GI. Planning paves the way for these projects. This could take place pre-tour, by having a conversation about why this project became a priority and what were the challenges encountered. Conversations like this might be a good primer before an on-site visit.

HW: Concluding thoughts about the day?

GQ: People really enjoyed the training. The students were curious and asked tough questions. Questions included: How effective is GI as a strategy? What kind of nutrients will this remove? During the landscaping of the bioretention areas, they wanted to know about weeds, invasive plants, and why planting native plants matters. I was a little nervous about fitting in the time for this opportunity, but if I had to choose one word to describe the day it would be “fulfilling.” I am glad that I made time and I feel good about our project work at the school and look forward to hearing about the students’ next steps. It is important to be available to volunteer as you always take something good away.

To learn more visit: X-Cel Education