A passion for nature and a desire for opportunities to work outdoors led Jenna Johnston '13 of Worcester, Mass., to select environmental studies as her major.
Her environmental studies focus at MCLA, Johnston said, has "made me enthusiastic about learning and expanding my knowledge. Having such amazing teachers and interesting classes makes it fun to learn. The labs also add to the excitement, because they give students a chance to apply what they learn in class with hands-on projects."
During one lab where students studied the different characterics of lakes, Johnston and her classmates went to nearby Lake Pontoosuc to collect water samples. Among other observations, they looked at the tiny organisms that live there.
"Outside labs are interesting and beneficial," Johnston said. "For example, in my 'Aquatic and Wetlands Plants' class, we learn about different plants during lectures, and then visit bodies of water to collect and identify the plants. In another class, we learned about soil and then went out to dig holes to examine the different layers of soil."
Johnston, who is learning the importance and benefits of sustainable living, also is serving an internship at MCLA's campus garden.
"It has been a great way to get involved with the community and learn more about gardening," she said. "I want to find a career that involves both organic food production and spreading awareness of the benefits of eating fresh produce and maintaining a healthy lifestyle."
Taking care of the garden, Johnston said, is a great way to gain more experience in how to grow one's own food.
"Throughout the growing season, the other intern, the volunteers and I were responsible for preparing the beds, sowing seeds, harvesting, donating food and watering the garden," Johnston said. "I like being able to work outside and do something that is relaxing. It is important to grow your own food organically because, not only is it healthier for you, it's healthier for the environment. Also, the food tastes how it is meant to taste; fresh and incredible!"
As she works with various community members, Johnston enjoys showing them how fun and rewarding growing a garden can be. "And, it's a great opportunity for me to learn from others who are more experienced with gardening than I am."
The lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, purple cauliflower, tomatoes, green beans, celery, bell peppers, hot peppers, basil, beets, Swiss chard, carrots, spinach and flowers Johnston helps to grow is distributed among the volunteers and interns. The vegetables also are donated to the Friendship Food Pantry in North Adams.
Johnston decided to attend MCLA during her senior year of high school. A large part of her decision was because her sister, Alison Johnston '13, a double major in early childhood education and English literature, already was an MCLA student.
Johnston recommends MCLA to prospective students. In addition to the beautiful scenery that surrounds the campus, "It's a place where you can just be yourself and feel comfortable doing so," she said. "There are so many opportunities to get involved with the school and meet new people."