Ben Hockensmith

Ben Hockensmith

A Budding Scientist

Ten-year-old Ben Hockensmith is a 5th grader at Chesterfield School, where he has learned alongside Harris Center teacher-naturalist Jenna Spear since he was in the 1st grade. Jenna said:

“Ben has been enthusiastic about every project we’ve ever done. I don’t think there’s anything we’ve explored that he hasn’t been excited about!”

This school year, Jenna taught Ben and his classmates about invasive species, with a focus on Oriental bittersweet and burning bush. Ben recounted how Oriental bittersweet can strangle trees, and how burning bush grows so densely that it crowds out native plants. As with all Harris Center lessons, outdoor sessions accompany the classroom learning.

“Mrs. Spear shows me stuff I never knew about. We found a lot of invasive species outside,” said Ben. “There was a lot of burning bush down by the river and Oriental bittersweet down the path. I looked for some at my house, but I didn’t find any. I like to roam around outside the house and look for stuff.”

The Life Aquatic

Child's hands holding a red eft. (photo © Ben Conant)

The joy of discovery. (photo © Ben Conant)

Ben also recalled the pond study he did with the Harris Center when he was in 3rd grade. On their expedition, they found salamanders, crayfish, frogs, minnows, water bugs, and other insects, all of which left an impression on Ben. He is fascinated by aquatic life and is considering being a marine biologist someday.

“When I first saw a salamander, I thought, ‘What is this?! I need to know about it! It’s so cute!’ Since then I think I discovered all the fish in Spofford Lake,” said Ben, “but you never know what may be in the depths!”

But it’s not just what’s in the water that intrigues Ben. He also spoke of sitting on the grass to see what forms of life can be seen among the blades, as well as observing a bald eagle making a nest on the small island in Spofford Lake. Ben has keen powers of observation, according to his Chesterfield School classroom teacher, Sheara Heon:

“He notices things all the time that most people would miss.”

Outdoor Fun

Ben loves the summer because he gets to spend more time playing outside with his friends, playing tag and building forts. But no matter what the season, he enjoys being outside whenever he can, doing what 10-year-old boys have probably always enjoyed doing:

“I mostly climb trees and run around in the woods,” said Ben. “Sometimes I find new things — plants and animals.”

This active, budding scientist is also involved in baseball, football, wrestling, and cross country at school. It’s clear that Ben’s future is bright.

“Only 5% of the sea has been discovered. I’m betting we’ll build tunnels underwater someday to learn more about what’s down there,” said Ben.

We’re betting that, with Ben’s curiosity and enthusiasm, he may very well be part of those discoveries!

Contact Us

For more information on the Harris Center’s 50th anniversary celebrations, please contact Lisa Murray at (603) 525-3394 or by email.