A Staunch Advocate for Environmental Education
“I remember how touched I was when I saw an azalea planter by the front door of PES [Peterborough Elementary School] when I started there. I found out later that it was donated by Janet Altobello. I thought, ‘Other people are here that realize there’s a place for art and beauty and nature!’”
So began Sue’s time as principal at PES, as well as what would be a fruitful association with Janet Altobello, Harris Center School Program Director and teacher-naturalist for PES. Sue would go on to spend 17 years at PES, where she was a strong advocate for bringing Harris Center teacher-naturalists into the school.
“I would hear kids saying, ‘Wow! I always want to snowshoe!’ because Janet had taken them out to the woods. That’s powerful.”
“The Legacy is the Land and the Experience on the Land”
During Sue’s tenure at PES, she turned the once-bare campus into an inviting green space. She also firmly established the connection between PES and the Harris Center. After Sue retired from PES, she served on the Harris Center Board for two terms, one as the Board Chair, where her educational expertise and enthusiastic outlook were valued assets. Of her time on the Board, Sue said:
“That was a lot of fun! The Harris Center has a tradition of getting diverse backgrounds and skillsets on the Board. It was a wonderful group to work with.”
Sue and her husband Doug continue to be avid supporters of the Harris Center. They participate in many Harris Center programs, and particularly enjoy hiking and birding.
“Our granddaughter Sophia lives in Alabama and had come to visit. We were at the summit of Thumb Mountain—Doug, Sophia and me. Doug was pointing [out] various lakes, mountains, and other sites, and I thought, ‘Someday Sophia might be standing here with her grandkids doing the same thing.’ Makes me teary. The legacy is the land and the experience on the land.”
On the Value of Hands-on Experiences in Nature
Always an outdoors person, Sue is grateful for the opportunity to spend more time outside now that she’s retired. Likewise, she still deeply values the Harris Center’s school-based environmental education program because it gives children a hands-on understanding of and appreciation for nature.
“I want every child to have that experience of being outdoors. Learning to observe and listen in this busy online world is a hugely important gift to our children today. I’m so pleased, too, that many of these kids then take their parents and families on year-round hikes, and even go on to major in environmental studies in college. The Harris Center teacher-naturalists’ impact on young children is so incredibly valuable!”
One of Sue's many discoveries in the woods. (photo © Sue Copley)
A closer look at the woods in early winter, from one of Sue and Doug's woodland walks. (photo © Sue Copley)
A brook in early spring, found on one of Sue and Doug's many woodland rambles. (photo © Sue Copley)
For more information on the Harris Center’s 50th anniversary celebrations, please contact Lisa Murray at (603) 525-3394 or by email.