Planting Seeds for the Ipswich River’s Future

Jacob Garland of IRWA explains his time as and Educator, focusing on the importance of our waters, along with his hope for the future of our environment and the next generation.

Photo by The Tampa Bay Estuary Program on Unsplash
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Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship with an appreciation for our surroundings and the wellbeing of future generations. The series is coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

In the face of mounting global challenges, it can be very easy to lose hope. Just as we emerged from the trials of our collective first year battling COVID-19, we were once again thrust into another evolving challenge, this time with deviant strains, increased uncertainty about the paths we should take, and divisive disagreements about the roles we should play. Our challenges, whether they be with COVID or protecting our beloved Ipswich River, endure. And in the intense heat of challenge, our little seeds of hope may rot long before they sprout. Unless, of course, we prioritize community awareness and involvement to support them.

Hired as their 2021 Kerry Mackin Summer Educator, I spent my summer working with the Ipswich River Watershed Association to educate youth within the Ipswich River watershed on the importance of the river as well as the ways we can protect it. I loved creating lesson plans, scheduling a curriculum, and connecting with these kids who so clearly want to be stewards of our environment.

The challenges aren't going anywhere any time soon

But if there’s one thing I’ve come to realize, it’s that the challenges we face in protecting our river and our water are incredibly strong: intense droughts, excessive water use, water pollution, and habitat destruction aren’t going anywhere any time soon. 

"These kids possess a vitality stronger than any challenge we face."

But I also refuse to believe in a future in which our seeds of hope no longer exist. And after reaching over 500 kids from Lynn, Marblehead, Salem, Beverley, Danvers, North Andover, Andover, North Reading, Lynnfield, Peabody, and Lawrence, my hope for the future is more alive than ever. They are eager to learn and eager to help, and it is precisely that kind of energy that supports our little seeds of hope in the face of our greatest challenges. They deserve both our support and our attention. 

Our Ipswich River is in sore need of help.

As my time at IRWA came to a close, I found myself thoroughly tempted to focus on the challenges all of us will face in the future. Our Ipswich River, now one of the most endangered rivers in the country, is in sore need of help. But nestled in the ground, sometimes beyond our notice, are our seeds of hope. They are planted not only in the next generation of river protectors — who I’ve been so privileged to teach — but in all members of the communities that benefit from the river. We nourish them through community awareness and involvement, critical thought about the impact of our actions on today’s youth, and deep concern for the wellbeing of future generations. I firmly believe that, with help from us all, these seeds we have planted will flower into a future better than we ever could have imagined.

I can only hope that I’ve managed to inspire my students as much as they’ve inspired me. Thank you to them and thank you to IRWA for giving me this opportunity.

Here’s to a brighter future!

This column was coordinated by ACES Youth Corps member Caleb Bradshaw. To share any comments or questions, send an email to To learn more about ACES, go to

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about the author
Jacob Garland

Jacob is a current undergraduate student studying at Dartmouth College with a prospective major in Environmental Studies and Psychology. He’s worked with nonprofits, school communities, and peer groups to educate those in his community about the impacts of environmental issues as well as their solutions.

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