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School Theme: Citizenship and Environmental Stewardship 

Sept. 16 2021 — Renowned environmental activist and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich, who was the subject of the 2000 eponymous film starring Julia Roberts, and Catherine Coleman Flowers, an activist for equal access to water and sanitation for marginalized communities, will visit with NMH students on Oct. 28 as part of a “conversation series” centered on the broader “citizenship and environmental stewardship” theme that NMH has adopted for the 2021–22 school year. 

Brockovich was instrumental in building the successful 1993 lawsuit alleging that Pacific Gas and Electric had been poisoning the water in Hinkley, California, for over 30 years. It led to the largest direct-action lawsuit of its kind, with the utility paying $333 million in damages to more than 600 residents. Flowers is an internationally known environmental-justice activist, MacArthur “genius” grant recipient, and author of Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret. 

Grant Gonzalez, assistant dean of faculty, said the yearlong conversation series will bring two or more speakers to NMH each term. In addition to all-school discussions featuring invited speakers, the series will provide opportunities for NMH students to engage with the speakers in more intimate settings, such as in classes or with their advisory groups, or during special dinner gatherings. In October, Brockovich and Flowers will interact with students on Zoom due to the pandemic, but the hope is that winter- and spring-term speakers will visit campus in person. 

The school learning theme will guide other special programming, such as essay contests and other initiatives, and, Gonzalez said, it will be woven into many of NMH’s existing events, programs, and traditions, such as Mountain Day, the Pie Race, the Green Cup Challenge, and the International Carnival. 

A “story map” about Northfield Mount Hermon and the history of the land upon which it sits and the people of the Connecticut River Valley will serve as an additional resource and enhance work around the school theme this year and beyond. Becca Malloy, NMH’s sustainability director, developed the web-based story map — titled “What is our place?” — using Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

“The one thing that every student at NMH today shares in common is our campus,” Malloy said. “Campus learning relationships are not limited to lesson plans — we grow when we hear an owl during a late-afternoon walk in the woods, see the view from Memorial Chapel, or sketch a misty morning on the farm. We stand on soil that has nourished and brought meaning to generations of people, including the Abenaki, Pocumtuc, and Nipmuc tribes. This year, our theme reminds us of both the responsibility for and the opportunity that comes from connection to the people and systems that sustain us.” 

The citizenship and environmental stewardship logo (shown above) merges the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals color wheel with a drawing of Memorial Chapel by NMH art teacher Lauren Scott Corwin. Malloy said, “The UN Sustainable Development Goals give us a framework to be our best selves in a changing world, and wrapping them around the chapel shows the heart that we bring to our work making the world better."