In 2019, while preparing to embark on a trip to Antarctica with National Geographic, Suffield High School science teacher Justin Kaput met Dr. John Francis. A National Geographic Explorer and former ambassador for the United Nations’s environmental program, Dr. Francis is celebrated within National Geographic and the broader science community for his 17 years of silence and 22 years of walking the earth. Today, he can be found doing what he calls planetwalking: taking a small group out on a walk to learn, spend time with nature, and have fun. Dr. Francis’s previous planet walk locations include Taipei and Greece, but now, he’s coming to Suffield!
In conjunction with the Connecticut Science Center, Dr. Francis was the inspiration for 2020’s “Walk to the Hart,” a youth climate event planned by SHS students during which groups of students from schools across Connecticut would walk with Dr. Francis to the Connecticut Science Center for a day of important, climate-centered activities. Even though “Walk to the Hart” was canceled by COVID, the Suffield Sustainability Council (SSC) recognized youth in Connecticut’s need for such an event, and successfully reimagined “Walk to the Hart” 2020 as “Zoom to the Hart”, a virtual climate summit which took place in April of 2021. “Zoom to the Hart,” featuring National Geographic Explorer Dr. Francis, rocket scientist turned conservation technologist Shah Selbe, biogas innovator Dr. T.H. Culhane, Hōkūle’a crew member Dan Kinzer, and other amazing speakers, was successful in bringing together students, educating them about the problems facing the environment, and inspiring change.
The SSC seeks to achieve these goals once again, now focusing its outreach not only on Connecticut schools, but on the Suffield community. This will be done through the council’s upcoming three-day climate celebration, “Walk to the Hart 2022.” With support from Dr. John Francis, the Connecticut Sierra Club, the University of Connecticut, North American Association of Environmental Educators, US Fish and Wildlife, the Connecticut Science Center, and more, “Walk to the Hart” will provide an opportunity for both Suffield citizens and students from across Connecticut to come together to learn about and appreciate the planet.
SSC members have spent months planning “Walk to the Hart” and are happy to welcome all Suffield residents to attend its first day. This will be a sustainability and climate focused version of a town favorite event, Suffield on the Green, taking place from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 21. In addition to getting the opportunity to meet Dr. Francis, who will be walking to the town green along with Suffield High School students, attendees will be able to interact with important environmental leaders, and visit a variety of booths and demonstrations from local environmental and climate organizations, state agencies, college environmental programs, and sustainable businesses. There will also be presentations prepared by students and teachers from SHS, and more. The event is open to all, free to enter, and will also feature food trucks and entertainment!
The second day of “Walk to the Hart” focuses on bringing together students from across north-central Connecticut and is therefore not open to the general public. However, the SSC is also asking for Suffield residents to attend day three, Saturday, April 23. On this day, participants will gather to decrease pollution in the Suffield community by cleaning up a local body of water. As the SSC works to solidify the location of the cleanup, they are open to suggestions. More information about the cleanup will be available in the coming weeks on the SSC’s Facebook page, as well as on signs around town. We hope you can join us!