Scituate fourth-graders visit Hanscom AFB’s Fourth Cliff

  • Published
  • By Glen Kernusky
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Over 50 Scituate fourth-graders with their teachers and some parents visited Hanscom Air Force Base’s Fourth Cliff Recreational Area in the Humarock Village area of Scituate, Massachusetts, June 6.

They were on a field trip to learn about erosion and coastal ecology.

“We showed the students some of our coastal science features, such as erosion and the endangered species habitat,” said Scott Sheehan, Hanscom AFB’s natural resource manager. “Our partners with the Massachusetts Audubon Society and the North and South Rivers Watershed Association were here to help us with their expertise in wildlife and natural resources.”

Situated on a cliff overlooking the North and South Rivers, the Fourth Cliff Recreation Area was once an Army coastal artillery battery and part of the World War II Boston Harbor coastal defenses. It is now a 56-acre military recreation lodging area operated by Hanscom AFB’s 66th Force Support Squadron.

Fourth Cliff’s coastal banks on the north and east sides of the property are under constant threat of erosion, particularly from coastal storms.

“This is a part of our local community and history and seemed like a great place to connect the kids to the environment around them,” said Bethany Kenneway, veteran and enrichment coordinator for Scituate’s Jenkins Elementary School. “I knew there was no better example of erosion and its effects than Fourth Cliff.”

Part of the curriculum established by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is education on weathering and erosion.

The children were organized into three groups, who then visited different learning stations set up on the beach.

“Mass. Audubon has a 20-year partnership with Hanscom to monitor and manage the piping plover and the least tern, two endangered bird species that historically nest here,” said Gina Purtell, Mass. Audubon coastal resilience and community science program manager. “By bringing the kids here to see this habitat, it demonstrates how we are working together to manage it and will help connect the community to the Air Force Base.”

Brian Taylor, an educator with the NSR Watershed Association, also worked with the students.

“I’m here to provide a really fun, hands-on coastal education program,” he said. “We’re doing a coastline scavenger hunt and some water sampling.”

The NSRWA is a local non-profit environmental organization based in Norwell, Mass., that works to protect the waters and natural resources within the North and South Rivers watershed. 

There was also a walk with Sheehan to view the erosion of the North Cliff face from the beach where it could be seen safely.  

“We have a unique opportunity here at Fourth Cliff to learn about erosion and think about ways to sustainably manage it and the surrounding ecology,” said Sheehan. “We’re looking for ways to expand our partnerships and to do more outreach and education and having the kids come here was a great step in that direction.”