Surrounded by woods, Meg Schumacher Boyd, 46, spent much of her Elkridge childhood exploring dirt, trees and streams.
Now, as executive director of the Howard County Conservancy, she is still exploring nature — and encouraging children and teens to do the same.
For the past 10 years, Boyd has led the conservancy’s efforts to protect open space throughout the county, as well as historic buildings like the Montjoy Barn, built in Ellicott City in the 1700s, then disassembled, moved and reassembled at the conservancy’s Woodstock headquarters.
Boyd initiated a community garden at the site in 2009 to encourage local sustainable food sources. It became so successful that it has a consistent wait list. And in 2014, she was instrumental in opening the conservancy’s second nature center at Belmont Manor and Historic Park in Elkridge – just down the road from her childhood home.
But it’s the environmental education programs Boyd helped institute that she is most proud of. When she started, the majority of students visiting the conservancy were elementary school age and on field trips. Now, more than 8,500 preschool, elementary, middle and high school students participate in programs each year. Among the recent programs: hands-on soil pit exploration, where second-graders learn about layers and erosion; BioBlitzes, where elementary and middle school students identify hundreds of living species at the conservancy’s Woodstock and Elkridge locations; and a watershed report card, where high school students evaluate the biological, chemical and physical factors and present their findings to local lawmakers.
“It’s meaningful to me to see that progression,” Boyd says. “It’s wonderful to get the elementary school kids connected to nature and then the high school students doing authentic research.”
Ann Strozyk, environmental educator for Howard County Public School System, calls Boyd her hero.
“She was born to manage and is a natural leader,” Strozyk says. “She has an ability to recognize people’s skill sets and strengths and then puts them where they are supposed to go.”
She also never backs away from a challenge, Strozyk says.
In addition to increasing the number of educational programs offered at the conservancy, Boyd has improved program depth, she says.
“Her big questions are always, ‘How can we provide the best programs for the students and how can we support the teachers?’“ Strozyk says. “Because if the teachers are excited about being here, it carries over to the students.”
This spring, the conservancy will reach even more students when it opens an expansion to its Woodstock education center. With any luck, some of them may just become “future environmentalists,” Boyd says.
-- Allison Eatough | For Howard Magazine