Leo Kenny
Reading Memorial High School
Reading, Massachusetts

Leo Kenney has been teaching science at the Reading Memorial High School in Reading, Massachusetts, for the past 23 years. As part of his field biology course for seniors, Leo developed a wetlands curriculum focusing on vernal pools. A number of his students became so interested in the topic that they decided to form a student club, the Reading Memorial High School Vernal Pool-Association. Since the formation of the club in 1992, Leo and his students have “certified” more than 200 vernal pools in Massachusetts, close to one-third of all the pools certified to date. Certification involves documenting the evidence of breeding of vernal pool obligate species by gathering biological data and submitting this evidence for review by the state’s natural heritage program. Vernal pools are only afforded protection under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act if they first have been certified.

Leo and his students also present instructional workshops in vernal pool natural history and certification to students, teachers, and conservation commissions for communities throughout the state. As a result of this training, many public school and college instructors have initiated their own certification projects, including Penn State University, which has secured state funding to conduct a vernal pool inventory. The dedication of Leo and his students to protecting and educating the public about vernal pools has included designing and distributing T-shirts, creating an exhibit that circulates at environmental conferences through-out the region, and producing publications such as “Wicked Big Puddles,” “Evidence of Breeding by Obligate Vernal Pool Species,” and “Vernal Pool Identification.”

—Stafford Madison, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency