Home Environmental education Shirley Griffin Obituary (1946 – 2022) – Lancaster, MA

Shirley Griffin Obituary (1946 – 2022) – Lancaster, MA

Dr. Shirley Libby Griffin, 75

Oakmont Regional Science Educator and Environmental Education Consultant

LANCASTER – Dr. Shirley Libby Griffin, of 252 Fort Pond Inn Road Lancaster, MA died Jan. 19 at home after a long battle with endometrial cancer.

Dr. Griffin was born on November 4, 1946 in Ayer, MA, the daughter of Vernon Harcourt Griffin and Shirley Hatch Griffin. She is survived by her husband of 34 years, Thomas J. Christopher, her daughter-in-law Kelly C. Christopher and her husband Robin Bloodworth of Decatur, Georgia. She also leaves behind many “Hatch cousins”; Rhonda, Timothy, William, Clifford, “Hap”, David, Jimmy, Norma and Harriet.

Dr. Griffin was educated at Shirley and Ayer schools. She graduated from Fitchburg State College with a major in science education (biology) in 1968, and also earned a master’s degree in guidance education in 1970. She completed her doctoral studies in environmental science education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1982. Prior to her doctoral studies, she attended advanced courses at Syracuse University immersed in courses in ecology and forestry.

Dr. Griffin taught at Oakmont Regional High School in Ashburnham-Westminster, MA for fifty years in a distinguished career that has spanned beyond and influenced more than three generations of students. While at Oakmont, she was one of the pioneers of environmental education in New England, developing the award-winning “Environmental Survival” program. For ten years, she and her students traveled and lived in the Florida Everglades during spring school breaks to study the impacts of development on sensitive South Florida ecosystems. Its curriculum expanded when Dr. Griffin created additional courses that included land use planning, environmental science, ecology, global environmental issues, field botany, and wildlife management.

By helping her students understand why the environment matters in land use decisions, the critical thinking skills developed in her class have facilitated their ability to make good choices for their cities and their world. Its students have been successful in many environmental careers. Others stayed in their communities to serve on boards and commissions making decisions shaping the future of their community. She left a legacy of environmental stewardship to all of her students.

Public service was an important part of Dr. Griffin’s life. Ms. Griffin was a member of the Shirley Town Conservation Commission for fifteen years, serving as Chair for five years and her leadership permanently protected over 600 acres of open space in her community. She was director of the MA. Association of Conservation Commissions for nine years and volunteer with the MA Department of Environmental Affairs developing programs and activities for teachers using Geographic Information System technology. Dr. Griffin and other professionals have worked with the MA’s Executive Office of Environmental Affairs to establish statewide standards for environmental education. She has also served as a trustee on the board of the MA Environmental Education Society. In her early community environmental work, Shirley also worked with Marion Stoddard and others for the protection of the Nashua and Squannacook rivers.

Taking a year off, in 1987 Dr. Griffin worked with the environmental consulting firm IEP Inc. to develop a training manual titled Clearwater Estates for the MA Dept. of Environmental Protection. This publication has helped members of Conservation Commissions across Massachusetts understand the application of the Wetland Protection Act. She worked with other specialists during her time at IEP to gain field skills in identifying wetland plants. Dr. Griffin has participated in programs at Tufts University Lincoln-Filene Center for Citizenship and Public Affairs Environmental Leadership Training Institute.

Based on his government, professional, and community environmental work, in 1992 Dr. Griffin authored and published Ecolands, a land use and planning curriculum for use by educators involved in teaching the environmental curriculum. She was a frequent keynote speaker, guest speaker, and consultant at a multitude of environmental conferences throughout New England for many years.

In 1988, Dr. Griffin was named a “Lucretia Crocker Fellow” by the MA Dept. of Education in recognition of his outstanding service and contributions to education in Massachusetts and spent a year with other selected teachers traveling to other schools to share his environmental program and other teacher programs with d other educators. In 1999, Dr. Griffin received the “Christa McAuliffe Fellowship Award” named in honor of the teacher/astronaut who lost her life in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and the following year as part of the “Christa McAuliffe Fellowship Program”, was presented with the “McAuliffe Certificate of Honor” from the Massachusetts and US Dept. of Education in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Griffin’s knowledge and expertise was not limited to the classroom, and as a land-use consultant in the private sector, she was a pioneer in introducing developers and builders to the concept of in clusters” to preserve open spaces, protect sensitive environments and reduce the cost of roads and infrastructure. Land use and subdivision plans were used in her classroom to help students understand the importance of land use choices and their effects on communities.

Dr. Griffin especially enjoyed the time spent traveling with her husband and together they hiked trails in Maine, Cape Breton Island, Italy’s Abruzzo National Park, Yellowstone and all over the United States. She had a passion for nature photography and wildlife observation, and her photographic perspective was unique in its subject choice and presentation. Together with Tom, they designed and built their home in Fort Pond and continued to enjoy the beauty and sounds of nature that surrounded their sanctuary.

Shirley has always said her greatest achievement in life was sharing her love of the environment with high school kids. She loved working with students and found it to be the most inspiring and fulfilling part of her life… introducing them to the intricacies of the natural world.

Throughout her life and career, Dr. Griffin has demonstrated a love for the environment and a passion for teaching her students to understand the natural world around them. Her service and commitment to environmental education has been recognized by the MA’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and she was honored in 1999, 2001 and 2007 with “Excellence in Environmental Education” awards. Certificate of Merit” and “First Honours”. As a cornerstone of her education career, in 2016 Dr. Griffin was inducted into the Massachusetts Science Teacher’s Hall of Fame, and her class was dedicated to “Dr. Shirley Griffin Lab & Greenhouse” for her contributions to students at Oakmont Regional High School.

A celebration of life will take place in the spring when the weather is warm. The burial will be private.

As a lover of all animals, donations in her memory may be made to: Ahimsa Haven Animal Rescue 381 Baldwinville Road, Templeton, MA 01468. www.richardsonfuneralhome.net

View the online memorial for Shirley L. Griffin

Published by Sentinel & Enterprise on January 27, 2022.