A pond for study and fun

Since 1912, students have enjoyed ice skating, rowing and learning about the Perkins Pond’s wildlife and ecosystem.

Kindergarten boys kneel next to white geese at the edge of Perkins Pond in November 1936.

The Perkins Pond is a bustling place on Perkins School for the Blind’s campus. It’s where students get hands-on experience during science class, staff members enjoy ice cream and Canada geese take their goslings on their first swim.

Students have enjoyed the pond since 1912, when Perkins moved to its 38-acre Watertown campus. In those days, students would row across it, wade in it and picnic on its shores during warm weather. In the winter months, when the pond froze over, students would skate on it (in fact, it iced over so well that before Perkins bought the property, its previous owners harvested and stored ice from it to sell for ice boxes). Students also studied the pond and its ecosystem, including one student who conducted a depth study in the 1970s to dispel the myth that nobody could touch the bottom of the pond at its center.

In 1982, however, Perkins decided to close the unfenced pond, concerned that it would be unsafe for the changing student population, which now included more students with disabilities in addition to blindness.  

Over the next 30 years, the pond became overgrown and unusable – to the point where some on campus were surprised a pond even existed.

In 2009, after a campaign was launched to reopen the pond to students, Perkins secured a Partners in Preservation grant to restore the pond and reestablish it as a resource for teaching and student recreation. The restoration took two years and included the installation of a fence around its perimeter and a fountain to help aerate the water.

After the pond reopened in 2011, a longtime Perkins supporter donated funds in memory of her husband to create “John’s Bridge” across the pond. The structure helps students safely study the aquatic ecosystem, conduct experiments and monitor local wildlife, including frogs and turtles.

In 2014, the Watertown Historical Commission presented Perkins with an Environmental Preservation Award for its restoration efforts, which beautified a “property which had previously fallen into disrepair or neglect.”

Today, the pond provides a multisensory learning experience for students who are visually impaired as they parade across the bridge during White Cane Safety Day or measure oxygen levels in the water during science class.  

Elizabeth McClellan, a child born both deaf and blind due to a rubella infection, learned new communication skills after coming to Perkins.

Throughout history, Perkins emerges stronger from world-changing events

Early 20th century group portrait of Teacher Training Program participants.

Teacher of teachers

Ten boys pose against a compost heap after raking leaves from the garden. Gardening has a been a longstanding activity for students at Perkins since the school moved to its current Watertown campus more than a century ago.

A century of horticulture skills