By Hazel Stark
While August days are hot, nights become notably crisp and cool, red maple trees begin to blush with the telling color of a closing season, gardens become full of their bounty, and many animals begin their annual migration to follow the sun. This migration is a reality for many of our feathered friends, such as geese, loons, and warblers, but is also a reality for individuals of our own species. With the ripening of our abundant and iconic wild lowbush blueberries (check out this article about the state of our blueberries this year), our quiet corner of the state welcomes blueberry workers from a variety of places, including Nova Scotia, Florida, and Mexico. What do the children of these migrant workers do while their parents are working in the fields and factories of local blueberry companies? Go to Blueberry Harvest School, of course!
We’re in the thick of programming for the Blueberry Harvest School for the second year! Maine Outdoor School’s Outdoor Educator Ellie Oldach has been leading 45 minute “Outdoor Explorations” classes for all students ages 3-14 Monday-Thursday at Blueberry Harvest School. Outdoor Explorations was a new block last year designed collaboratively between Mano en Mano and Maine Outdoor School to have a regular active class at Blueberry Harvest School that was outdoors and curriculum-aligned. Outdoor Explorations is aligned to Next Generation Science Standards for each age group and aligned with the Blueberry Harvest School (BHS) theme for this summer: “Learning from Each Other.” Additionally, Maine Outdoor School led a full day field trip to Roque Bluffs State Park.
During the first week of BHS, the youngest students built their confidence in the outdoors by refining their observation skills through forest exploration, acting, making art, and sorting living and non-living things. Older students deepened their observation skills by observing ants, playing Animal Sign Bingo and predator/prey games, and considering animal communication strategies. The oldest students dived into the varied applications of maps by creating their own maps of the BHS campus and considering how other animals figure out where to go by playing a game that illustrated ant pheromone trails and bees’ waggle dances. They further applied these lessons from the natural world by learning about the importance of animal migration—vital for ensuring a variety of species can access the resources they need to survive. By building observation skills and learning from the stories of the natural world through fun hands-on activities, students were able to realize how their own stories mirrored the stories of the other species we share our communities with.
During the MOS-led field trip to Roque Bluffs State Park, students were broken into three age groups to explore “Different perspectives: Individuality in the natural and human world.” The youngest group, which I led, compared the life found in ocean tidepools to the life found in a freshwater pond. They concluded that there were a lot of differences between fresh and saltwater and guessed that there is more life in the ocean than in a pond. Grades 2-5, led by Joe, also explored tidepools and the ocean beach to see evidence of the living and nonliving things that come from the ocean. The oldest group, led by Ellie, hiked into the forest and noticed evidence of human history hidden in those woods: an overgrown apple orchard. They wrote stories from the perspectives of the apple trees there. To round out the day, students swam in the ocean before boarding the bus for a quiet ride back to school.
It has been a pleasure to work with the students of the Blueberry Harvest School for another August. Stay tuned for updates about weeks 2-4 of this program (yes, the above only described week 1)!
For more news like this, please sign up for our quarterly e-newsletter here.