For the second summer in a row, Maine Outdoor School was asked to do a fly-tying workshop with the students of CCLC’s River Camp program at Downeast Salmon Federation’s Wigwams Camp on the Machias River. Fly-tying is the traditional handcraft of using thread to tie various natural materials onto a hook to create a nearly weightless lure that can be used in fly-fishing to catch fish. So it was only natural that this year CCLC also wanted the students to have an opportunity to try their hand at fly-casting as well.
One of the things we pride ourselves on at Maine Outdoor School is providing totally custom outdoor learning experiences for clients. In schools, that usually means helping teachers meet particular learning standards. For organizations, that means helping us both meet our missions through nature-based experiences. As Registered Maine Guides, it means providing outdoor experiences that match the interests and skills of a family or other group. In late July 2019, I guided a hike for a family that did just that.
Harrington-area teens are enjoying a week of “Teen Ag Camp,” run by Healthy Acadia at Narraguagus Jr/Sr High School this week. While students were building school garden beds and learning about agriculture and nutrition, they squeezed in some time for a Maine Outdoor School program focused on nutrient cycling!
It is hard to believe that just a short year ago MOS and Downeast Salmon Federation (DSF) were setting out to provide 30 fly-tying workshop across Washington and Hancock counties all based on a small pilot event which showed promising interest. The goal of this workshop series was to engage the local community in fisheries conservation through the traditional handcraft of fly-tying. As of the writing of this article, we delivered 27 fly-tying workshops and anticipate wrapping up this series with four more before the end of July 2019.
When the weather becomes warmer and the ice melts from hiking trails, we find that schools start itching to get their students moving outdoors. When Beals Elementary School principal Chris Crowley reached out to us this spring asking for a hiking-focused field trip for his 5th-8th graders, we thought we could incorporate a service project at the same time. The Great Wass Island Preserve, managed by The Nature Conservancy, has a beautiful shoreline that, unfortunately, becomes strewn with trash that washes in from the ocean (primarily bleach and beverage bottles and fishing gear). Given that this preserve is located quite close to Beals Elementary School, it provided an ideal place to get moving outdoors and make it cleaner for the next time people hike there.
3rd-graders practiced their observation, writing, and reading skills outdoors all spring and on May 9th we sat under a spruce tree together behind their school where I recorded them sharing their writing. Their 5-minute radio feature aired on WERU-FM on Saturday, June 15th, 2019. You can find a link to listen to the episode and read the transcript here.
A question we often ask our students is: “Who lives here?” This open question encourages students of any age to observe their surroundings closely to figure out as many different living things they share their school yard with as they can. The question results in a different program each time depending on the location, season, and interests of the students involved. The 3rd-graders at Jonesport Elementary School explored this very question for 5 weeks of Forest Fridays this spring.
As entrepreneurs of a young organization, it’s a pretty special moment when someone from well outside your service area finds you on the internet and invites you to present at an event three states away! That’s exactly what happened when we heard from an organizer of the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage in New York last fall asking if we would be the speakers for their “Big Tent Talk” on Saturday night of the event.
With ice still covering much of the forest floor in early April, Milbridge 5th-graders hunkered down onto the dry and warm “sit-upons” we always carry with us and reviewed their learning and experiences during Thursday Forays over the school year. They more than filled a chalkboard with their reflections on the educational games they played, the places they explored, the wildlife they saw, and the fun they’d had.
If you’ve been anywhere in the northeast this spring, you know that it has been cool and rainy! The 1st and 2nd-graders at Jonesport Elementary School, however, hardly seemed to notice. They spent five Friday afternoons from late March to early May 2019 learning about “Nature’s Numbers: How can math teach us about nature?”
“Someday, I want to build a fort outside at school!” When four 2nd-graders had that same wish at Jonesport Elementary School this year, Transforming Rural Experience in Education (TREE), which aims to bring all students’ “Somedays” to life (among many other great things), reached out to Maine Outdoor School to help.
With our experience in facilitating outdoor shelter-building with children and our nature knowledge, we had an idea: why not have these students work together with their class to make a sort of fort that will last at least as long as they are students in Jonesport?
On the teacher workshop day that fell the day before April vacation, all Jonesport teachers experienced a professional development workshop with MOS aimed at giving teachers a tangible activity they could use with students in any grade or subject to encourage outdoor learning and self-reflection with a flavor of adventure.
When the weather turns cold, some Maine critters hibernate, others take shelter and never leave home, and still others leave outright during an annual migration. In icy, snowy, rainy, and windy conditions of the winter of 2018-19, the intrepid Milbridge elementary school 3rd and 5th grade students spent time outside each week figuring out how other species adapt to winter.
On five wintry afternoons from mid-December until early February, a group of Jonesport Elementary School 6th-8th graders tested their leadership skills while learning about the components of the local landscape in a Forest Friday program series designed by Maine Outdoor School in collaboration with Cobscook Community Learning Center’s Transforming Rural Experience in Education (TREE) program.
While koozies are just a simple and fun project one can do with wool to keep hands comfortable and beverages insulated, the basic techniques and stitches used are the basis of all knitting, from scarves to shawls, mittens to hats, socks to sweaters. And being able to use local, natural resources to make clothes and accessories helps build personal and community resilience.
Starting in early September 2018, all 3rd and 5th-graders at Milbridge Elementary have been enjoying weekly Thursday Forays with Maine Outdoor School in collaboration with the Transforming Rural Experience in Education (TREE) program. Students in each grade spend one hour per week outside exploring and learning from nature and each other around their school. Every fourth week, the 3rd and 5th-graders combine for a two-hour experience, usually a field trip, to share their experiences with each other and learn from a different ecosystem.
When I arrived 15 minutes before the start of a fly-tying workshop we were leading in collaboration with Downeast Salmon Federation at Fogtown Brewing Company in Ellsworth to begin setting up vises and prepping tying materials, I was surprised by a jovial patron who exclaimed “you better get set up quickly because people are ready to get started!”
During late fall 2018, the Pre-K and Kindergarten students at Jonesport Elementary School spent an hour a week outside exploring and learning about nature during a collaborative program between Maine Outdoor School and Transforming Rural Experience in Education (TREE). Guided by the core question, “are humans part of nature?” students spent each week observing seasonal changes, exploring nature around their school, and making discoveries about how humans interact with the environment.
During early fall 2018, the 4th and 5th-graders at Jonesport Elementary School spent an hour per week each week figuring out “who lives here?” Maine Outdoor School, in collaboration with Transforming Rural Experience in Education (TREE), provided this five-week Forest Friday program series to meet both teacher and student goals. For inspiration, students referenced Island Readers and Writers book Look Up! by Annette LeBlanc Cate, a fun book about observing birds and keeping a sketchbook.