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.
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.
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!”
On an idyllic, misty, and warm early October morning along the shore of Beals Island, Beals Elementary School’s Pre-K and Kindergarten students went outside to learn about who lives in their local ecosystem.
In collaboration with Downeast Salmon Federation, we are offering free fly-tying workshops across Hancock and Washington Counties over the next year. Visit our Events page to learn about the next workshop near you and read this article to learn about one of these recent workshops.
In an effort to both help students learn about the flora and fauna in their home ecosystem as well as a local preserve they can explore and hike with their families, Beals Elementary School students visited the Ingersoll Point Preserve, owned by the Downeast Coastal Conservancy, in early October 2018.
3rd and 5th-graders at Milbridge Elementary School know all about “phenology” and the living things they can find in their local ecosystem--do you? Due to a lovely partnership with Cobscook Community Learning Center’s Transforming Rural Experience in Education (TREE) program, Maine Outdoor School has been able to provide weekly one-hour outdoor programs to the 3rd and 5th-graders at Milbridge Elementary School.
If a child came to you with a dream about “someday,” wouldn’t you want to help make that dream come true? Cobscook Community Learning Center’s Transforming Rural Experience in Education (TREE) program is working on accomplishing just that by listening to local students and helping weave their voices into the academic goals of their classrooms through their “Somedays” project. TREE realized when a Milbridge Elementary School 3rd-grader announced her wish for an outdoor shelter at school that Maine Outdoor School could help make that dream come true, so TREE provided the funding for Maine Outdoor School to lead a two-part program for her whole class of Milbridge 3rd-graders.
For a second year in a row, all Harrington Elementary students got to explore the woods around their schoolyard with Maine Outdoor School. Activities and learning standards varied from class to class, but all students experienced the natural wonders hidden on Harrington Elementary’s campus while focusing on outdoor exploration and understanding.
Maine Outdoor School and Mano en Mano led a free, bilingual 4-day program series on weekends in May and June 2018 focused on learning about the importance of diversity in nature and in human communities with funding from the Maine Community Foundation. Through this program series, students not only learned about how diversity yields natural and human resilience while valuing their own differences, but also were exposed to a variety of local hiking trails and preserves that they can visit with their families and friends.