Our 2019 Annual Meeting took place at Chewonki on May 17 and 18, and among the items on the agenda were appointments to the board of trustees and the board of advisors. Trustees and advisors play an essential role in shaping Chewonki. They use their skills and wisdom to guide us toward more effectively meeting the Chewonki mission.
We are grateful for all that Kate Wilkinson (an outgoing member of the board of advisors) and Birgit Townley (outgoing member of the board of trustees), have given to Chewonki. A huge thank-you to both of them.
Kate Wilkinson retired from the board of advisors. She has given 17 years of service to Chewonki as a trustee (2001-2013), advisor (2013-2019), and staff member. Kate came to work at Chewonki in the summer of 1978. She continued to work at Boys Camp and lead family and cabin trips through 1982, along with working in the garden, on the farm, and in the office. Since then she’s been part of the regular crew who travels on the famed Gordy Hall (the man, not the cabin bearing his name) expeditions. She was an early supporter of girls at Chewonki, serving on the advisory committee for Chewonki’s Canoe Expedition for Maine Girls and hosting regional events to support Girls Camp scholarships. She has been the foundation treasurer and chair of the Committee on Trustees and Advisors. Her mother, Jean, is an honorary trustee.
Birgit Townley retired from the board of trustees. She first became involved with Chewonki when she sent her eldest son, Hendrik (Henry), to Boys Camp in 2007. From 2007 to 2016, one or more of her children, Hendrik, David, and Charlotte, spent the summer here as a camper or a Wilderness Trips participant (there was a brief hiatus in 2014 when no Townley was at Chewonki). Birgit joined the board as an advisor in 2013 and became a trustee in 2016. She served as a member of the Girls Camp Task Force and a member of the standing committees for advancement and finance. Her husband, Dan Townley, is an incoming trustee.
We also look forward to working with these old friends in new roles:
Sam Buttrick has moved from the board of trustees to the board of advisors. Sam came to Chewonki in 1970 and became a lifelong birder after three summers at Boys Camp and a Chewonki Wilderness Trip on Salisbury Island in Nova Scotia. Sam holds an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago and an A.B. in Slavic languages from Stanford University. He was a camp parent for six years, and his step-children and nephew also came to Camp Chewonki. His mother, Susie, preceded him on the board. Sam joined the Boys Camp Advisory Committee and then became a trustee in 2004. He has been a member of the Finance Committee and the Investment Management Subcommittee. It’s thanks to Sam that campers who love birding can earn a set of binoculars, something they will treasure for a lifetime.
Charles B. Gordy II has moved from the board of trustees to the board of advisors. Charlie came to Boys Camp in 1969. After three years of camp, he did three years of Chewonki Wilderness Trips (Umbagog, Thoreau Wilderness Trip, and Mistassini) in the mid 1970s. He returned as a staff member in 1988 and 1989. From 1989-1991, he served as Chewonki’s first development director. He was back as camp staff again in 1992 and 1993. In 2003, he became a Foundation Advisor, a role he filled until becoming a trustee in 2013. He has been active on the Committee on Trustees and Advisors, the Advancement Committee, the Executive Committee, and the Capital Campaign Planning Task Force. In 2011, his daughter Abby came to Vacation Camp, and in 2012, his daughter Claire spent a summer at Girls Camp. Claire returned in 2015 to be part of our Sustainable Ocean Studies program.
Elizabeth Mygatt has moved from the board of advisors to the board of trustees. She is an associate partner in McKinsey & Company’s Boston office and a leader in the organization practice. She has wide experience in healthcare and other sectors, on topics including organizational and performance transformations, organizational health and culture change, non-clinical functional excellence, leadership, and governance and decision rights. Her recent work focuses on organizational effectiveness, organizational design, increased collaboration across functions, and leadership and capability building. Liz was previously a consultant with an environmental strategy firm, focusing on energy and carbon management, water management, and communications. She holds an M.B.A. from Cornell University and a B.A. from Williams College. She grew up frolicking in the New Hampshire mountains and coastal Rhode Island and Maine. She is an alumna of Maine Coast Semester 20 and says that during her semester, she learned a great deal about community, showing up as her authentic self, and squirrels. In a former lifetime she was an elite rower but has transitioned to competing in an occasional marathon or triathlon.
In addition, we are excited to welcome one new trustee and two new advisors:
Danforth Townley is a new member of the board of trustees. Dan lives in Boston, Massachusetts, and Rye, New York, and is the general counsel of Bracebridge Capital, an investment firm he joined in 2017. In this capacity, he leads the legal team at Bracebridge in its day-to-day responsibilities and provides strategic legal counsel regarding firm initiatives. Dan was a partner for almost 20 years with Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York City, advising private fund sponsors regarding the structuring and offering of funds, ongoing operations and mergers and acquisitions, and regulatory compliance. He then served from 2013-2017 as an attorney fellow in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Investment Management, where he provided leadership on the commission’s rulemaking activities as well as policy advice on asset management initiatives. Dan graduated from Yale College with a B.A. in history and received his J.D. from Yale Law School.
Dan and his wife, Birgit, who just resigned from the board of trustees, have two sons and a daughter (ages 23, 21, and 18), each of whom has been a Chewonki camper and wilderness tripper. Dan enjoys hiking, gardening, singing, traveling, and a variety of sports (including golf and table tennis). He has been active in his community as a member of the board of the Rye Presbyterian Church and as a Rye Youth Soccer coach for his daughter’s team.
Darron Collins is a new member of the board of advisors. Darron is a 1992 graduate of College of the Atlantic (COA) and in July 2011 became the college’s seventh president and the first alumnus to hold that position. Over the past eight years, Collins has helped make COA one of the country’s most successful, innovative, and financially stable schools dedicated to the environment.
Prior to coming back to COA, Collins enjoyed a decade managing international and domestic conservation projects at World Wildlife Fund (WWF). After four years of work in the Amazon Basin, he was asked to lead the organization’s strategic planning process. Then, during the latter half of his career at WWF, Darron served as managing director for the Amur-Heilong Ecoregion—an area the size of Alaska, encompassing parts of Russia, Mongolia, and China—and as senior advisor to the organization’s CEO.
Collins holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from Tulane University. His doctoral research and academic work are based on the ethnobotany of the Q’eqchi’-Maya in northern Guatemala. He has also conducted investigative reporting of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, worked on leopard conservation on the Russia-North Korea border, and has written, produced, and directed the award-winning documentary “Amur River Basin: Sanctuary for the Mighty Taimen.” As a COA student, he received both the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship–a competitive, national award given to outstanding student work in the sciences–and the Watson Foundation Fellowship, funding a year of travel outside the United States. Fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, and Q’eqchi’-Maya, Collins has numerous publications to his name, both in scientific journals and popular media.
A native of Morris Plains, New Jersey, Collins is an avid trail and ultra-runner, fly fisherman, cyclist, hiker, and photographer/videographer. In summer 2015, Collins climbed 40 peaks on Mount Desert Island in one 27-hour expedition. In 2021, he will attempt his first 100-mile ultramarathon. He is a Fellow National of the New York Explorers Club, a board member of the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters, and serves on the Science Advisory Committee of the Schoodic Institute. He lives in Bar Harbor with his wife, Karen, their daughters, Maggie and Molly, and their Lab, Lucy.
Sophia Shaw is a new member of the board of advisors. She is co-founder and managing partner of Acorn Advisors LLC and adjunct professor of social impact at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. She teaches board governance and directs Kellogg Board Fellows, a rigorous program that connects top Kellogg MBA students to Chicago-area nonprofits for an opportunity to learn and give through board service. From 2007–2016, Sophia served as president and CEO of the Chicago Botanic Garden, among the largest cultural institutions in the Midwest and one of the preeminent botanic gardens of the world. Under her guidance, the 385-acre campus experienced a 52 percent increase in attendance as well as record-breaking fundraising (nearly $240 million) and operating budget results. The garden also became recognized as a global model for environmental conservation, urban agriculture, and horticulture jobs training and education, emphasizing programs for diverse and underserved communities in partnership with a wide variety of corporations, schools, healthcare centers, organizations, and government agencies. In recognition of her team’s work at the garden, in 2016 Sophia was awarded the Openlands Conservation Leadership Award. Prior to leading the Chicago Botanic Garden, Sophia served as vice president of exhibitions and education at The Field Museum and worked in curatorial roles at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Throughout her career, Sophia has made board service a priority. She brings her skills in governance, strategy, enterprise risk management, master site planning, construction, and nonprofit finance to her current roles as trustee at the Art Institute of Chicago and advisory board member at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution), where she also serves on the executive and nominating committees and chairs the public engagement committee. She sits on the arts and culture membership committee of the Chicago Network. She is a past board president of the Arts Club of Chicago and has served on the executive committees of the Commercial Club of Chicago and the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO).
Sophia holds both a B.A. from Wellesley College and an M.A. from the University of Chicago in art history, and an M.B.A. in finance from the Kellogg School of Management. Her sons, Nathan and Jonah Siskel, are both Boys Camp alumni and this summer will be heading off on two different Wilderness Trips.
Three buses emblazoned with “Cape Elizabeth School System” roll up to the Chewonki Center for Environmental Education and the bus doors snap open to release 114 sixth-graders and 12 chaperones from Cape Elizabeth Middle School, just south of Portland. This is the 33rd year that Cape Elizabeth middle-schoolers have come to the Chewonki Outdoor Classroom. They will be here for four days and three nights immersed in an adventure that includes sleeping in tents, cooking over a campfire, and spending the days outdoors, learning, team-building, and having fun.
Cape’s positive energy is like a spell of great weather; Outdoor Classroom instructors look forward to it. “It’s a fantastic school group,” says Katie Yakubowski, Outdoor Classroom’s co-coordinator with Tanner Shepherd. “They have so much positive energy. We have a great time with them.”
On the second day of the visit, several Cape teachers here as chaperones take a mid-morning break while their students are busy with Outdoor Classroom instructors. In the Center for Environmental Education kitchen, they hold cups of tea and coffee as they swap notes about their students. Sixth-grade math and science teacher Josh Chase has just finished making eggs, sausage, and hash browns with his students. Today they will be climbing on the Challenge Course, learning how to use a map and compass, exploring the farm, and helping with farm chores.
“How’s she doing? She made it through the night okay?“ one teacher asks about a student. School nurse Jill Young replies, “She’s doing great,” and they exchange smiles. Young “really rocked it, and made it possible for a couple of the students to come, ” says Yakubowski.
Although some students feel nervous before and at the start of this program. “Most of ours were completely ready to go,” says Chase, who has chaperoned the Outdoor Classroom expedition each of the four years that he has been teaching at Cape Elizabeth Middle School.
Some schools come to the Outdoor Classroom to enhance classroom learning but Cape Elizabeth’s goals are self-discovery and teambuilding. “Cape is really competitive educationally,” Chase explains. “It can overwhelm the students sometimes. This is a way to dial back a bit and think about becoming a better person and caring about each other…We’re less concerned about academics here than we are about getting kids in the dirt, hands-on…We’re here to help them grow some empathy for one another” and engage in individual and group work that is “building resilience, preparing them to meet challenges. The hope is that as they go along in life, this will be an anchor experience to come back to in their minds…I do think these experiences have a lasting effect.”
Math and science teacher Charlie Carroll has accompanied Cape students to the Outdoor Classroom for the past 10 years. When he was a middle-school student on his Cape Elizabeth Outdoor Classroom trip, his chaperone was Joe Doane, a longtime Cape teacher who came for 32 years (this year, he took a well-deserved pass). Carroll in turn chaperoned Joe Doane’s son, Joe Doane, Jr., to the Outdoor Classroom when he was a student. Now the younger Doane is also a Cape Elizabeth Middle School teacher, and he, too, is on Chewonki Neck with the students this week.
Carroll tries to put into words Outdoor Classroom’s benefits to students. “At this age, they are all about themselves,” he says. “When you are camping, working together and having fun together outdoors, the barriers break down. Kids come together. They develop more empathy, they look more inside and outside of themselves. And when they get back to regular school, they have a lot of connections with each other…If we could do more of it, school would be better. Chewonki is a big, big change. Here, they are put into a situation where a sense of community happens naturally–they’re part of a small group, no distractions, no social media…” Several teachers chime in to say how detrimental they feel social media is to their students’ state of mind.
Chase, who grew up in Maine, remembers, “I spent all of my free time outdoors when I was a kid. That doesn’t happen much now. I don’t know how many of these kids play outside a lot. When we go to the Frog Pond here, I realize that very few have caught a frog before.”
“When we go back to school, you see kids who didn’t connect beforehand saying things like, ‘Oh, he was in my Chewonki group!’ Sitting around the fire together gives them a deeper sense of connection with each other–everyone in their group,” he says. “It’s deep in the Cape culture.”
Indeed, the Cape Elizabeth community both inside and outside of the school provide essential support for the annual Outdoor Classroom pilgrimage. When the sixth-graders head for the bus to Chewonki, seventh- and eighth-grade students, Outdoor Classroom veterans themselves, line up to give them a rousing send-off. When the younger students return, signs saying “Welcome back!” line the street to the school.
Cape Elizabeth’s Outdoor Classroom experience is possible because of support from the Middle School Parents Association and the Community Education Fund (CEF) (which helps students carry out fundraisers such as the bottle redemption initiative called Clynk) to offset Outdoor Classroom’s cost. “Cape Elizabeth has been coming to Chewonki since 1986,” points of Yakubowski. “They have sent thousands of kids through the Outdoor Classroom program and are very dedicated…It is a huge effort, both financially and logistically, to take a class of this size on a camping trip. They work really hard to make it happen. “
Dedicated? That’s for sure. Teacher Laura Briggs works with the Middle School Parents Association, and she is here with a broken back healing from a December accident. She can’t carry a backpack but wanted to share this experience with her students. “I got better in the nick of time,” she says, all smiles.
The teachers take a final swallow of tea or coffee, gather their gear, and set out to connect with their student groups and the Outdoor Classroom instructors. It’s going to be a beautiful day.
(Postscript: On Friday, after the last Cape Elizabeth Middle School student had said good-bye and boarded the bus, Katie Yakubowski reflected on what is to an Outdoor Classroom instructor is the greatest possible compliment: “The students didn’t want to leave!” )
When Chewonki became a non-profit in 1962, a charitable purpose became an essential piece of our organizational DNA. Since that time, we have served participants across an increasingly broad range of identities, backgrounds, and experience. Camp Chewonki welcomes campers from more than 15 nations each summer, Maine Coast Semester typically has students from more than 15 states, and we serve well over 15 communities in Maine with our Elementary School and Outdoor Classroom programs. Our broadest engagement comes from our traveling science educators, visiting hundreds of towns throughout the region each year.
However, we cannot meet the full promise of our mission by merely serving more people across a geographic area. We need a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment to foster educational growth and make sure that every student, camper, and staff member feels safe, welcome, and valued for who they are and what they bring to the community.
We learn from nature that diverse ecosystems are lively and robust while monolithic ones become stale and fragile. We will continue to broaden our community, ensuring that human diversity at Chewonki reflects the human diversity we see throughout our nation.
Our wonderful educators and staff strongly hold this view, and they have continuously pushed the organization to meet this promise in new and better ways.
For these reasons and more, in November 2018, the Chewonki board of trustees approved a formal Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) statement to guide our work. Similar to our mission statement, our DEI statement is a guiding star we will always strive towards, pursuing the principles and directions set forth in its language.
Our DEI statement is the product of a task force of staff and board members, building on several years of staff activities and professional development. I am grateful for the effort and wisdom of the task force members below.
- Susan Feibelman, Head of Semester School
- Nancy Kennedy, Vice President for Camp Chewonki
- Shelly Gibson, Team Development Coordinator
- Lisa Beneman, Assistant Farm Manager
- Anne Leslie, Writer/Editor
- Emma Balazs, Traveling Natural History Programs Coordinator
- Rebecca Marvil, Trustee
- Roseanne Saalfield, Trustee, Chair (ex officio)
- Jeff Eberle, Trustee, Treasurer
- Davis Benedict, Trustee
- Jenn Gudebski, Advisor
While all organizations must do this work, I am particularly proud of the approach we are taking, which includes an emphasis on developing cultural proficiency for the whole community while holding up a mirror and a lens to examine ourselves and everything we do. In addition, I have charged our leadership team with the responsibility for implementing our DEI statement in every aspect of our work.
Chewonki cultivates a diverse body of effective citizen-leaders who improve their human and natural communities across a multitude of careers, disciplines, roles, and places. We will continue to broaden our community, welcoming new voices and new perspectives. You are very much part of this work, and I thank you for your continued support.
Human beings domesticated mallard ducks about 4,000 years ago, and today there are more than 10 million of them living in North America, but for the past 22 years, a single mallard has held many thousands of children in thrall: Peepers, who sadly passed away last Friday.
“Peepers was one of our most charismatic ambassadors,” says Emma Balazs, Traveling Natural History Program coordinator. “He delighted audiences. He was so active–always exploring the world with his beak. With no paws or hands to do this exploration, his beak was always busy.”
Peepers came to us as a tiny duckling in June 1997 from Brooks Feed and Farm Supply Store in Brunswick, a half-hour from Chewonki. Someone had ordered a domesticated mallard and but never claimed it. The Brooks staff, stuck with an orphan, called Chewonki.
The lucky little duck soon settled into the aviary on Chewonki Neck and was given a name. Kyle Shute, son of Chewonki Vice President Greg Shute and former staff naturalist Lynne Flaccus, named him Peepers.
Peepers was “always super-vocal,” says Balazs. “He’d hear our footfalls on the path leading to his aviary and would start talking.” He never had a mallard mate but often did his mating display for the staff during mating season. “Even a domesticated animal has that instinct,” notes Balazs.
Former Chewonki educator Prema Long once drove more than four hours with Peepers to present a program at a school in Presque Isle, Maine. Concerned that a long round trip in a day might tire him, Long checked into a motel, where Peepers spent the night in the bathtub.
“He loved, loved, loved when we refilled his tub,” recalls Balazs. “He couldn’t get in there fast enough when he saw the fresh water. He loved getting in the empty tub first and having us fill it up with him in it.”
“He delighted many, many students and staff,” says Balazs. “Most recently, he was the star of our biomimicry program.” His webbed feet have also been a feature in lessons about adaptations. “Mallards have a cool adaptation,” she explains. “They have countercurrent heat exchange in their feet.”
In a duck’s legs, warm blood coming from its heart runs close to cooled blood coming from its feet, transferring heat to the cooler blood. This reduces heat loss through the feet, maintaining heat in the duck’s core even when it is swimming in icy water or standing on ice or snow.
22 years is an admirable lifespan for a domesticated mallard. Peepers led the life of a teacher, inspiring many thousands of school children in his career. We will miss him.
For someone in the Chewonki command center–someone responsible for 30,000 field-based meals each year; 40 sea kayaks; 30 white water kayaks; and 80 canoes; 2,000 pounds of cheese; 625 pounds of chocolate chips; and 230 pounds of marshmallows–Sam Bernstein is remarkably calm.
Bernstein is Chewonki’s equipment and logistics coordinator. His official domain is Pack-out, the nerve center for all of our trips and encampments. While Chewonki campers and trippers are eagerly awaiting summer, Bernstein is already well into summerthink, organizing the tents, packs, boats, camp stoves, flashlights, and foodstuffs that will make every Camp Chewonki adventure possible.
We can thank his mum for that. “It all goes back to my mother,” he says. “I grew up doing a lot of outdoor adventuring with my her in the White Mountains. She always emphasized preparedness and the thought process behind a great outdoor experience.” When they were getting ready for a hiking or canoe trip, she talked through with her son all possible scenarios and how to make make sure they would be ready to manage them.
Now Bernstein does the same for Camp Chewonki, Outdoor Classroom, and Maine Coast Semester. He helps train and prepare Camp Chewonki counselors and trip leaders to handle life in the outdoors, far from kitchens and camping equipment stores, with a group of young people. Asked if he is already preparing for Camp Chewonki’s 2019 summer, Bernstein smiles. “Ohhhh, yeah,” he says with a grin.
Although all four seasons keep him busy, the second week of staff training in June ss the wildest stretch of the year.
“It’s a little bit crazy,” he says. “All the extended Wilderness Trips leaders pack all their dry food for the summer. We really just scream through things.”
To stay calm as you run Pack-out, “You have to be detail-oriented without getting overwhelmed by the details,” says Bernstein. “You have to have the ability to jump from the details to the big picture and pick the details that are most important to manage. I enjoy the role. It takes a mixture of compassion and accountability.”
Bernstein, who was a geosciences major at Hamilton College, first came to Chewonki in summer 2017 to lead wilderness trips, mostly whitewater kayak trips. In fall 2017, he became an Outdoor Classroom instructor. He took on Pack-out in March 2018 up and has been keeping us on the straight-and-narrow ever since.
A visitor recently asked him about a parade of small stuffed animals hanging from the ceiling outside his office. They are “trip animals” from previous summers, little mascots that accompany each expedition. “This particular group for some reason has earned a special place in Pack-out,” he explains, looking up at a tiny knit monkey wearing a red and pink suit. Whatever keeps you happy, Sam.
Meet the 2019 Chewonki Outdoor Classroom StaffKatie Yakubowski: Outdoor Classroom Coordinator Katie is an Ohio native who started her career as an educator at zoos, nature centers and museums. After serving on a trail crew with the Montana Conservation Corp. she moved to the White Mountain National Forest in 2014 to work with the Appalachian Mountain Club. During that time Katie held roles as an outdoor educator for the Mountain Classroom, as a guide, and as a naturalist. In 2016 she moved to Greenville, ME getting her Maine Guides license in recreation and fishing. Katie was teaching Leave No Trace principles, backpacking, camping, canoeing, XC skiing, and fly-fishing for the AMC before beginning at Chewonki. Her experience delivering curriculum to school groups, training staff, and time facilitating outdoor adventures is a strong asset to the Outdoor Classroom and the foundation as a whole. Of course, there’s more to Katie than just work history. If she’s not on a canoe trip or hiking a 4,000 footer, you can find her knitting, tying flies, or playing board games. Tanner Shepherd: Outdoor Classroom Coordinator Originally from Maryland, Tanner has been fortunate to travel the world in search of new wilderness experiences before coming to join our team at Chewonki. He served as a team leader for AmeriCorps focusing on sustainable trail building in the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. As an educator he taught 30+ classes in leadership and science related topics in California and facilitated canoeing, rock climbing and group challenges in Australia. Tanner served as a program coordinator for the Pali Institute in California where school partner management was a primary focus and most recently worked in another residential program with The Outdoor Education Group which is located in Eildon, Victoria and runs a camp based program with parallels to Chewonki’s encampment model. His favorite part about outdoor education has been captivating young people with mind-blowing astronomy facts. In his personal life he is an avid reader of all things fantasy and has stories to share about alpacas and how he became a Kentucky Colonel. Hannah Marshall: Lead Educator for Outdoor Classroom Hannah is originally from Huntington, a small town nestled in the Green Mountains of Vermont, but spent the last seven years studying and working in Maine. She attended Bowdoin College in nearby Brunswick, where she was a leader with the Outing Club and the captain of the Nordic Ski Team. She was lucky enough to study abroad while at Bowdoin in both Nepal and arctic Norway where she conducted geologic field research and lived in remote settings. She graduated in the spring of 2016 with a degree in Earth and Oceanographic Science. Hannah spent that first year out of school working for Maine Huts and Trails, a non-profit in western Maine, as hut crew at their backcountry eco-lodges. After joining our program in Spring of 2017, she hit the ground running and has been a part of the Outdoor Classroom team ever since. She spent this past two winters back at the Huts in a new position that was inspired by talented staff like herself. Hannah has so much to offer our program, our staff team and your students! Alex Chasse: Outdoor Classroom Educator Alex is a born and raised Mainer, through and through from Fort Kent, far in the northern regions of the state on the Canadian border. Alex grew up in the outdoors- nordic skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and golfing, canoeing, and kayaking in the summer. He enjoys being active all year long, no matter the weather. In 2017, Alex graduated with a Double Major BA in History and Secondary Education from the University of Maine. Since then, he has worked as a counselor/trip leader for Tanglewood 4H Camp, as an Ecology Educator for The Ecology School, and most recently joined Chewonki as an Osprey counselor. Alex is very excited to return to the neck with his “tote of teas” and join Outdoor Classroom this spring. Conor Burke: Outdoor Classroom Educator Born and raised outside Baltimore, Maryland, Conor got his start in the outdoors sea kayaking with his dad in the marshes of the Chesapeake Bay. Earning his bachelors in Biochemistry from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where he had a groovy time rowing and performing research in cancer pharmacology, he hopes to go into nursing. Other than sea kayaking, canoeing, and backpacking, Conor loves knitting, Irish step dance, and playing the fiddle and banjo. Mark his words, he’s going to own a yellow house with a purple front door one day. After growing up attending summer camp here at Chewonki, joining the summer staff and becoming a division leader, Conor joined the Outdoor Education team in the Fall of 2017 and quickly joined us full time. He spent the last two winters working at Flagstaff Hut with Maine Huts and Trails with our program’s new staff-share partnership. We’re so excited to have Conor back! Connor Phillips: Outdoor Classroom Educator Connor grew up in Lodi, California; the town’s claim to fame is the CCR song “Stuck in Lodi.” His family operates a sustainable farm, which contributed to his passion for food systems and local farming. Naturally, then, he came to college in Maine because of the peanut butter. He learned how to whitewater kayak, surf, and telemark ski, but teaching those skills to others is what truly interested him. After graduating, he was not ready to leave the Pine Tree State, so he joined the Chewonki community to share his love of Maine, facilitate learning about the outdoors, eat amazing food, and continue to play outside. Connor spent the past winter working and cooking with our partnership at Maine Huts and Trails, so if you are lucky enough to work with Connor, your students are sure to benefit from his passion and knowledge about local foods! Emmy Held: Outdoor Classroom Educator Emmy is from Honeoye Falls, a small town in Western NY, but spent much of her time living in the Adirondack mountains. Emmy went to Colby College here in Maine where she studied biology (ecology and evolution) and studio art. During that time, Emmy worked as a lake steward, a cross country ski coach, a volunteer wolf tracker in Slovakia, and wilderness trip leader. Emmy’s favorite Maine mammal is the river otter but is stoked on anything having to do with wildlife and is excited to continue bringing her passion for outdoor life. Emmy has been with Chewonki as part of Outdoor Classroom and our Maine Huts and Trails Winter partnership since the summer of 2017 and we’re so glad to have her! Eloise Peabbles: Outdoor Classroom Educator Eloise originated from Cumberland, ME where she grew up camping, skiing, hiking and gaining an appreciation for the nature around her. She graduated from Wheaton College (MA) in 2017 with a double major in psychology and women’s and gender studies. She held leadership roles on the club ultimate frisbee team as well as the community farm club. In recent years, Eloise has spent her time teaching outdoor education, adventure recreation and challenge course facilitation in western MA and all over India. During her time in Asia, she spent three weeks solo trekking the Annapurna circuit in Nepal and volunteering at a renewable-energy run school in Ladakh, India focused on cultural and educational reform. She finished 2018 working at a vegetable fermentory and rock gym in Maine and at the Berkshire Outdoor Center, supervising the challenge course, hosting groups and instructing varied groups of students and adults. In her free time, she’s been rock climbing, alpine skiing, taking Nordic backcountry trips and learning to fish! We’re excited to have Eloise on our team! Peter Huntington: Outdoor Classroom Educator Peter grew up in Newcastle, Maine. He earned degrees from the Universities of Vermont and Massachusetts. As a student he played water polo; pursued interests in geography, food systems, and climate change; and studied abroad in Mexico and Sweden. During his summers he hiked Vermont’s Long Trail and worked for a Colorado-based trail crew among other adventures. Peter began his first year out of school by backpacking in Puerto Rico and Mexico before starting work on the coast of Maine. He has recently conducted research on alternative protein production for an aquaculture company as well as worked in the fermentation industry. Peter is passionate about outdoor and experiential education. He joined the Outdoor Classroom in Spring 2019. Sam Haab: Outdoor Classroom Educator Sam grew up in the picturesque ski town of Stowe, Vermont. She spent four years in upstate New York where she earned a degree in Conservation Biology from St. Lawrence University. While at St. Lawrence, Sam was part of the field hockey team, participated in an off-campus farming semester with a focus on sustainability, and conducted research on the topics of microplastic pollution and pollinators in agroecosystems. After graduating in the spring of 2016, Sam completed a thru-hike of Vermont’s 273-mile Long Trail. She then spent the next two years serving with the national community service organization AmeriCorps NCCC where she served communities all over the US completing projects in affordable housing, disaster relief, environmental stewardship, and outdoor and urban education. Having recently returned from three months of solo travel, where she worked on a permaculture farm in Puerto Rico and as a gardener in Scotland, Sam is excited to be joining the Outdoor Classroom team! Rachel Canty: Outdoor Classroom Educator Rachel calls Burke, Virginia her hometown, although, being part of a military family, she moved around often as a kid. She grew up camping and, as an adult, loves backpacking and hiking. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for her undergraduate studies, receiving a bachelor’s in environmental sciences in 2016. While at UNC-CH, she competed on the varsity Swim and Dive team as a breaststroker. She then moved to Beaufort, a small coastal town in NC, where she pursued a master’s in marine sciences, also through UNC-CH, and studied oyster bacteria. She learned a lot during this time, particularly that she did not love academia as much as she thought she would but that she did love teaching, the environment, Crossfit, and small, close-knit communities. Sydney Kahl: Outdoor Classroom Educator Sydney grew up in Plymouth, New Hampshire and graduated from St. Lawrence University in upstate New York in May, 2018 with a degree in Environmental Studies, and minors in Creative Writing and Outdoor Studies. At St. Lawrence she studied in an off-the-grid yurt village for a semester in the Adirondacks and spent her Junior Spring hiking around the Southern Alps of New Zealand. After graduating she spent the summer working for the Utah Department of Natural Resources as an Aquatic Invasive Species technician on Lake Powell, and then came back east to work at Lakes of the Clouds Hut on Mt. Washington for the Appalachian Mountain Club. This past winter she served an AmeriCorps term as a member of the Lakes Region Conservation Corps based at Squam Lakes Association in central New Hampshire. Taylor Jackson: Outdoor Classroom Educator Taylor is joining us this year from Bainbridge Island, Washington, a short ferry ride away from Seattle. After falling in love with Marine Science in high school, thanks to outdoor programs, she attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she got a degree in Marine Biology. Since then, she has been traveling around the United States teaching science at a variety of programs on tall ships and at land-based camps. She is returning to Chewonki after spending a year in Washington, teaching on the historic schooner Adventuress, a sailing vessel built right here in Maine and providing on-the-water experiences for students near the Puget Sound. She is excited to be joining the Outdoor Classroom team again, having been an educator and Wilderness Trip Leader with Chewonki for the 2017 season. Eric Nathanson: Outdoor Classroom Adjunct Educator Eric is a Maine native who has returned to live and work in his home state. He attended college at the University of Puget Sound in Washington state where he studied Political Theory and Environmental Policy and graduated in 2016. Other than working for Outdoor Classroom and leading trips for Chewonki, Eric has recently been working at Salt Pump climbing gym and the Breakwater School teaching outdoor programs. When not working with students, Eric enjoys any activity that gets him into the wilderness, but kayaking, snowboarding, and rock climbing are some of his favorites. When not exploring the great outdoors, he enjoys Swing and Blues dancing, singing, reading, storytelling, and woodworking. We’re excited to have him back to help out on some of our busiest weeks this year!
Last August, we welcomed a film crew to Chewonki Neck to film a special segment of Maine Cabin Masters, a popular series on the DIY Network featuring a team that restores classic Maine cabins that have fallen into disrepair.
Chewonki Wildlife Educator Jessica Woodend met with the film crew and series star Ashley Morrill to explain the benefits of providing high-quality bat habitat on residential properties. Together, Jessica and Ashely constructed two classic bat-boxes (seen in several places around the Chewonki campus) to install on a cabin located at the Kennebec Land Trust’s Wakefield Wildlife Sanctuary. The completed episode was aired on the DIY Network on March 11th.
Here’s a film clip, as seen on Maine Cabin Masters:
Because of the location of this particular cabin, the Maine Cabin Masters were particularly interested in pest control methods (aka. bats!) that would respect the ecological requirements of the wildlife sanctuary.
It was great fun to see Jessica share her knowledge and bat-box designs in the Chewonki woodshop, and give our aerobatic mammalian buddies some positive press on the DIY network. Bats are for everyone!
Our special thanks to Maine Cabin Masters, Ashley Morrill and the film crew for a fun day at Chewonki. You can find more information about Maine Cabin Masters on their website.
Want to build your own bat box?
Many enthusiastic educators, says Chewonki Team Development Coordinator Shelly Gibson, “tend to think of experiential education as synonymous with outdoor adventure.” Four days with 149 colleagues from around North America at the Independent Schools Experiential Education Network (ISEEN) Winter Institute reinforced for her that experiential education can happen anywhere, indoors and outdoors, on mountaintops and along city streets.
The theme of the 2019 ISEEN Winter Institute, hosted by the Riverdale Country School in the Bronx, New York City, was “Beyond Borders: Experiential Education Through the Lens of Equity and Justice.” It resonated deeply with Gibson, a member of Chewonki’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. She recognizes this approach to learning as a tool that could help make Chewonki welcoming to all kinds of people.
Gibson, who serves on the ISEEN board of directors, says, “The process ISEEN is going through is much like what Chewonki’s going through as we intentionally and thoughtfully approach work around inclusion and diversity. We are continuing to uncover the ways in which equity and justice overlap with our work as experiential educators. We are moving in the right direction, even though the conversations are often hard. This is challenging work, but we have to do it. Leaning into the discomfort is necessary for us to move forward.”
Gibson loves to teach and learn hands-on. She trains Chewonki staff and works with students and educators in and across all programs. Her wide view of what goes on here, love for the outdoors, and belief in the power of experiential education shape her work in the field, in classrooms, and on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.
Although there’s a common assumption among many Americans, especially white ones, that the concept of experiential education was “invented” by progressive educators several decades ago, Gibson notes that learning by doing with mentors is an ancient practice in many cultures around the world. She and other Winter Institute participants wrestled with, “How can we reframe the narrative in order to recognize that experiential education is not exclusive to this moment in history? We don’t want to ignore the fact that experiential education has gone on for centuries.”
Experiential education these days includes outdoor learning, farm and food education, place-based learning, sustainability initiatives, global education, community engagement, leadership development, and many other initiatives. Gibson discovered some less familiar forms during “EE in Action,” a day for ISEEN educators to step away from lectures and PowerPoint presentations and explore a wide variety of experiential education going on in New York City’s five boroughs. Interacting directly with the world around you “is the heart of our work,” she says. Gibson sampled verbatim theater, which involved taking exact language from news reports and live media, changing a variable like gender or race, and creating a theatrical performance. She calls the process “creative, fascinating. It challenged my thinking and I’d love to explore it more.”
Gibson anticipates exciting, sometimes uncomfortable days to come as Chewonki refines its program curricula to support greater inclusivity. She shares the perspective of Jay Stroud, director of the Commission on Independent Schools (part of the National Association of Independent Schools and Colleges), who wrote:
“Seeking equity and justice is never easy…Schools neither ‘excel’ nor ‘fail’ at embracing diversity. All schools seem to do both…However deeply committed you may be to equity and justice, you will never find an absolute resolution. Truly embracing diversity is accepting that the work will always be unfinished.”
On Thursday, Traveling Natural History Program Educator Colleen Moureaux introduced Wodin, a full-grown Eastern screech owl (Megascops asio), to an enthusiastic crowd in the Wallace dining hall. Moureaux was helping the young owl get accustomed to strangers, movement, and noise, as part of preparing him to appear in educational presentations (often in front of a lot of very enthusiastic children). As the small owl sat on her arm, Woden did not seem particularly impressed, although Moureaux pointed out the tiny feathers erect along the edges of his ear tufts, a sure sign that he was on high alert.
Wodin, named by the students of the Elementary School at Chewonki, and honoring the Norse god of wisdom and healing, came to Chewonki from Indiana this past October. He had most likely been hit by a car in the past; his right eye is destroyed. Although owls can survive in the wild with one eye, the animal rehabilitators who treated Wodin were concerned that his eye socket could develop infection; and thus his fate cast him into the role of teacher.
So far, he seems content. “He’s a pretty chill little owl,” says Moureaux. He’s also a big eater, although he’s only about the length of a robin. He will start traveling to schools with Moureaux and other Chewonki educators in about a month.
During his visit to the Wallace, Wodin kept his bright yellow eye on everyone, but nothing ruffled his feathers.