While visiting groups around campus we spotted a nature inspired birthday crown, students intrigued by a species of mushroom and 4 different group challenges simultaneously running on the lower field. These are just a few insights into all the events happening today with the Outdoor Classroom. Due to a forecast of high winds later tonight all groups are spending the night in “town”. Town is what we call the area of campus where all of the buildings are, including the Center for Environmental Education and the summer camp cabins. Tents were traded for cabins and all groups are in high spirits with the added adventure of moving locations.
It sure is! The Edgecomb Eddy 6th graders arrived early this morning wearing giant smiles. They were bursting with questions! “When can we go to the camp site?” “Can we chop wood today?” “Is the gulch crossing tomorrow or the next day?” After they met up with their Chewonki instructors all of their questions were answered and they started right in with outdoor living skills. Instructors noted that the potential rain we may get will just add to the adventure, and the students seemed to agree. Our second group to arrive was the Merriconeag Waldorf 5th graders from Freeport, ME. They seemed quite thrilled to be on another camping trip with their class. The rumor is that even though we are approaching October, students brought swim suits and were planning on jumping in the water! We’ll wait and see. Cape Cod Academy students were all over the Chewonki peninsula today. Groups were climbing in the barn, crossing the gulch, learning about renewable energy and exploring in the woods with their new map and compass skills. Tonight the whole class will get a chance to socialize and compare experiences at a BBQ. Everyone will also enjoy a night presentation with live owls from our Traveling Natural History Program.
Cape Cod Academy 8th graders arrived safely on Tuesday to a little bit of sun poking through a typical Maine foggy sky. They are a friendly group and seemed genuinely excited to have arrived. After a tour of campus, they had lunch in their small groups and headed out to set up camp. The evening was damp, but only with fog and an occasional light rain. It was lovely to see the Cape teachers – two of whom are seasoned Chewonki veterans! Weather looks good for Wednesday!
Tonight is the full moon, and if you don’t believe the legend that it makes people a little “luny,” then you should have visited campus today! There was much silliness all around and laughter and singing could be heard on every corner of Chewonki Neck. I visited with some Rocky Hill students this afternoon who report that macaroni and cheese is the favorite meal of the week. They had spent the morning out exploring the “Neck” on the Map and Compass lesson. The Mast Landing and Harpswell 5th graders are all doing a wonderful job of being here for 4 full days! For many, it is their first time away from home for so long, and not one student has gone home due to homesickness! Woo Hoo! Two groups from Nashoba did a service project on the farm today pulling and processing carrots for winter storage. Thanks girls! I hear from one instructor that there is a dance-off planned for tonight! On this final night of camping for the week groups will reflect upon their experiences around the small groups’ campfire. I am looking forward to hearing what everyone is taking away with them – I am sure parents are eager to hear the same things!
On this official first day of fall campus is absolutely abuzz with activity. Instructors and teachers from all of the schools visiting this week reported a breezy but beautiful evening at campsites last night. The waxing moon, headed toward full on Thursday, lit up the night sky and reflected magically on the surface of the water. When I arrived on campus this morning, the first thing I heard was “Zowie, zowie, chin, chang, chowie . . .” emanating from the woods. Sure enough, a group of laughing and singing Mast Landing 5th graders emerged from the trail seconds later. They were making up new verses to the song and having a blast at it! They spent the day exploring the salt marsh, checking out our skins and skulls for an animal study lesson, and going canoeing. Instructors working with Nashoba Brooks students unanimously agree that this year’s 8th grade class is fun, eager to be here, and open to the experience of camping out. I observed one of their groups doing a great job of pushing themselves in the barn climb, our indoor ropes course. At lunch time today the entire class enjoyed a live “Owls of Maine” presentation in the Center for Environmental Education – I could hear the owls hooting from my office! This afternoon one group of Nashoba students is doing a service project weeding garden beds at the farm – their help is much appreciated! I caught up with one of the Rocky Hill groups just after lunch today. They told me about their adventures on the water yesterday. They had a fantastic day in canoes and visited an island way up in the salt marsh. Tonight that group’s instructor is challenging the students to use their new outdoor cooking skills to make dinner without any help from the teacher or Chewonki instructor – I’m sure they’re up for it! Other Rocky Hill groups report equally fun days. When they arrived, the Rocky Hill teachers told us that this was a very nice class – it is true indeed! Harpswell students spent the day learning about the history of the land here at Chewonki – exploring stone walls, shell middens, the old brick yard, the Pine-Apple forest, the old foundation, and much more. They also went canoeing and explored the salt marsh. Tonight they are coming in to the Center for Environmental Education after cooking dinner for a live “Scales and Tales” presentation. They’ll have the chance to meet our alligator and some other exciting reptiles! We had a 15-minute rain shower at lunch today, but despite the official start of fall, the forecast is calling for lighter winds tonight and a mostly sunny and warm day tomorrow.
The Mast Landing and Harpswell Island School 5th graders as well as the Nashoba Brooks 8th graders arrived safely today. During their introductory tour Mast Landing students were treated to a rare sighting of a “flock” of ospreys flying overhead. These magnificent birds don’t usually fly in large groups, but one excited student reported counting 9 all together! Could the osprey migration, which is listed to begin mid-October, be happening a little early this year? This morning, while waiting for buses to arrive, the Outdoor Classroom instructors and I also watched what looked to be a turkey vulture riding the thermals way up high in the sky – lovely! Rocky Hill students had a chilly first night last night, but all instructors reported that students are doing well and enjoyed the warmth of the breakfast cooking fires. The forecast calls for warmer nights the rest of the week. They spent the day today canoeing, climbing in the barn, and doing our “gulch” raving crossing. The front porch of the Center for Environmental Education is alive with the hustle and bustle of fitting packs and rearranging gear. As late afternoon approaches, students are beginning to make their way out to campsites for what is sure to be a fun evening of outdoor cooking and songs and stories around the campfire!
The Rocky Hill School 9th graders arrived on Monday afternoon to a sunny and blustery typical coastal Maine fall day. The students looked well-prepared and excited to be here. The program is off to a great start!
At 11:00 today a new windmill was raised at the Chewonki farm! All of the students on campus should have the chance to check it out. By lunch time today all of the Friends Academy paddlers had returned to campsites on the Chewonki peninsula. They came in from islands a night early because winds are predicted to be high tonight and tomorrow morning – we did not want them to make any long crossings on the water in heavy wind. Instructors report that the students were all up for the adventure of getting up early and getting on the water before the wind picked up. One enthusiastic group even had tents down as the sun was rising! From my office I can hear Applewild students in the hallway asking their instructor questions about the sun pipes that bring light into the building from the roof. She asked them if they could find the light switch to the hall lights, and of course there isn’t one – it’s sunlight they are seeing! They are on the Renewable Energy Quest, and for the past two hours they have been exploring our campus looking for examples of sustainable energy technology or energy conservation measures. I watched the Providence Country Day students learn sea kayaking skills this morning at the waterfront. They then headed out for a day paddle into the protected waters of our salt marsh. Applewild students doing day canoe trips also headed the same direction. It has been a spectacularly sunny day on Chewonki Neck. Looking out my window at this lovely day, it is hard to imagine that rain is coming; however, the forecast shows that late tonight students will have the chance to experience their first rain of the week. Luckily, everyone should be snug in their tents by the time it starts and will be headed home in the morning! We’re expecting Pike students to return around 10:00 in the morning. I can hardly wait to hear about their trip!
Students awoke this morning to a truly vivid day – the green of the trees, the pale blue of the sky, the deep green-yellow-blue of the ocean – all impossibly bright in the September sun. The air was crisp and refreshing and had the feel of fall to it. When I checked in with the Providence Country Day and Applewild groups, there were smiles all around. The distinct smell of campfire lingered on everyone’s clothing bringing to mind the meals and conversations around the campfire they must all have had last night. All of the Friends Academy groups checked in this afternoon via cell phone. Apparently, it has been a gorgeous day out on Montsweag Bay. A few groups are off of their itineraries due to wind, but report that students are safe and having fun. Because the winds are reported to build tomorrow afternoon and evening, we have asked all salt water canoeing groups to return to the main campus early tomorrow morning. They will likely camp out on one of the 11 campsites here on Chewonki Neck for the last night of their trip. Up on the St. Croix River, the Pike School is probably trying out one of the new campsites on the U.S. side of the river. The St. Croix runs along the border of the U.S. and Canada, and for many years, paddlers were allowed to camp on either side of the border as they ran the river. Two years ago, that changed, and now U.S. groups can only camp on the U.S. side. To make this work better, new campsites were built on the U.S. side, and on Friday, we should hear what the Pike students think of them! Another wonderful Wednesday at the “Wonk!”
Campus is awash with the speckled light of late afternoon sunshine, and all is quiet in “Town” (where all of the buildings on campus are) as groups begin to head out to their campsites for the evening. We welcomed the Applewild 6th graders this afternoon – they made record time and arrived a half hour early! The teaching team that came up this year is impressive – all three of them are teacher-chaperone veterans, having come on the trip for 9, 13, and 17 years! Wow! The students seemed thrilled to be here and enjoyed the excitement of an afternoon thunderstorm (from inside the Center for Environmental Education building), and are now moving out to their campsites under clear skies and lovely afternoon sunshine. Both the Friends Academy and Providence Country Day groups reported in after the thunderstorm, having weathered it well. They are all moving ahead with afternoon travels/activities. The Pike School called in to report having made it safely to the Vanceboro put-in on the St. Croix River around 1:00 this afternoon. They have a short paddle to get to their first site today, and we are unlikely to hear from them again until they get to the takeout early Friday morning. From my office I can hear a bard owl hooting, and I’m envious of the students and teachers out in the woods and on the water on this glorious day!