“For 100 years, we’ve focused on educating children using the natural world as classroom, curriculum, and playing field,” Chewonki Foundation President Willard Morgan said.
“As we step into our second century, we want to extend our mission and provide more opportunities for more Maine students. What was important 100 years ago is even more important today. Experiences in nature with expert instruction and a strong, supportive community make for powerful education at every age. Chewonki is now making additional deeper commitments in the midcoast community.”
In December 2015, Leah Titcomb joined Chewonki as the local schools coordinator. She is working with the Wiscasset School Department and Regional School Unit 1. The new position is funded in part by a grant through Environmental Living and Learning for Maine Students, a collaborative of five environmental learning centers including Chewonki.
Titcomb is an alumna of Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki and is a Registered Maine Guide. She received her B.A. in outdoor experiential education from Prescott College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Goddard College. Her job is to work collaboratively with teachers and administrators on programming for students, and to build partnerships with community organizations such as land trusts in order to leverage resources, meet school goals, and enrich student learning.
Chewonki’s work with the schools will provide experiential learning to students in all grades except eighth; eighth-graders traditionally participate in their own overnight program at Chewonki. Titcomb has already been busy with new activities in a variety of K-12 classes. She called the energy and creativity of local teachers and principals “very exciting.”
Lisa Packard, director of Chewonki’s Outdoor Classroom, explained: “We’re interested in co-creating education that impacts the whole well-being of students. Our … goal is healthy students, a healthy environment, and healthy communities. This initiative gives us the opportunity to integrate community-based environmental education as a thread running through the K-12 curriculum in these schools.”
In addition, in September 2015 Chewonki began piloting a small elementary school for grades three through five. The program balances rigorous academics with outdoor experience through an integrated curriculum of science, math, reading, writing, social studies, and the arts.
A significant part of each day is spent learning in nature. The place-based focus of the program aligns with each student’s development and allows investigative, real-world learning so students can develop meaningful ties to the community and the natural world. The social curriculum is equally important and nurtures lifelong learners.
Chewonki is hosting informational sessions about the pilot elementary program on Sunday, Jan. 31 from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Wednesday, Feb. 3 from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. All are welcome.
Families will have the opportunity to visit the classroom and campus, meet staff, learn about the flow of the school day and curriculum, and learn about future plans for this program. Please RSVP to Anna Hunt firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-882-7323.
Lastly, in light of these new initiatives, Chewonki Foundation will not be offering winter or spring vacation camps this year. Chewonki staff will be at Wiscasset Winterfest at Wiscasset Community Center on Saturday, Feb. 6, with a campsite featuring popcorn, hot chocolate and opportunities to snow-shoe.