Happy 45th Birthday Outdoor Classroom!

Happy 45th Birthday Outdoor Classroom!

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Today, April 5th, marks the 45th anniversary of the Outdoor Classroom program at Chewonki. In the early days, the program was referred to as “Outdoor Challenge” or “Environmental Awareness Programs, or “Environmental Education” (E.E. for short) but the original curriculum has remained remarkably popular with local and regional school groups. 

Chewonki Chronicle, 1975

Don Hudson, president emeritus of Chewonki, stopped in to visit this morning and take a peek into the archives along with Senior Vice President Greg Shute.

Senior Vice President Greg Shute (left) and President Emeritus Don Hudson (right) examine the Chewonki archives.

According to Hudson, who was serving as a Maine Reach instructor at the time, Chewonki had previously offered short environmental workshops and programs, but 1974 marked the beginning of regularly scheduled spring and fall programming. 

Chewonki Chronicle, 1972

“Even then we were offering classic Chewonki experiences, forest study, pond study, estuary,” says Hudson. “I remember our first group was a school from Boothbay, and it snowed the night before they arrived. The staff said ‘Don! What are we going to do?’ Play in the snow, I told them.” 

A group of young instructors from 1974 digs through the snow to examine the plant life beneath.

The original group included Don Hudson as the Maine Reach faculty member/mentor, and three Maine Reach students who joined up as junior instructors including Lilly Vitelli, John Lamb, and Connie Hollis.

Forty-five years later, the Outdoor Classroom is going strong with sustained interest in ecology and outdoor living skills. According to Director of Education Partnerships Keith Crowley, Chewonki will welcome more than 65 school groups and 1,500 participants to the Wiscasset campus this year. 

Meet the 2019 Chewonki Outdoor Classroom Staff

Katie 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!