Place stands for Promoting Local Awareness and Care for the Environment. Place-based education is part of a nation-wide movement in environmental education to foster an understanding of local environments. The Place Program in 4th grade is a year-long series of lessons designed to introduce students to the natural world through quantitative and qualitative data collection techniques. Each month, students at Stevens Brook and Songo Locks Elementary Schools explore the woods behind the school to collect weather data, create nature journals and work on their sensory awareness. Through these data collection techniques, students learn about Maine trees, animals, birds, plants and the cycles of change within their forest ecosystems.
Fifth Grade: Soil Science
The Soil Science program in 5th grade at Stevens Brook and Songo Locks Elementary schools is a three day unit on soil ecology. This program is inquiry-based, as students generate independent research questions that help guide their explorations of soils. In the introductory lesson, students collect and analyze a soil sample from behind their school. In the second lesson, they extend their learning about soil to examine soil samples from different ecosystems. They also use hands-on demonstrations to explore soil formation processes. The culminating activity is a field trip to Bald Pate Mountain where students follow an interpretive trail focused on soil ecology and formation. This program is partially funded by the Lake Region Garden Club.
Sixth Grade: Living Connections Program
The Living Connections Program is a year-long watershed education program in sixth grade. LEA’s teacher/naturalist visits classrooms twice per month to teach students about Earth systems, focusing on the hydrosphere. Students begin the year with an exploration of water properties. Lessons on watersheds, the water cycle, groundwater, aquatic insects, trout ecology, and wetlands creating a foundation for understanding interactions between the hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere. The second part of the year focuses on threats to water quality, including invasive species and erosion. This portion of the curriculum introduces the concept that human actions can affect the quality of Earth’s systems. The culmination of this program is the Hey You! Cruise (see below). The Adopt-a-Trout program is an additional component of the Living Connections Program, as students raise brook trout from eggs to fry and release them into local rivers.
Hey You! Cruise
In June, echoes of “Hey You!” ring out over Long Lake as students participate in the annual Hey You! Cruises on the Songo River Queen in Naples. The Hey You! Cruises serve as the culminating activity for students in the Living Connections Program and as a special program for students at Waterford Elementary in Oxford and Sebago Elementary. Volunteer actors at stations along the east and west shores pretend to do things that are harmful for water quality, such as bringing in sand to a beach, cutting down the vegetative buffer, or taking a bath in the lake. Students on the Cruise have learned over the course of the year that these actions degrade water quality. So, to stop the transgressors, they yell out a resounding, “Hey You!” The Hey You! Cruises are a great way for students to make the connection between their in-class learning and real life application, allowing them to put their knowledge into action.
Seventh Grade: Field Studies at Lake Region Middle School
The Field Studies for Middle School Students Program is currently offered to all seventh grade classes at Lake Region Middle School. This program is designed to encourage students to understand ecosystem processes through direct contact with the natural world. Students engage in inquiry-based field science activities to collect and analyze forest ecosystem data. They also develop science communication skills through oral and written reports.
LEA Education Director leads students to a forested area behind their school to explore the ecosystem twice a month throughout the year. Sensory development lessons at the beginning of the year help students understand that use of the five senses is essential in scientific processes. Students establish fixed-radius research plots and through a combination of field and lab-based activities, students collect qualitative and quantitative data about ecosystem components. At the end of the year, students visit the Holt Pond Preserve to extend their learning by comparing forested and wetland ecosystems. As a culminating synthesis, students create a field guide or other product to demonstrate their understanding of ecosystems as the relationships within the environment that change and cycle over time.
Ninth Grade: Culminating Watershed Curriculum
LEA and the 9th grade teachers of Lake Region High School are beginning to work together to create a year-long science-based curriculum for the freshman. The curriculum will meet with all eight classes of the two high school teams Xanadu and Terra. The goal of the 9th grade LEA curriculum is to cover lessons that will review and expand upon the information students learned in the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade LEA programs, while complimenting the 9th grade high school curriculum.
Lake Region High School
LEA works with the environmental studies and outdoor science teachers at Lake Region High School to expand watershed studies. Every fall, approximately 15 students accompany LEA on a water testing trip on Long Lake. Students measure dissolved oxygen, temperature, and take samples for phosphorus, chlorophyll, and other water quality indicators. The students visit Holt Pond to explore different types of wetlands. They take samples for benthic macro-invertebrates in the Tingley Brook and subsequently analyze water quality based on their findings. The students also look at LEA’s water testing data for the last 20 years to analyze trends and create graphs. A trip to LEA's Acid Rain monitoring site and web related search helps students learn about the impacts of pollutants on air and water quality. They learn more about milfoil and how to become involved in this effort. Finally, students strap on snowshoes and take to the woods to learn about animal tracks and sign.
On a more individual basis, LEA provides internships and courtesy boat inspector job experiences to many high school students. These experiences enhance students’ college applications and provide real exposure to environmental career options.
In a time when computers and television tend to dominate kids’ lives, Place Camp encourages kids to be outside and develop an appreciation for and understanding of the natural world. Place Camp runs in two sessions in July and August. Based at Holt Pond, the goal of Place Camp is to encourage kids ages 7-10 to explore, discover and form an attachment to nature through games, guided scientific activities, songs, and nature-based crafts.
Discovery Kids at the Community Center
LEA teacher/naturalists and the Bridgton Community Center offer a weekly after-school program called “Discovery Kids.” The goal of this program is to encourage kids to spend time outdoors and to foster an appreciation for nature. In the fall, students hike the trails in Pondicherry Park, collect and press leaves, keep nature journals, and play nature-based games. In the winter, they explore Bridgton on snowshoes and enjoy sledding on a nearby hill. In the spring, they learn about vernal pools and signs of the changing seasons. This year Discovery Kids has adapted its activities to become more science based. Many of the students who participate in this program are also involved in one of LEA’s school-based programs.
The Caplan Family Environmental Education Series at LEA
The Caplan Family Environmental Education Series at LEA offers a wide range of educational programs for residents and visitors. Every year, LEA schedules programs intended to deepen the understanding of local ecosystems. The Caplan Series appeals to a broad audience with its diverse offerings, including Holt Pond and Stevens Brook walks, Big Night Road Watches, natural history tours, tracking workshops, birding expeditions, wildflower and herb walks, discussion groups and more.
Holt Pond is LEA’s outdoor classroom. With different ecosystems within walking distance of one another, Holt Pond provides the perfect opportunity to learn about nature in its varied forms and functions. Holt Pond is a favorite field trip for local school groups. Every year, 5th graders from Harrison Elementary brave the spring black flies to explore the wetlands along the boardwalks. Students from Stevens Brook Elementary, Lake Region Middle School and Lake Region High School also visit Holt Pond. LEA is in the process of expanding the trail options at Holt Pond and along the Stevens Brook and has developed an Adopt-a-Trail program to manage the growing trail systems. Trails are an essential part of the LEA education program, as the best way to teach about the environment is to bring people into it. LEA hopes to expand the Holt Pond part of the school-based education program.
Pondicherry Park is a 66-acre tract of land in the center of Bridgton, where visitors can step away from the busy streets into the quiet of the park’s forested trails. Within the park, visitors find a wide variety of ecosystems for hands on learning and exploration. These diverse ecosystems just beyond the majestic Bob Dunning Bridge have been the location for many of LEA’s Caplan Series events including tree identification walks, animal tracking investigations, scavenger hunts for families, and native herb walks. Not only is the trail system in Pondicherry Park a fantastic location for adult educational walks, but it also provides an expansive outdoor classroom for student education as well.
The 4thgrade students of Stevens Brook Elementary School visit Pondicherry Park’s beautiful outdoor classroom every month with LEA, using
their senses as tools to discover and collect data about the forest ecosystem. Their data collection includes changes in the seasons, changes in weather, the roll of producers, consumers, and decomposers, the names of animal tracks, and the types of native plant species that grow within the forest. The 5th grade students of Stevens Brook Elementary also use the park to explore the characteristics of soil. Under the forest canopy, the students learn about how soil is made and the names of the soil horizons, while also performing percolation tests, and comparing soil from different ecosystems.
The park is also a playground for LEA’s afterschool program Discovery Kids. During Discovery Kids, students spend two hours each week out in the wilds of the park building animal dens, exploring the flora and fauna, playing nature-based games, looking for animal tracks, sledding, and doing all of the things so many children miss out on.
Pondicherry Park Curriculum
The Pondicherry Park Curriculum was developed in 2011 and includes a wide range of interactive activities for teachers to use that allow for continued focus on core subjects while also creating opportunities for students to connect with the park.
Lessons within the Pondicherry Park Curriculum are aimed to benefit teachers in a variety of ways. Each lesson meets the Maine Learning Results, and can easily be adapted to meet new standards. Both teacher and student worksheets are included in this curriculum guide. Core subjects such as mathematics, science, technology, reading, writing and social studies are all interconnected within the lessons, and are aimed at grades K-2 and 3-5. The curriculum also includes a teacher’s guide with quick tips for taking groups of students into the park. This curriculum can be opened as a PDF file below.
Staff Information –
Sarah Morrison is the Director of Education at LEA. She grew up in the Mount Washington Valley where her love for the natural world originated. She graduated from the University of New England with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science in 2009. After college Sarah worked at the Keewaydin Environmental Education Center in Salisbury, Vermont teaching environmental education classes in a variety of outdoor settings. After returning to the White Mountains in 2010, Sarah joined the staff at LEA.
Mary Jewett is a teacher/naturalist at LEA. She was born and raised in Bridgton and has a deep love for the great outdoors and learning about the world around her. She has many family members in the area including aunts, uncles, grandmothers, cousins and her sister. She feels very lucky to have the support of both a big family and the community. The thing she likes best about her job is seeing the hands of her students shoot up after asking "Did anyone learn anything today?"