Archive for May, 2010

Going Green

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

 This month, eight students will graduate from Wayfinder Schools’s Residential Program.  These students have accomplished some amazing things during the past year, and one of those things was taking part in the school’s new Green Project Initiative.

 In May of last year, the Green Initiative received start-up funding from the Knox County Fund of the Maine Community Foundation. Matching contributions from individual donors soon followed and by August, a dedicated team of volunteers was hard at work cleaning and “greening” the school in preparation for the arrival of new students in September.

 By mid-September, the students were working weekly with the school’s primary partner in this endeavor, The Newforest Institute, based in Brooks, ME.  Newforest staff worked with students to develop a permaculture plan for the school, which involves using every inch of the school’s campus in the most environmentally responsible way possible.  From maximizing the school’s natural light, collecting rain water, gardening, composting and recycling, this plan will reduce energy consumption and costs, while teaching students important lessons and skills in alternative energies and sustainable agriculture.

 As part of this project, students began a composting program for the school, they evaluated the school’s trash production and water consumption, they conducted soils testing, they planted lettuce, blueberries and garlic, they researched the feasibility of raising chickens, they helped local seniors prepare garden beds, they served a locally grown harvest lunch to local school children, they helped the Tanglewood 4-H camp clear trails and combat invasive aquatic species.  They also worked with an organic chef to learn how to prepare locally grown produce, conducted surveys on how much money the school spends and store-bought produce, and more.

 On May 13, students presented some of their findings and recommendations to school staff, board members and volunteers. 

 Student Zech McIntosh studied the fuel consumption of the school’s two vehicles and recommended securing internship placements for the students that are closer to campus, in an effort to reduce mileage to job sites.  He also suggested securing a fleet of donated bicycles so that students could cycle to their job sites, and along with fellow student Ian Betts, suggested creating a system of physical education credits for biking or cycling to work.  Betts and student Natalie Paul researched the costs and benefits of building a chicken coop and raising laying hens. Eric Knight made recommendations for reducing the school’s trash consumption and increasing the ease of recycling and composting efforts.  Billie Pirruccello recommended reducing the school’s output of methane gas by reducing student consumption of beef.  Karen Johnson conducted a second mileage survey, with conclusions similar to McIntosh’s.  Tyler Sabattis researched the amount of money the school spends on store-bought produce and made recommendations for planting crops on campus.

 Khia Newell studied the impact of global warming on Antarctic penguins, and had this to say in her final report:

 “People had always talked to me about global warming and what the effects had on earth and other species on the earth, but to be honest it still didn’t phase me any; I still continued what I was doing and didn’t give it another thought. 

 When we first started talking about the green initiative project I thought it was kind of a waste of time.  Why would you have to grow your own vegetables and all of that when you could just go to the market and purchase the things needed?  I guess I understood the money aspect about it, but that’s all I thought it was about.  Now I realize it isn’t even about the money.  By participating in the green initiative, we’re going to be reducing our carbon footprint by a huge amount, we’ll be less reliant on fuel and electricity, we’ll have a compost on site, and future students, hopefully, will be more aware that human behavior is causing the death and possible extinction of these penguins.

 Now I understand the whole purpose to this project, and I’m happy Wayfinder Schools has decided to take this on.  This project has taught me a lot.  To know that helpless animals have to suffer because of our actions makes me want to make a change.  And this green initiative project is a perfect way to start.”

All of the student presentations were thoughtful and well-researched, and created compelling arguments for continuation of the project.  Pros and cons of each recommendation were carefully considered, and as these students prepare to graduate on May 28, they have left Wayfinder Schools with a top-notch, student-inspired blueprint for the future.

Hats off to our graduates!

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

On Friday, May 28, eight students will graduate from Wayfinder Schools’s Residential Program.  Zech McIntosh, Ian Betts, Tyler Sabattis, Natalie Paul, Eric Knight, Karen Johnson, Khia Newell and Billie Pirruccello have much to be proud of, and lots to celebrate.  To say that this has been a busy year for Wayfinder Schools would be more than an understatement.  These eight students excelled at academics while balancing jobs and internships in the community, completing community service projects, taking part in experiential learning expeditions and more.  Along the way, they learned sign language, started a school-wide composting program, secured YMCA scholarships and library cards for themselves, learned how to row and contra dance, won a national championship, made a student film, appeared on national television, and more.

Each student learned how to plan and prepare meals on a budget.  They hosted an international Thanksgiving dinner, conducted campus tours at the fall open house, and volunteered at our annual fundraising auction.

They took the initiative to train and volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters.  They ran a 5K benefit road race.  They volunteered with The Camden International Film Fest.  They served a locally grown harvest lunch to local school children and helped local seniors prepare their garden beds.  They cleared trails, moved docks and helped combat invasive aquatic species at the Tanglewood 4-H Camp.

They went hiking, rock climbing and camping.  They visited college campuses.  They hosted a mid-winter coffee house and they cheered for our volunteer tutors at our annual dinner.  They hosted their own spaghetti dinner fundraiser.  They visited art galleries, went bowling, dancing, skating and, occasionally, to the movies.  They attended the Common Ground Fair.  In January, they won the National Toboggan Championship for fastest high school, and they did it on a five dollar yard sale sled.

In February, the travelled to New York City, where they visited Brooklyn, China Town, Little Italy, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Natural History Museum, The New York Public Library and Ground Zero.  They even made it onto the nationally televised CBS early show.  On their way back to Maine, the school’s van broke down, but in true Wayfinder Schools spirit, when they finally got going again, they celebrated each state border crossing by breaking into a lively rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

A few weeks ago, the students performed at the second annual Dancing with Local Stars benefit for the school.  They performed the Cha-Cha Slide to an audience of more than 400 people and had a great time doing it.  Better yet, and in a far cry from their New York travel experience, they even got to ride to the event in a donated limousine.

Next week, these students will do what they came here to do-graduate from high school.  For some, it has been a long, and sometimes, difficult and challenging journey, but along the way, they found new confidence, new strengths and skills, new friendships and a whole lot of community support.   On May 28, they will toss their caps into the air in well deserved celebration, and start their new lives as Wayfinder Schools graduates.  We couldn’t be more proud.

The public is invited to attend this year’s graduation ceremony on Friday, May 28 in Camden.  A community pot-luck will be held at the school from 4-5pm, followed by a processional to High Mountain Hall, where the graduation ceremony will begin, around 5:30pm.

Eleven additional students will graduate in June, when The Passages Program will host graduation ceremonies in Washington County on June 12, and in Camden on June 19.  The Camden ceremony will be held at 2:00pm, at The John Street Methodist Church.

For more information, call Wayfinder Schools at 236-3000.