Archive for December, 2015

Wayfinder of the Week-Meet Tae!

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

tae twirly nose 1

A Wayfinder Schools interview with student Tae Black
December 2015

WS: What brought you to Wayfinder Schools?

TB: I was going to school in Lewiston, but I skipped school a lot back in Detroit so I needed help to graduate.

WS: What have you enjoyed most about your Wayfinder Schools experience so far?

TB: I enjoy the weekend activities. The thing I enjoyed most of all was Global Thanksgiving. Also camping, rock climbing, the beach, Acadia and going out to pizza.

WS: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned so far this year?

TB: American Sign Language. We’ve learned a whole bunch of different words. I didn’t think I’d ever study sign language, but we’ve learned a lot.

WS: What’s your favorite class and why?

TB: Writing class. I like the poetry. My favorite so far has been Let the Light Enter, which was a winner in the 2014 Poetry Out Loud competition.

WS: What’s the favorite meal you’ve cooked so far at school and why?

TB: Bacon meatloaf. It was just good. I’ve never had it before.

WS: Where is your internship and what do you like best about it?

TB: My internship is at Tanglewood. One day I might be driving the tractor, another day working the trails, it’s something new every day.

WS: What’s been your favorite volunteer project and why?

TB: I think my favorite was The Camden International Film Festival. I enjoyed that because one of the other students was really nervous about it and I got to help her out; I like interacting with the public. And we got to see one of the movies afterwards. I also liked running to raise money in the Scare ME 5K. We all ran. I wore a blue hairdo.

WS: What do you hope to get out of your Wayfinder Schools experience?

TB: I want to change my attitude, learn to appreciate things more.

WS: What are your hopes and plans for after graduation?

TB: Military or flight school. I want to be a pilot.

WS: What would you like people to know about Wayfinder Schools?

TB: It’s an experience like no other. An experience you won’t forget.

WS: What would you like the world to know about you?

TB: I think of Detroit every day, everything is different, but in a good way. The hardest part of being here is being homesick, being away from home. But I’m learning new life skills, learning to deal with people, learning to trust them.

Fourteen facts about you


Where you were born: Detroit, Michigan


Your favorite food: Bacon meatloaf


Your favorite sound or smell: Perfume


Your favorite hobby or thing to do in your spare time: Playing sports, especially basketball


Your favorite possession: My Nike Air Max


Favorite book you’ve read recently: The Cartel. It’s about a gang in Florida. There’s a lot of drama.


One place you’d like to travel to: Madagascar, because it’s cool. And Antarctica, because in summer it’s light all day and in winter it’s dark all day.


Something you’re proud of: Sticking with this program. And sticking with my job.

Editor’s note: Tae has a full time job at a hospital kitchen, where he works when he goes home on vacation.


Something new you’d like to try: Lacrosse


Your favorite band or song: Taylor Swift


Who would play you in a movie: Kevin Hartley


Your favorite spot in Maine: Camden


Favorite holiday? Christmas


The one thing you’re most passionate about: My family

Wayfinder Of The Week – Justin!

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015


A Wayfinder Schools interview with student Justin Wordell

December 2015


WS: What brought you to Wayfinder Schools?
JW: My parents knew I wasn’t doing well in school so they started exploring alternatives for me. I heard about the Wayfinder camping expeditions and I looked up the website and thought it looked cool. I was extremely nervous on my first interview.
WS: What have you enjoyed most about your Wayfinder Schools experience so far?
JW: My career explorations placement. I was working at Erickson Fields and I learned so much about agriculture there. To be a farmer you have to be a farmer, a mechanic, a carpenter; you have to be good at math, weighing, selling. You’ve got to be a little bit of everything.

WS: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned so far this year?

JW: I had fun researching Guatemala for Global Thanksgiving. Guatemala is just 42,350 square miles, slightly smaller than the state of Tennessee, yet they have more than 13 million people living there. Global Thanksgiving was my first time public speaking. I was nervous.

WS: What’s your favorite class and why?

JW: Ecology Lab. In that class we get to go outside and explore, and we get to learn things while we’re doing it. Ian brought us to Tanglewood once; in that one class we learned about erosion, chipmunks, hibernation, eco-systems…

WS: What’s your favorite meal you’ve cooked so far at school and why?

JW: Shepherd’s Pie. We eat Shepherd’s Pie a lot around here! It was cool though because I used potatoes I got from Erickson Fields-Adirondack Reds-they’re purple and white inside, so we had purple and white mashed potatoes. It was really good.

WS: What’s been your favorite volunteer project and why?

JW: I think the Camden International Film Festival was really fun, but the one I liked most was selling raffle tickets at the art show. It was fun and we got to dress up. I got to wear a suit. We raised over 700 dollars for the school. It was so cool to help raise money for our school. I haven’t worn a suit in a long time. I love suits.

WS: What do you hope to get out of your Wayfinder Schools experience?

JW: I hope to get the experience of living with people, learning how to deal with people I’ve just met, creating a bond with those people and working with them to benefit everybody, not just myself, but everybody–staff and students the whole school.

WS: What are your hopes and plans for after graduation?

JW: I’m hoping to go to college. I’m trying to get into fall classes for mechanics. I’m also interested in audio engineering and music production. I’m saving for college, a car and a drum set.

WS: What would you like people to know about Wayfinder Schools?

JW: I’d like people to know that no matter who you are or what you’ve done, where you’ve been, whatever’s happened; staff and people here will care about you. You can always speak up and you’ll always be heard. It’s just a great place.

WS: What would you like the world to know about you?

JW: First, no matter who you are I’ll always care bout you and treat you with respect. And second, I’m going to try to get known for electronic music. If you ever hear about Justin Wordell musically in the future, it should be some pretty good stuff.

Fourteen facts about you

Where you were born: Taunton, MA

Your favorite food: Shepherd’s Pie

Your favorite sound or smell: The sound of the entire drum set

Your favorite hobby or thing to do in your spare time: Practice music, play any instruments– drum, saxophone, guitar, bass, piano, clarinet-anything I can get my hands on. In writing class we just learned bout iambic pentameter. Now I can use that in my music!

Your favorite possession: My Yamaha Pacifica

Favorite book you’ve read recently: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. It’s about the Vietnam War and it’s pretty in-depth. It affected me so much I drew a picture about it. I’ve been drawing a lot since I got here. I never used to draw, but now I like it.  I’m into history and politics and I knew a lot about Vietnam but I’ve learned some new things, too. We also had to research “Ten facts about Vietnam,” like they used duct tape to repair helicopter blades and they used superglue to prevent bleeding of wounds. It prevented infection, too, and worked well until you could get properly treated.

One place you’d like to travel to: Holland

Something you’re proud of: My parents

Something new you’d like to try: Skydiving

Your favorite band: I’d say my top genres are classic rock, smooth rock, hard rock and metal. I love metal ’cause of the drum patterns. If I could copy just one guitar style it would be a toss-up between the guitarist from Pantera–the greatest metal guitarist of all-time–or Jimi Hendrix. He could play with his teeth!

Who would play you in a movie: Jonah Hill

Your favorite spot in Maine: The top of Mt. Batty

Favorite holiday? Thanksgiving, because I get to spend time with my entire family.

The one thing you’re most passionate about: Music, definitely.

WS: Anything else you’d like to add?

JW: Happy Holidays to everybody!

Restorative Justice: What we do at Wayfinder!

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

Here’s an interesting article on the use of Restorative Justice in schools–our practice for many years here at Wayfinder Schools:

When Restorative Justice Works

Highlights from the first half of the year, by Lead Teacher Ian Collins

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

Fall 2015 Quarterly Report, Camden Residential Program


We’ve had a great start to our year at Wayfinder Schools. The students arrived and unpacked their bags on September 13th and have been able to participate in many experiences designed to cultivate and create our team. These experiences have included an Experiential Learning Expedition (ELE) to Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island. There, the students had the opportunity to challenge themselves through climbing the rock face at Otter Cliffs. They also were able to get to know each other a bit better while sitting around the campfire and sleeping under the stars.  Since returning from this ELE, the student have been getting used to the daily routine and schedule. Moreover, since the students went without their cell phones and other electronic devices, they focused their downtime energy in getting to know each other better through games and conversation.

Through the end of October, the students have grown in terms of their academic focus and social comfort within the house.  Student have continued to participate in a variety of ELE’s over the weekends which have included Fright Night at Fort Knox, a day sail on the schooner Appledore, exploring a corn maze and taking a hayride at a local farm, a 5k race on Halloween, and a trip to Portland. In addition to their expeditions, student have also spent their weekends participating in various service learning opportunities with garden projects at Senior Fare, writing letters of appreciation to our neighbors, delivering food harvested for public suppers, and performing yard work to benefit the seniors at 63 Washington. The students from both the Camden and New Gloucester campus’ had a chance to meet at our inter-campus icebreaker at Camp Kieve. There, the students were able to challenge themselves through high ropes initiatives and get to know the students at the other campus a bit better. Overall, we’ve grown a tremendous amount as a community and the students have settled into the schedule.


In Field Ecology we have been able to explore a variety of habitats in our backyard here on the Mid-coast. The students have enjoyed our interpretive hikes and have been developing the skills necessary to accurately use their guidebooks and key out species. We started the class with a focus on the geological history of our landscape with a visit to Balance Rock at Fernald’s Neck. There we used the exposed granite to discuss glaciation and ecological succession. The following series of classes challenged students to explore different biotic and abiotic factors that influence ecological function and we began identifying specific trees in our forests. To better understand species variation, student participated in a DNA extraction lab where we isolated DNA molecules from strawberries and another organic material chosen by the students. From there, we moved on to discuss genetic mutation and adaptation at the Owl’s Head tide pools. Students have also created transects at Tanglewood 4H Camp that they will use for a long-term ecological survey.

We have been reading “The Things They Carried” in our Reading Group. The novel focuses on the Vietnam War and initiates conversation about grief, violence, and wrestling with internal emotions and thoughts. Cathy Ames-Cruz, who teaches the class, has done a bulk of the reading aloud but students have become more comfortable sharing some of that task and have take turns reading aloud themselves. They continue to struggle with some of the vocabulary and are assigned weekly vocabulary words that they must use in a paragraph or other medium to demonstrate their understanding of the definitions. They have also begun to make connections between the imagery and themes of the book and their own lives.

Students have seemed to enjoy our Writing Class. The course began with a strong focus on creative fictional writing. Through a series of in-class exercise the students created their own stories with inspiration from constructed first sentences as well as found characters and places. Their stories, while fictional in nature, seemed to be a bit autobiographical and often spoke to themes and aspirations the students have in their own lives. More recently, the students have begun a unit on poetry. They have “translated” existing poems using a thesaurus to create their own “synonym” and “antonym” poems. Students have struggled with the word play a bit and seem challenged by imagination driven creative writing. To aid with this process, we have returned to found sources, such as newspapers and magazines, to create poems through blacking out certain words or phrases. Some of the students have voiced excitement about performing in a “Poetry Out Loud” competition and I am currently trying to organize a competition for those interested.

Our Green Initiatives Course has really focused on issues concerning local food security, the globalized food and clothes systems, and the impact of those on people and the environment. We explored local reports about food insecure seniors and the students work towards their Service Learning credit has been to grow, harvest, and donate food for public suppers offered at a nearby church. Students also took a trip to Hannaford where they collected data about where a lot of our fruits and vegetables come from. We used that data to analyze our food choices and the energy inputs in the globalized food market. With that information in mind, we transitioned to a discussion around the global clothes industry and the impact on workers in other parts of the world. We also took a critical look at discounted retailers here in the US and the impact of imported items on local jobs and opportunities. These topics have led to many interesting conversations about out-sourcing and its costs and benefits to us as consumers. Moreover, the students have demonstrated and increased awareness of their own choices in supporting systems that they find unacceptable.

Sarah is leading the American Sign Language (ASL) Class. Students started by learning about deaf culture and the ASL alphabet; practicing those signs through games and in class activities. They then moved towards signs used in basic conversation with an emphasis on people, places, and things as well as classroom objects and family. They touched on some Thanksgiving signs in preparation for our Global Thanksgiving event.

In Diversity and Social Justice Class we began the year with a discussion around income inequality. Students calculated average worker salaries for a Fortune 500 company and compared that figure with the annual CEO pay. They were startled at the difference, which ignited some passionate discussion. As the Columbus Day holiday approached, we transitioned into our Native American rights unit. We took a critical perspective of Columbus’s journey to the Americas as well as the lasting impact of European colonization and the subsequent resettlement of native peoples.  We examined contemporary issues facing the Lakota people in the Midwest through the work of photographer Aaron Huey as well as local land and water rights issues facing the Penobscot peoples of central Maine. In conjunction with their Digital Media arts class, students were able to interpret the words of Colonel Cobb, a Choctaw tribe member, whose lands were taken and his people forced westward during the 1800’s. The students memorized a three to four line piece of the speech, created and illustration, and produced a film of their recitation of the speech. Most recently the students have been crafting their papers, presentations, and dishes for our Global Thanksgiving celebration on November 19th.

happy staff

Documentary Film Class has typically been facilitated by Allie Smith and has given the students an opportunity to view a wide variety of documentary films including “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and “Fed Up” both focus on food preparation and culture;  “True Cost,” “Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price,” both of which address issues of the global fashion market and impact of outsourcing; “Meru” a film focused on high stakes mountaineering; “Louder Than a Bomb,” about a large, high school poetry slam competition; “What Happened, Miss Simone?” a biographical film about Nina Simone; and “Beyond Measure,” about the importance of alternative education.

Group Math Class has been intricately woven into many of the topics addressed in other classes. We have analyzed pay scales to complement the income-inequality unit in Diversity and Social Justice. Student have also calculated and reflected on worker pay in a Nike factory in Jakarta to better understand our clothes miles unit in Green Initiatives. Most recently, students have utilized many of the statistics for their Global Thanksgiving projects. This has included creating a scatter plot to illustrate the relationship between two of their statistics, calculating and comparing weekly budgets in the countries they are studying as well as for our school, and they creating a pie-chart to reflect percentages of different categories in their food budget.


Individual Math Credit is specific to each student.

In Digital Media/Arts the student have been working with Alexis Iammarino and Scott Sell to produce a variety of creative projects. The students have collaborated on a mural with the Sweetland School and their elementary age students. The mural will be hung on display at the local transfer station.


The students have also learned the basics of film production and were able to put those skills to use with the Colonel Cobb video. Furthermore, they have been able to create many different types of illustrations and recently completed a Shibori textile-dyeing project. They are also working on creating radio diaries and examining the power of auditory storytelling.


Career Explorations

We’ve just wrapped up our first quarter of this term’s Career Explorations Program. During the first week of school, students worked with Sarah to craft resumes and cover letters as well as research career opportunities that interest them. This led to actual interviews with jobsite supervisors and eventually placements for the students in the community. The students spend 12 hours per week at these placement sites, learning about a potential career path and getting hands-on experience in the field.

Residential Living

Students have been settling into residential living and getting used to the systems we have in place. They have been busy learning all of the required chores around the house, cooking, building relationships and community, exploring Maine on ELE’s, and taking advantage of service learning opportunities. We hosted our first ‘Loved One’s Luncheon’ and opened our home to friends and families. Students designed their own costumes and raced in Rockland’s “Scare Me 5k” race and a few took home prizes. In addition to their weekend ELE’s students have been working hard on various service learning projects that earn them one of the four residential program credits. These projects have included volunteering at the local Camden International Film Festival, growing food for seniors with Senior Fare, and delivering leaves for compost at a local senior citizen home. Students have been honing their communication skills in our weekly Resolution Circles and have been generally brave and open about their emotions and thoughts. Developing trusting relationships has been difficult for some but overall the group has settled into a supportive community.



It has been a promising start to our year at Wayfinder. Our community has grown leaps and bounds in our short time together and will undoubtedly evolve in a number of surprising and wonderful ways. It’s been great to see the students settle into the space and embrace the challenging academic pace of the year. I look forward to seeing us all learn and grow together. I wish you and your family the best this holiday season.







Wayfinder of the Week – Ayan!

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015


A Wayfinder Schools interview with student Ayan Diriye

December 2015


WS: What brought you to Wayfinder Schools?

AD: I left school my junior year. I wasn’t proud. I found Wayfinder Schools through friends who went here. I applied and I got in. It wasn’t easy-it was hard to get in. But Wayfinder Schools is helping me to be independent and grow up.

WS: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned so far this year?

AD: I’ve learned a lot. In Literature Class we just read Sherman Alexie’s book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I loved it. It was sad and funny and real. In Diversity we studied Christopher Columbus and we had Global Thanksgiving. It was fun picking our own country to study. I picked Egypt.

WS: What’s the favorite meal you’ve cooked so far at school and why?

AD: Tonight is my first night cooking here at school. I’m a good cook. I don’t have to follow a recipe. I used to cook at a Somali restaurant. Tonight I think I’ll make fish with rice and beans. And later in the week beef tacos. And Sambuso. With beef, onion, potato and green pepper. I’m going to make the best dinner tonight. I’m going to make it so delicious. I can’t wait to be in the kitchen.

WS: Where is your internship and what do you like best about it?

AD: I work at two elementary schools: Memorial and Russell. I help with PE class, recess and lunch duty. I love working with kids, they’re funny, very dramatic, sweet. I love it.

WS: What’s been your favorite volunteer project and why?

AD: We go to Tree Street and mentor there. I’m in the dance room. Yesterday was so much fun. The girls were teaching us to dance.

WS: What have you enjoyed most about your Wayfinder Schools experience so far?

AD: I enjoy all the activities: the (restorative justice) circles, going out on weekends, Acadia rock climbing, the Camp Kieve high ropes course. It was scary but fun. Going to the Y, having family dinners, all my classes. I enjoy everything we do here. When we have vacation I miss it. Except walking up at 7 am.

WS: What’s your favorite class and why?

AD: I have four favorite classes: Diversity, Literature, Writing, and Sewing. In Diversity we talk a lot about peace and in Literature we’ve read some good short stories. In Writing Class write our own stories. We just focused on fiction and next we’ll do non-fiction. Sometimes we get cool subjects to write about like love or dreaming-the subjects are interesting and that makes it more fun. In Sewing Class we made bags out of fabric we chose, and now I’m making two pillows as Christmas gifts.

WS: What do you hope to get out of your Wayfinder Schools experience?

AD: To graduate and get my diploma and go off to college.

WS: What are your hopes and plans for after graduation?

AD: I want to get my CNA, and go to USM for nursing. I’m going to stay in Maine. In Lewiston.

WS: What would you like people to know about Wayfinder Schools?

AD: It’s a very good opportunity and it helps kids be on track and think about their future more. And I think a lot of students should go here. It was a good idea coming here and I’m proud of myself.

WS: What would you like the world to know about you?

AD: I want the world to know I’m a hard worker, I’m brave, and I’m track for success.

Fourteen facts about you

Where you were born: Somalia

Your favorite food: Goat meat with rice

Your favorite sound or smell: The sounds of nature and the smell of perfume

Your favorite hobby or thing to do in your spare time: I like to workout and listen to music and be on social media a little bit.

Your favorite possession: I love clothing. Maxi (stretchy) dresses, scarves and skirts.

Favorite book you’ve read recently: Peter Pan. And Someone to Love by Anne Schraff.

One place you’d like to travel to: Mecca

Something you’re proud of: I’m proud to be Muslim.

Something new you’d like to try: Skydiving

Your favorite bands: 5th Sense

Who would play you in a movie: Angelina Jolie

Your favorite spot in Maine: Wayfinder

Favorite holiday? Eid

The one thing you’re most passionate about: Graduating

WS: Anything else you’d like to add?

AD: I’m happy.


“Walk in front of me I may not follow, walk behind me I may not lead, just walk beside me and be my friend, and a journey of thousand miles starts with one step.”

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

This week the Wayfinder community lost a dear friend and supporter, Tim Stewart. Tim played an incredibly important role in the lives of our students, and helped hundreds of young people realize their hopes and dreams and goals over the years.  Tim was a fixture at many Opportunity Farm/Wayfinder Schools gatherings, where he would share jokes with staff and students and bring out the best in everyone. He would often open our community dinners with the following blessing.

Walk in front of me I may not follow, walk behind me I may not lead, just walk beside me and be my friend, and a journey of thousand miles starts with one step.”

Several years ago, Tim and his wife Howsie planted a special birch tree overlooking the Opportunity Farm Field of Dreams. They included a plaque that reads, “This tree honors all those whose commitment has enriched the lives of children who have called the farm home.” Tim certainly did that.

Thank you Tim. You will be greatly missed.


Holiday Open House December 10!

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Join us for our Holiday Open House from 5-7 on Thursday, December 10 at 79 Washington Street in Camden. Come meet staff and students, tour the school, view student art work, gather round the piano and enjoy homemade cookies and other holiday treats. Hope to see you there!

justin and jenny Justin and Jenny getting ready for the holidays