High school juniors accepted into the Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki spend half a year using the natural world as their laboratory, learning the patterns and details of Maine’s coastal ecosystems and discovering how best to form environmentally sustainable communities. The curriculum also allows students to remain on track with academic coursework at their own schools.
As a culminating experience, juniors spend a week immersed in a Human Ecology Capstone project, researching a personally relevant topic that reflects both the school’s mission and their growing understanding of human interactions with the natural world. Their final presentations detail wide-ranging contributions to help achieve these goals.
One student from Newark, NJ, already active in community service, researched “food deserts” in her home state and developed a project in which students harvested produce on local farms and brought it to a food bank, providing fresh vegetables to families with little access to healthy choices.
A passionate computer programmer designed software for an “energy orb” microcontroller that visually changes colors depending on a building’s energy use.
A writing enthusiast incorporated what she learned about best practices in urban agriculture, renewable energy, and green building techniques to create a “day in the life” story of a futuristic, uber-sustainable New York City. It was later published in her school’s literary magazine.
“Our students possess an adventurous spirit and a desire to learn or they wouldn’t be here,” says Head of School Ann Carson. “Our focus is on empowering them to become change agents, so these kinds of projects let them follow their passions and make a difference, all while learning important skills.”