Camden’s Watershed School has purchased a 12-passenger van that will ramp up its outreach and enrollment efforts across the Midcoast.

The purchase was made possible by a donation from Nancy and Thomas Dunlap of Oklahoma, whose grandson is a student at the school. The Dunlap gift also paid for branding the 2012 Chevrolet Express with Watershed’s logo and mission.

Watershed Director Will Galloway said the van will serve three purposes: facilitating school field trips; expanding after-school opportunities; and providing a morning commute service for students in outlying areas.

“As a small school, our program is built around participation with other institutions all over Maine,” he said in a news release. “Our students do research at Bowdoin College, attend lectures at Bates, and participate in organized sports with other high schools. We are really a community of learners, and the van is going to make all that even more possible. It’s been at the top of our wish list for a long time.”

Galloway noted that since the school gained accreditation in 2010, families from the Newcastle-Damariscotta region have been able to apply their high school tuition voucher to Watershed. But for some families, the morning drive is not possible due to work conflicts.

“Although we haven’t worked out the details yet,” he said, “our plan is to offer a morning commuter ride that will pick up students from a number of areas.”

The school will charge families an extra fee for the service to offset its own costs, but Galloway said the fee, not yet determined, will be less than families would pay to drive their own cars every day, as well as reduce traffic and emissions.

The low-mileage van, almost new, was purchased at auction for Watershed by Randall Miller, president of Newcastle Chrysler Dodge.

On May 29, Watershed took the van on its inaugural field trip — spending the day in Boston at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the MIT Media Lab. Galloway said the MIT trip was unusual because the lab does not generally host school groups; it was made possible through Watershed’s design instructor Tom Weis, who runs a Rockland design shop and also teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design.

At MIT, Watershed students observed designers working on new inventions that included a geodesic dome made by silkworms; a computer interface that tracks a user’s head movements and adjusts accordingly; an augmented-reality program for tablet devices; and robots with human-like ability to squat and react.

“Because so many of our teachers are professionals working in their fields, or college professors, we get a lot of inside opportunities,” said Galloway. “It’s all part of being a community.”

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