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Cushing Community School grows interest in the earth

By Emma Testerman | Oct 14, 2019
Photo by: Emma Testerman Brett Willard teaches fourth graders the environmental benefits of wetlands in forests.

Cushing — Arriving at the Cushing Community School Oct. 9 for outdoor science day, one is met by the sight of fully-bloomed apple trees with kindergarten students clustered around, planting flowers. After walking around and being shown the stations that the students were learning at by Dawn Jones, the CCS principal of 4 years, and Hope Hersom, the school’s counselor of 4 years, Jones shared their goals for the daytime program.

“We really wanted to bring something to the kids that they could both enjoy and learn,” Jones said, “we’ve noticed that they take more care in the earth around them and this type of hands-on experience gives them something to talk about later at home to their families.”

Jones was previously a science teacher in Wiscasset before becoming a principal at Cushing Community School, and she commented on how much she enjoys having students engage in a subject she loves, “At this stage in their education, they’re very open to the world around them and wondering how the world works and why it does.”

The goal of this special science day for the children was to link students and teachers with knowledge around the environment, and that was shown through the many activities provided by The Green Team, a group of volunteers that brought lessons on wetlands, erosion, tilling soil, pollination, and every child’s favorite fall drink: cider.

Waite Maclin, a retired local who brought his own cider presser to the event, shared his knowledge about apples and well-made cider to the second graders that morning. After having a sample of the recently made cider -- sweet enough to down in one gulp, tart enough to smack one’s lips! -- Maclin shared a bit of his backstory about the cider-press. “I used to run my own cider mill,” he said, “I’m retired now. But I like showing kids and people how to use one and what apples make the best cider.”

The energy of the children at his station almost seemed to skyrocket once the cider was all gone, thanks to the natural sugars in ripe apples. Bouncing students began to move on to their next station, learning all around themselves on how to take care of the environment, as well as why the earth and forests does what it does. Brett Willard, another volunteer at the event, led fourth graders down the trail behind the school to observe the habitat of wetlands. The students perked up when he pointed out the high bush blueberries that sat inside the wetland area. After showing the students some of the leaves in the area and berries that birds enjoy, the students moved back down the trail to look at collected samples gathered by the volunteers.

At this event, along with the engagement of the sciences for the students, the volunteers and teachers asked questions on how to add learning about the environment for the students for future cirriculums. One teacher asked about composting since schools often throw out remainders of uneaten lunches, which in turn could be used as fertilization for the gardens that were being planted by the kindergarten and third grade classes. Another asked about bringing paper cups instead of plastic next year for the cider, all to which Jones was very receptive for and plans to add to the program.

Some of the students were so excited and focused on their science day that they hardly noticed a reporter go around and listen in on their studies, taking pictures of them. The few who did pointed in the right direction for questions and offered cups for Maclin’s cider. The Cushing Community School strives to show that they’re here, engaged, ready to learn, and own it like the researchers they were that day.

The second to fifth grade students will be expecting a visit in April from Chewonki for a program on vernal pools to match with the springtime season learning.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Lynn Snow | Oct 15, 2019 19:36

Nice work CCS! Project-based, place-based, hands on learning...that's the way to do it!


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