Portland High Goes to Camp

Oct 6, 2021 | Reserves, Wells, Maine

Nine students from Portland High School received full scholarships to spend a week immersed in the beautiful places protected by the Wells Reserve last summer.

The students enjoyed a bird banding demonstration, searched for butterflies and dragonflies, kayaked on the Little River, created block prints, and learned about local forests and marine life—all with the support of local scientists and educators.

Their teacher, Tom Talarico, first brought students to the Reserve on a field trip in 2019 and later participated in a Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE) workshop.

“We had been hoping for an opportunity to do more with Tom and his students,” says Wells Reserve Education Director Suzanne Kahn. “Thanks to funding from the Maine Community Foundation‘s Tenny Donnelley Fund, we were able to provide a week of camp with full scholarships for all participants.”

Not only did the students learn from camp leaders—leaders were able to learn from the students as well. It was a reminder that each person who visits the Wells Reserve is unique, with their own past experiences spending time outdoors. Not everyone connects with Nature in the same way.

One student shared, “I loved it here! The animals, flowers, the birds—I would do this again!” Another said, “We learned so many things! I did an activity (kayaking) I never imagined I could do. I was so scared, but it was so enjoyable.”

The camp was made possible through generous donations. Maine Community Foundation funded the camp registration fees, LL Bean donated binoculars for the students to keep afterwards, and bus transportation between Portland and Wells was paid for in full by the Charles and Rebecca S. Richardson Lifelong Learning Fund.

None of it would have been possible without educators at the Wells Reserve and Portland High School, as well as guest presenters from York County Audubon, Biodiversity Research Institute, and Coast Encounters.

Campers explored Laudholm Beach, searched for critters in the intertidal zone, and used newly gifted binoculars to view nesting terns and plovers at the river mouth.

Students enjoyed a bird banding demonstration, filled with interesting avian information from Biodiversity Research Institute scientist Evan Adams—one lucky student released a newly banded catbird!

York County Audubon expert birder Monica Grabin led the campers on a bird walk, and Sue Bickford facilitated a hands-on search for butterflies and dragonflies in the fields.

Kayaking on the Little River was a highlight and a first for most campers. By the end of the trip, they paddled like pros. After lunch, students created their own block prints at picnic tables outside, surrounded by nature for inspiration.

Eileen Willard led one of her wonderful tree walks for the students, who were fascinated to learn that trees have genders.

The students searched the pilings for signs of life and dock discoveries at Wells Harbor.

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ReservesPortland High Goes to Camp