Greetings from Harrison Elementary School!
Harrison Elementary School is nestled in the woods on the north of the Sebago Lake Watershed, next to Long Lake. Our students come from the local communities of Harrison and Waterford, and are in third through sixth grade. Our project “Revitalizing the Harrison Elementary School Nature Trail,” plans to utilize the wooded areas surrounding our school and turn them into a learning destination for all students. We are blessed to live in a state, and community region, where access to Maine’s forests is in our literal backyard!
Thanks to the Natural Resources Council of Maine grant, we have been given the opportunity to create a project that has been discussed for the past few years—turning a simple walking path in the woods into an outdoor learning environment. This will give students in sixth grade who study ecosystems a practical project based application for their learning, but also act as a space where other students can go to learn from the work of others. We are excited to begin this journey of learning and creating!
We have 26 students in sixth grade who will be the main workers on this project. We hope to include students of other grades as we progress also. Recently, they were given the task of brainstorming some realistic ways to improve our nature trail; making it a place of not only learning but a place others would want to visit. Students worked in smaller groups and then shared with the whole class.
The discussions ranged from the impractical (ATV rentals and ice cream stands) to the practical (scavenger hunt of local plants/animals, and decorative trail markings). The important takeaway is that all students were engaged in the discussions. They were a bit disappointed to learn that we couldn’t go outside that day to start working—we need a bit more planning and some snow melt first! By the end, we created a good list of where to start focusing our improvements!
Our plan for the end of the school year is to have created a third of a mile learning walk at our school—with the focus on teaching and learning about the beauty of our forests, and to give people an appreciation for what they might otherwise overlook when simply “walking in the woods.”
-Rob Ripley, Sixth Grade STEM Teacher, Harrison Elementary School