2017-06-19 / Front Page

Harpswell Coastal Academy students present projects

BY DARCIE MOORE
Times Record Staff


THOMAS CRIMMINS roasts a marshmallow at the fire pit he built at Harpswell Coastal Academy as part of the Outdoor Classroom. 
DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD THOMAS CRIMMINS roasts a marshmallow at the fire pit he built at Harpswell Coastal Academy as part of the Outdoor Classroom. DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD HARPSWELL

Students at Harpswell Coastal Academy built benches, a fire pit and rocket stove, mapped trails, and dug up invasive plant species as part of their fourth quarter investigations.

Students presented what they learned Friday from these investigations over two months. Topics included Farming and Gardening, Outdoor Classroom, Citizen Science, Harpswell History and Maps, and the Maine Woods.

“I actually designed this entire fireplace,” said Thomas Crimmins, a student in the Outdoor Classroom. He stood near the two-tier cinder block square where a small fire was burning. Visitors stopped by to roast marshmallows. The fire pit is expected to be moved to an Outdoor Classroom space in the woods with some of the other amenities built by students.


ISAAC BECKER explains how his rocket stove works on Friday. 
DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD ISAAC BECKER explains how his rocket stove works on Friday. DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD Isaac Becker, a seventh grader from Bath in his second year at HCA, designed and built a rocket stove. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to actually fire it up Friday because he wasn’t able to find a certain type of cinder block the design required. He’d never heard of a rocket stove before this project.

“This is really fun because we got to research all these different ideas and then our teachers let us make them. We have this fire pit. We had so many ideas and they singled out this one. It was the best one. We have this stage over there and that was one of the things we were going to make definitely,” since the school has its own band which wants to do musical performances outside.

Being able to do hands-on projects like this is more enjoyable, “and I feel like we’re learning something,” Becker said. “Most of the kids here have probably never used a drill.”

The school also had a pit set up for the Greek game of Gaga, a game that is sort of like dodge ball but you hit the ball only with your hands, according to student Harland Norcott. He developed rules for the game. Using feedback from students was one his favorite parts of the process.

A seventh grader in the Maine Woods investigation liked digging up invasive species, something you don’t get to do every day. She said she dug up Asiatic Bittersweet, a vine that wraps around tree trunks, constricting the tree’s vascular system similar to a python to a victim, she said. She likes the outdoor classes where students also did plantings and picked up litter.

“We get to do fun stuff that other schools don’t get to do,” she said.

Julien Turmenne tends to be quiet, and had previously been home schooled. Friday he was able to lead parents through the Outdoor Classroom presentations with ease. His father said he was happy to see how much his son has grown and become more outspoken.

Division 1 Principal Matt Hamilton said this is the presentation for learning day, “the culmination of what we’ve been doing for project-based, place-based education for this quarter and this provides an extra audience for the products and projects they’ve been working on.”

Many of projects have authentic audiences, such as the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust. They are designed to have a real place and impact within the community.

The presentations Friday were also a way to showcase and celebrate the hard work students have put into the process.

“It’s all about the kids,” said Micah Depper, a STEM teacher and HCA director of Teaching and Learning. The individual student stories are amazing.

One of the students was very nervous to present an oral presentation, where her voice had been digitally overlaid to a power point presentation. She did a trial run with him and another staff member, and was confident and ready to present when her parents showed up.

Hamilton said students applied for different investigations, and there was coaching involved in that process to ensure students meet standards needed to move onto high school.

“Our tagline is choice within parameters,” Depper said.

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