2012-02-13 / Word

A different kind of classroom

BY BAXTER WORTHING BHS Class of 2012


BRUNWICK HIGH SCHOOL students Cece Carey-Snow and Sam Katz, remove turtles from a trap at the Cathance River Nature Preserve in Topsham. The turtles were later affixed with transmitters and released. A remote camera set up at the preserve allows the students to view a coyote. BRUNWICK HIGH SCHOOL students Cece Carey-Snow and Sam Katz, remove turtles from a trap at the Cathance River Nature Preserve in Topsham. The turtles were later affixed with transmitters and released. A remote camera set up at the preserve allows the students to view a coyote. A t Brunswick High School, three dedicated students are engaged in a nontraditional and rewarding learning experience. Seniors Cece Carey-Snow, Sam Katz and Baxter Worthing are completing a yearlong independent study in ecology in conjunction with The Cathance River Education Alliance.

The study is supervised by teachers Andrew McCullough and Rick Wilson. Rather than sitting through lectures or writing papers, the students do most of their learning outdoors at the Cathance River Nature Preserve.

“This independent study is a great opportunity for students to learn in a diverse environment outside the classroom where they can experience data collection in the field with professionals,” said McCullough.

The students are graded based on their completion of three projects. The first of these projects is the operation of a remote game camera. The students are using the camera to record the feeding habits of some of the more elusive animals on the preserve.

The second task they are engaged in is collecting footage of aquatic organisms in the Cathance River. The students record this data with an underwater camera donated by the BHS class of 1961.

“I love using the cameras,” said Katz. “It is really fun to learn about animals by seeing them in their natural habitat.” The third project is using radio-tracking equipment donated by Karen Robins to track the movements of two painted turtles around the preserve.

When they are not in the field, the students spend their time at school crunching data and editing video. The three are supervised but primarily set their own daily goals and work out problems by themselves. As a result of this independence, they have learned just as much about teamwork and leadership as they have about ecology. As Confucius said, “Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I’ll understand.”


BRUNSWICK HIGH SCHOOL independent study students, from left, Sam Katz, Baxter Worthing and Cece Carey-Snow, are at the head of tide in Topsham about to use the underwater camera to check on grass seedlings that they planted in the tidal portion of Cathance River. BRUNSWICK HIGH SCHOOL independent study students, from left, Sam Katz, Baxter Worthing and Cece Carey-Snow, are at the head of tide in Topsham about to use the underwater camera to check on grass seedlings that they planted in the tidal portion of Cathance River. All three agree that the opportunity to apply what they learn in the real world transcends even the best in-class activities, and that the freedom to define their own learning path provides an incredibly valuable experience.

This project is funded in part by The Horizon Foundation and The Merrymeeting Bay Trust.

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