When Coastal Rivers Education Assistant Angela DesVeaux arrives at Great Salt Bay School on Wednesday mornings, she is typically greeted by eighth grade students who present her with one pressing question.
“Do we get to use power tools today?”
The students are those who have chosen to spend their study hall maintaining and improving the network of trails behind the school. Since November, for one hour every Wednesday morning, they troop outdoors with staff and volunteers from Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust to work on the project of the day.
Along with GSB Guidance Counselor Jill Davis and Agricultural Coordinator Hedda Scribner, the students plan and execute their own projects with DesVeaux and Coastal Rivers Education Director Sarah Gladu, who teaches on alternate weeks. Sometimes power tools are involved, such as when Coastal Rivers Stewardship Director Brad Weigel and volunteer Bob Barkalow joined the crew recently to help them assemble trail bridges. On other days, they might remove invasive Asiatic bittersweet vines, or work on preparing an area for a woodland garden.
If weather conditions aren’t favorable for a work day, the group may choose to simply go for a walk or go snowshoeing on the trails.
The students’ overarching goal is to make the trails accessible and user-friendly to as many students, families, and staff as possible. To that end, their future plans include creating a map of the trail system, developing trail names, doing more trail maintenance and removal of invasive plants, and building more bridges, plus some benches and bird houses, preferably using power tools.
This project is one of many nature education programs Coastal Rivers provides free of charge to GSB and other AOS 93 schools. In January, third graders spent a day at Coastal Rivers Salt Bay Farm learning about how animals adapt to winter conditions. Later this month, the kindergarten classes will join Coastal Rivers educators to go snowshoeing, build snow shelters, and learn about kindergarten-level physics through fun pushing and pulling activities.
Coastal Rivers is a nonprofit, member-supported, nationally accredited land trust caring for the lands and waters of the Damariscotta-Pemaquid Region by conserving special places, protecting water quality, creating trails and public access, and deepening connections to nature through education programs. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to coastalrivers.org.