Expanding Horizons with WCCC’s Senior Classes

December 1, 2015

A few years ago, then interim Academic Dean of Washington County Community College David Sousa had a vision: to provide the seniors of the community with the opportunity to return to college and participate in advanced learning at no cost. As a long-time proponent and conductor of neurological studies, Sousa saw the value in fostering learning in the elderly as a means of promoting community advancement in general.

The first classes were soon offered, with dozens of seniors discovering a newfound aptitude for realistic art and portraiture thanks to talented instructors. Other classes soon followed, giving seniors the opportunity to learn about Downeast literature and history. Soon, the college will be offering an English class imparting the understanding of how to share one’s life story. Each class grants participants three college credits, and all are offered at no charge to those who qualify under the college’s Senior Citizens tuition waiver program.

Dr. Colin Windhorst’s current history class provides an excellent example of how these classes effectively connect seniors and their communities. The class has spent the past semester touring all over Washington County and beyond “following the historical story”, as Windhorst puts it. After learning about their destination, the class embarks on a field trip to the location before reconvening and writing a journal entry about their adventure. So far, the class has been to St. Andrews, Grand Lake Stream, and Indian Township, to name a few places. Last week, the class spent the day with St. Croix Historical Society President Al Churchill as he discussed the early history of Calais and took the class to local points of interest. This week, the class will visit Robbinston to learn about the last hanging to take place in Maine as a result of the murder at Moneymaker Lake.

“Local history is often told as anecdotes,” Windhorst said. “We’re building a bigger picture.” Windhorst adds that there is tremendous value in reigniting a love of learning in seniors. “Having seniors be active in the learning process can make an impression on the entire family.”

Current WCCC Academic Dean Alex Clifford expressed the importance of field-based learning. “It’s all about the experience. We like students to be in the place that they’re learning about.” He referenced the automotive and culinary trades departments as examples of submersion learning. “If we have the opportunity to do that for students, we try to meet it. In the case of Dr. Windhorst’s class, it’s very powerful to stand on the soil where history happened.”

The impact is felt profoundly by students. “I’ve always been interested in history, but I had no idea about the extent of the history of this area,” student Sandra Smith said. “All of these sites and everything I’ve learned – I didn’t understand the ins and outs of it before. It gave me total insight.”

To find out more or to enroll in an upcoming class, contact Donna Geel at 454-1013 or dgeel@wccc.me.edu. Enrollment is limited.