It can take a lifetime to fully understand and appreciate the unique wilderness of Eastern Washington County and the wonder it offers. Rather than chancing the loss of a meaningful relationship with the outdoors for area youth, Washington County Community College’s Outdoor Adventure Center [OAC] is going all-out to offer exceptional experiences to Calais’s 5th-8th graders. Most recently, OAC Coordinator Spencer McCormick took the students to Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge for a daylong trip.
Each group of students – consisting of approximately 15 students were equipped with snowshoes and instructed on their operation once they arrived on the still snow-capped trails. McCormick, a graduate of WCCC’s Adventure Recreation and Tourism program and a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training from University of North Dakota as well as a registered Maine guide, proceeded to enlighten the students about their immediate surroundings.
During the trip, students learned to observe and identify animal tracks, including bobcat, coyote, snowshoe hare, moose, and deer. They learned about particular trees and their differences, along with species identification. The purpose of prescribed burns was discussed, along with the overall mission and importance of preserving Moosehorn’s habitat.
Back in the classroom, McCormick integrated lessons (with the help of the corresponding teachers) from the field into other coursework, such as learning how to determine speed using distance over time as a mathematical formula.
The snowshoe trip was the second in a series of three such planned outings funded by a Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund grant called In My Back Yard. The first involved taking the students on an autumn canoeing trip to the Grand Falls flowage in Baileyville, a trip that was arranged with the support of the St. Croix International Waterway Commission. There, students learned how to be safe on the water as well as how to test water quality. The third trip, involving sea kayaking in front of WCCC, will take place this fall.
The Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund is funded in part through the sales of a dedicated instant lottery ticket called “Moose Money.” Purchases of said tickets are used to support outdoor recreation and natural resource conservation such as OAC’s ongoing programming.
McCormick has been very pleased with the In My Back Yard grant program and plans to apply for it again next year. The kinds of programming are determined by the applicant, and McCormick anticipates a range of potential activities in the future. “It’s all to about getting kids into their backyard and investing time in teaching them about their cultural heritage,” McCormick said. “You don’t need to leave the area to find impressive sights of the natural world.”