Words by Leigh Macmillen Hayes, Photos by Leigh Macmillen Hayes and Aidan Black
A fine day spent with the MESA (Maine Environmental Science Academy) students, a rigorous, ecology-based experiential learning class for 6-8 graders at Molly Ockett Middle School in Fryeburg. We shared some info about fen and kettle basin ecology and then spent the rest of the time picking cranberries and being wowed by their knowledge, camaraderie, and eagerness to learn.
It was 52˚ and overcast when the students arrived and stood in horseshoe formation to meet GLLT Associates Aidan Black and Dakota Ward, and me, before we explained a wee bit about the natural community we were about to enter.
Mr. Oliver drew their attention within the first kettle basin.
And then, and then they found some scat! And we took a closer look, determining it was coyote. Check out those smiles. They were amused with my excitement over such a great find. Scat Happens!
An even better find--bear tracks!
One of the kettle basins--water, mud, grasses and flowers, woody shrubs, trees, all in a bowl.
Choosing their first spots to forage for cranberries
Friends enjoyed sharing the cranberry real estate as they called it.
Yuck! Tasting the tartness.
Disappearing into the fen
Mrs. Barry--the berry forager.
Thinking ahead, she brought her father's blueberry rake.
Sandhill cranes honored us with a flyover. At least twenty of them passed our way.
The picking continued.
Mrs. Lewey filled her bag.
At lunchtime, a few recitations, including "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost.
And "The Gettysburg Address."
Yellow-rumped Warblers flew in and out.
Groups of four tried to pick as many as they could in the final half hour.
Working together, they accomplished their mission.
Some used whatever was available, including a hat, to help their teams.
The goal was to reach the white line on the bag.
Mrs. Barry chooses the winning bag. The kids would get a prize when they returned to school.
But the real prize at the end of the day was the fact that we got to spend time with this incredible group of middle school students. Thank you, MESA. We hope to share the trail with you again.