Tuesday, September 29, 2015

FLOW Weather Update for Week #3

Well the weather looks unstable from Tuesday through Thursday this week, so none of the groups will be paddling the open water to the islands.  It's disappointing, but all decisions are made with the safety of our students first and foremost. 

The kids all understand the situation and have a pretty universally positive attitude.  We will be on the mainland until the storm blows through, and will hopefully get out on the water for a day paddle on Thursday.   It should be fun sleeping out in the deluge.  We are battening down the hatches!  See  you on Friday.

Mr. K

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Week #2, 2015

For this year's FLOW trips, we redesigned the curriculum to make it both more relevant, and less cumbersome.   Teachers from Bath Middle School and Woolwich Central School worked many hours together to create this year's lesson plans, and I was curious to hear how it was going.  The ultimate goal is to create a unit of study that can be repeated from year to year.

I had the opportunity to sit in on the debrief of week #2's teacher chaperones, and I liked what I heard.  The Chewonki staff continues to impress us.  They are skilled, warm, consistent and easy to collaborate with.  The academic focus of this year's trips is writing, and students have an hour to write each day.  The whole group takes time around the fire after dinner to share their writing and offer each other feedback.  There is also a bit of unstructured time as well to read the historical fiction novels that the students have brought along.

Coupled with lessons on "hard skills" like navigation, paddling and rescue, this is an experience that will stay with kids long after they get back to civilization.  I heard from two of the chaperones how excited BMS kids were to get to know WCS kids while on FLOW.  They are already looking forward to being in classes together at Morse High School.  They'll have plenty to reminisce about once they get there next fall!
Photo © Eli Wilson
Photo © Maria Newcomb
Photo © Maria Newcomb

Monday, September 21, 2015

Smiling Faces

It was an odd feeling for me, not going out on the first week of FLOW this year.  After last year's experience,  it became clear that it was important to have a point person back on the mainland to handle logistical issues.  So, I sent the first four groups off with high fives and waited until Friday to hear how things went.  The first time I saw the kids was as they came off the bus outside BMS with hoots and laughter.  Everyone was glowing -- both students and chaperones.  

"How was it?" I asked.

"SO AWESOME!" they replied.

Photo © Don Seymour

We made a few key changes to FLOW this year.  First and foremost was recognizing that teaching kids how to live and travel outside on the water takes a lot of time.  We altered our curricular plans to make the schedule more flexible and less stressful.  Students have one hour per day to write in a journal in response to a few key prompts.  Pieces of writing are discussed at night around the fire.  This writing will be revised, expanded and transformed into published pieces as part of the "FLOW Anthology," which will be presented on November 20th at Bath City Hall.

Photo © Don Seymour

With a less cumbersome curriculum coming from our end, the Chewonki Outdoor Classroom Staff were able to teach lessons on outdoor living skills, paddling, tides, geology and map and compass in greater depth.  The mathematical concepts involved in shooting bearings and transitioning between map and land clearly connect to the math we teach back at school.

Photo © Don Seymour
But looking beyond the lessons and the hours spent planning curriculum, it's important to recognize that there is also intrinsic value in the act of simply spending time in the wild with friends.  Taking a break from electronics, pulling yourself across the water in a boat with all your belongings on  board, carefully collecting and piling kindling to build a fire, sharing stories while looking up at the stars -- these are simple experiences that have the power to change us.

As these 8th graders begin their last year together before entering Morse High School, FLOW gives them a common bonding experience.  The memories made out here on the water will do a lot to nudge them a bit further than they ever thought they could go.

Photo © Don Seymour

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Week #1, Day 4

Well, I don't suppose anyone going on FLOW this week will complain about the weather!  Today is the fourth day of brilliant sunshine and mild temperatures.  The stars were so clear from downtown Bath last night that I imagine they were especially bright out in the bay, away from the glow of civilization.

Photo © Don Seymour

Today is a travel day.  The base camps that were set up have been dismantled, the boats have been loaded, and as I write this post the students are paddling their way back to Chewonki Neck.  They will camp tonight at the same site they used on Monday.  Tomorrow morning, they'll break camp one last time and paddle around the corner to the Chewonki waterfront where they will clean all the group gear, re-provision spice kits and first aid kits, transfer their personal belongings back into their own bags, share lunch and say goodbye.

Day four is a turning point on any wilderness trip.  The routines that may have seemed strange and awkward at the start of the expedition become the norm by this point.  Cooking, cleaning, paddling, setting up tents, journaling, reading maps -- they are all just part of the way you live while out on the water. This is the moment when groups really start to shine.  So tonight's time around the fire will be special.  Just as the group is hitting its stride,  everyone knows that this will be the last time they will  be together with just each other.

Photo © Don Seymour

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sneak Peek

Photo ©Don Seymour
Here is an image of one of the FLOW groups unloading boats in ethereal light on night #1 of their trip.  After camping on Chewonki Neck, the boats will be loaded and the groups will head out to the chain of islands further south on Montsweag Bay.

It's a revelation for many of the students on this trip that places as remote and beautiful as this exist just a few miles from their school.  We are all hopeful that spending time together in this local wilderness will offer kids new perspectives, and inspire thoughtful writing.

Monday, September 14, 2015

And, they're off!

The first FLOW groups of 2015 arrived at Chewonki this morning with tons of positive energy and smiles on their faces.  The sun had come out just minutes before the bus pulled in delivering 29 students to the campus.  Hopefully this was some foreshadowing of the great week to come.

This week's bunch is divided into four groups (7,7,7,8).  One group will be on Oak Island, one on Berry Island, and two groups will be on either end of Castle Island.  The immediate weather forecast looks excellent with dry conditions and comfortable temperatures both day and night.

You won't hear much about the FLOW adventurers this week because a big part of this experience is taking a break from the internet.  You'll have to wait until they return and share their impressions of the trip with you firsthand.

Happy paddling, FLOW-ers!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


Please join us for an informational meeting about FLOW, the weeklong canoe trip for 8th grade students, this Tuesday from 6:30 to 7:30 in the Bath Middle School cafeteria.  If you have any questions about the trip, or would just like more information,  please attend this meeting.  Thanks!