Category Archives: October 10

Looking for options and solutions to a school space-crunch—by making decisions as a community

Bryson Mattox, pictured here in 7th grade, built a digital salinity probe in the Makerspace that collected data as part of the St. George School’s 7th grade Learning Expedition to determine the effects of tidal flooding on the freshwater habitat of the marsh and how salinity affects the survival of the alewife eggs and fry. In March, Bryson, along with Alison England (Middle Level Science Teacher) and Paul Meinersmann (Technology/ Makerspace Director), presented their work at the Maine Environmental Education Association’s Annual Conference.

For the past several years, school superintendent Mike Felton and his facilities and programming working group have been wrestling with how to find enough space to serve the growing number of students attending the St. George School.

“We’ve felt increasing pressure each year and we felt it most last year,” Felton says. “We had 25 fourth graders last year and we’d already split the third grade, so we didn’t have the personnel or space to split the fourth grade. So part of the space problem is class size.”

Mike Felton

But an even bigger aspect of the school’s space-crunch, Felton points out, is programs. He rapidly ticks off the list of curricula and services that now require space in the school building: world language, occupational therapy, physical therapy, the Makerspace, the school library, STEAM activities (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math), Title 1 reading and math interventions, special ed, life skills (for students with developmental delays or autism) and a program for students with more severe behavioral and emotional needs. In addition, he says, three different social workers need spaces where they can work with students and there are occasions when needs testing (such as speech and hearing) has to be conducted, something that currently most often takes place in Felton’s own office.

Most other school administrations would view the issue of how best to solve their space problems as an internal problem. Guided by the long-term goal of providing students with an education that allows them to succeed and become productive citizens, they would determine what curricula, special programs, staffing and facilities are desirable for meeting that goal and then ask for the financial resources to make that plan a reality. But the St. George School is different than most other schools, Felton emphasizes.

“We are a community school. We have to make decisions about what is needed as a community. There is no other way. As a community we need to ask how is the school going to be part of the community as we move forward?”

This means, Felton explains, in addition to thinking about desirable educational and long-term goals for the students and what resources are needed to meet them, also thinking about the school’s facilities and its students as valuable resources for the community at large.

Already the school’s students are making valuable contributions to the community, Felton says, pointing to such examples as the recommendations about energy choices Jaime MacCaffray’s fourth grade class made to the School Board last year and the “citizen science” work Alison England’s classes have been doing on alewife restoration.

“And we really see the school building as a community building, because there are also a lot of after-school uses for a variety of groups and organizations from Parks and Recreation and an after-school program in coordination with Blueberry Cove to different meetings and community events. When we’re looking at the school space we really want to look at how can whatever we do benefit the entire community.”

Felton also flags that dealing with the school’s space issues is not only about better accommodating all the programs, services and uses currently in place. It is also about possible new opportunities to improve those offerings. For example, in terms of the school’s Makerspace, the Midcoast School of Technology has come forward with an interest in possibly working with the school’s middle-level students. So there is now the possibility that a vocational-technological component could be brought back to the curriculum, this time integrated with the work already being done with 3-D printers, laser cutters and robotics. Access, Felton says, could be for everybody, students and community members alike working to address questions, issues and challenges facing the community.

Another question is whether a public pre-K program would be desirable. “We have a working group right now looking at this and the state is moving in the direction that in the future public pre-K could be required. There are tremendous advantages to students when you get them started in education early, but that requires space.”

So decisions have to be made. Thanks to financial support from a community member, the school has been able to hire a firm of architects, Portland-based Oak Point Associates, to help with a building-use assessment, which the firm began conducting this past summer. “They are basically meeting with different stakeholders, community members, and students to get a sense of what people want and need from the school building. They’ll be at our regular open house for student families on October 10, so they’ll be connecting with those families and trying to get feedback from them,” Felton explains.

Then, on October 29 at 5:30pm in the school gym, Oak Point is going to hold a community meeting, trying to get as many community members together as possible to get their thoughts on the school, the space, historically how it has been used and what they want from the space moving forward.

“Right now everything is on the table,” Felton says. “But given the number of programs we have going on now, it is critical that we come up with options and solutions. For me, the most important part is really the community process. I think as a community we will come up with the right outcome. I look at it first as what programming do we need and want to offer and then what are the space requirements.”

—JW (All members of the St. George Community are invited to the “Community Meeting to Discuss the School Building” on Tuesday, October 29 at 5:30pm in the St. George School Gym.)

PHOTOS: Top and bottom, courtesy St. George School; Mike Felton, Julie Wortman

The ‘Age of Sail’ in St. George

Early photo of shipwrecks at Tenants Harbor taken from what is now the lawn of the East Wind Inn

The September program of the St. George Historical Society was presented by Dale Pierson and was on “Ships, Shipbuilding, Captains, Crews and Cargoes of St. George.” Dale told us about how he “volunteered” to do the presentation:

“My quest started with an interest in several ancestors who are listed as Captains or Ship Masters in local references and cemetery inscriptions. Somehow, I agreed to do a talk about “Ships, Sea Captains, Shipbuilding and the Age of Sail.” Who were they, what ships did they sail, when did they travel the oceans of the world, where did they sail to and why did it all seem to cease? These are some of the questions I wanted answers to. After re-reading works by local authors, I went to the Penobscot Marine Museum with a list of ancestors, in pursuit of more information. There I realized that much of the information is not cross-referenced and the search was to be a rather tedious affair. Some data was listed in one reference while other data was listed elsewhere. It was then I decided to gather the information of our local sailing history and put it into a document that is searchable by categories. Using a spreadsheet, which helps to keep my scattered thoughts organized, I began entering information from many sources that I will share with you. Trying to limit the presentation to information pertaining to St. George is not easy. The boats, captains (masters), crews, and cargos traveled all over the globe. These local builders and owners moved their chess pieces to different ports of call constantly.”

The time frame of Dale’s talk was from the 1830s to the end of the early 1900s, when so many sailing ships ended up beached on our shores. He spoke of the vast number of sailors, sea captains and sailing vessels that called St. George home. There was mention of the various shipyards and their locations in St. George. Jim Skoglund showed the audience a top hat that belonged to Capt. David Watts and spoke of the fact that sea captains regularly wore a top hat to distinguish themselves from others. Dale mentioned some of the cargo—southern pine brought north, paving stones carried to Boston and New York, and even a shipload of Mormons who were transported from Liverpool, England, in search of a new home in Utah. He also told the story of the Hattie Dunn, a three-masted wooden schooner captained by a St. George native that was sunk by a German U-boat in May 1918 off the coast of Virginia.

There were close to 75 people who packed into the Ocean View Grange that evening, and it appeared that there was interest in having a similar program again next year.
—John Falla

PHOTOS: Top, courtesy of St. George Historical Society; bottom, Betsy Welch

Knox Museum to host free community harvest festival Oct. 12

On Saturday, October 12 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the General Henry Knox Museum will host a fun-filled harvest festival on the grounds of Montpelier in Thomaston. Free to the community, this family event will feature traditional lawn games, hands-on seasonal craft activities including pumpkin painting and cookie decorating. Apple cider and fall-inspired treats will be served. Take your photo with General Henry Knox. This event is open to the public and free of charge.

General Henry Knox was born in 1750. In 1775, General George Washington chose Knox as his Chief of Artillery. Knox spent most of the Revolutionary War by Washington’s side and following the war, he was chosen to be the first Secretary of War. Knox and Washington became and remained lifelong friends. In 1795, Knox retired to a large tract of land, located in what is now Thomaston, which his wife had inherited from her mother. On this land, they built an elaborate nineteen-room mansion and named it “Montpelier.”

Knox had a hand in much of the area’s economic development: He shipped timber, made bricks, participated in agriculture, built a lock and canal system on the Georges River, built roads, helped found a church, and quarried lime. A true extrovert, he once welcomed over 500 townspeople to a party at Montpelier. Knox died in 1806, at the age of 56, but he left behind many people dedicated to preserving his legacy.

The General Henry Knox Museum is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to honoring the life, times, and legacy of Henry Knox; the heritage of Montpelier; and the veterans and families who have served, and continue to serve, our nation. The museum is located at the junction of Routes 1 and 131, on 30 High St. in Thomaston.

For more information contact Knox Museum at 354-8062 or go to www.knoxmuseum.org.

Community safety and services panel discussion

The St. George Business Alliance (SGBA) is pleased to invite SGBA members and St. George residents to a panel discussion on Tuesday morning, October 15, focused on “Community Safety and Services.” The presentation—scheduled for 9:00 am at the Town Office in Tenants Harbor—is open to the public and will include emergency preparedness plans and updates from the St. George Office of Emergency Management, the St. George Fire Department, the St. George Volunteer Fire & Ambulance Association, and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

Representatives from the St. George Community Development Association and St. George’s Neighbor to Neighbor Ride Assistance Program will also be on hand to answer questions and discuss the services provided by their organizations.

The SGBA is a local non-profit trade association of businesses, individuals, civic and non-profit organizations whose mission is to promote business and cultural prosperity in St. George. It has scheduled this informative session to update residents on the services available to ensure the health and safety of the St. George community and its residents.

Snapper!

Since the equinox, baby snapping turtles have been discovered trekking across the grounds of Hedgerow in Martinsville, instinctively heading to their future home in nearby wetlands. The mama turtles had emerged from those wetlands at the summer solstice, burying their eggs at various locations on the property.

PHOTO: Kate Johanson

Of merlins and monarchs (and more…)

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Monhegan Island eastern view

I knew I was going to Monhegan Island a few weeks in advance, so there was plenty of time to dream a version of the island visit that I could write a column about. The most likely scenario I imagined was a day full of interactions with hard-core bird watchers, interactions that would inspire a column rich with a heavily sarcastic take on their behavior. You see, a combination of several factors—location being an important one—makes Monhegan a bird magnet, and thus a magnet for birders. During spring and fall migrations, many a bird observer heads to the island for the day or for an extended stay (two weeks or more) because the birds can be so “good” out there. My good friend Mike and I have been planning a trip ever since my family moved to St. George for that exact reason. The birds. With that in mind, and my experience from years past, it seemed fair odds that the column would just write itself. But it didn’t take long to recognize that I may need corrective lenses when “envisioning!”

First off, there were hardly any birders out there. We spotted a few strolling the stroll, easily identified with their binos, books, cameras and funky vests and hats. There was a single, organized “birdery” (group of “birders”) that moved in an amoeba-like fashion in an effort to have the entire group catch a glimpse of every tweeter. But the birdery was from mid-coast Audubon, so I actually knew (and kinda like) some of the folks, and the individual, floating birders seemed pleasant, even with their distracting vests on. I would have to abandon the column vision, that much I could see!

The second situation was how incredibly quiet it was, bird-wise, on the island. There seemed to be more birders than birds, which may have played a role in the low number of birders venturing to Monhegan that day. Mike and I strolled the town stroll and quickly found ourselves heading to the woods to search for mushrooms and views. The column would write itself, as it rightfully should, just that this one wouldn’t be about birds.

Monarch butterflies, on the other hand, were a species of being that could not be denied that day. They were, are and have been everywhere for weeks (as of this typing), and that day on Monhegan was no different. From the eastern clifftops you could watch the monarchs coming in from over the ocean, or wave goodbye to them as they headed over to Manana and beyond. Migration is so cool, and monarch migration is so crazy—it’s the king! We saw a couple hundred that particular Saturday, and several other butterfly species and still heard the “you should have been here a few days ago …” stories. Nothing is cooler than butterfly stories.

Young Peregrine Falcon

There was also no shortage of raptors that day, with falcons, accipiters and the random bald eagle making up most of the lot. A steady flow of merlin falcons to the island from the east, provided quick sightings as they zoomed by, flying low on sneak attacks (classic merlin style). Merlins feed on birds (and dragonflies, etc.), and their hunting ways combined with the random peregrine falcon flyby undoubtedly added to the songbird silence. To add to the fun, sharp-shinned hawks were the accipiter of the day—several sighted—which is as prestigious an honor as it sounds. The airborne action was fast and furious.

Eastern Subterranean Termites

We crossed paths with the mid-coast Audubon group about mid-day, and you can tell how the bird watching is going when a birdery only talks about a dragonfly situation they observed. Don Reimer, one of my favorite people, was leading the field trip and gave us the scoop on a large gathering of large dragonflies over the Lobster Cove trail. Don noted that the odnonates looked to be hunting “flying ants” that were emerging in one spot along the trail. His description matched the reality we came upon. Comet Darners (Anax longipes)—large, green-headed and red-abdomened dragonflies—numbered in the dozens, hunting what appeared to be Eastern Subterranean Termites (Reticulitermes flavipes) with several darners clearly flying with termite wings sticking out of their mouths. We watched for a bit, but when we returned a half hour later the scene was all quiet, not a darner to be seen nor a flying ant as well. I think Don’s interpretation was right, which is usually the case.

We tried one last trail before heading to the boat, and crossed paths with a small, mixed species songbird flock that was “user friendly” in the sense that the birdies allowed great views. A handful of warblers, Baltimore Oriole and a Olive-sided Flycatcher rounded out the day and we could officially say we saw some songbirds on Monhegan. The day had already been a success and the late wave of birds just made things “more successfuller.”

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

Tools and work

by Leilani Myers and Evie Thissell

(L to R) Carlin Thompson, Bishop Lunt and John Falla as chef, lobsterman and fireman

Since returning to school, we’ve been traveling around the building looking for things the grades are doing that are new and different at St. George School. We have found lots of cool things, such as a new music program, some new STEAM classes, a new gym teacher, a new French teacher, and lots more plans! Since it’s too much to write about in one article, we decided to begin by highlighting what’s going on in Ms. Ruth Thompson’s First Grade and Ms. Meghan Smith’s Kindergarten/First Grade classes.

Both Ms. Thompson’s and Ms. Smith’s classes are having an amazing time in their “Tools and Work” expedition. They are learning about tools that people use in their different professions. Several guests have visited their classrooms to demonstrate the tools they use in their every-day work. They have seen tools from a custodian, gym teacher, cook, artist and nurse, from right in our own school! They have also visited the Children’s Museum in Rockland to see tools from other trades, such as veterinarians and artists and scientists. Their final project will be to work collaboratively in teams to identify a need within the classroom, school, or playground and to design and build an amazing solution with the appropriate tools. We can’t wait to see what they come up with!

(Myers and Thissell are 8th-grade students at the St. George School.)

PHOTO: Ruth Thompson

Native plant corner 10-10-19

New England Aster

Asters and goldenrods might be Maine’s most recognizable late-season wildflowers. They often grow together in wild spaces and because purples and yellows are complementary, they are especially pleasing to the eye.

Aside from their visual appeal, there are more important reasons to appreciate goldenrods and asters and allow them to become the foundation of your late-season wildlife and pollinator garden. Goldenrods and asters are closely related botanically as both are members of the huge Asteraceae (aster) family. But the real power of these two genres of plants is their rich nectar that supports pollinating insects in late summer through fall. If you observe the blooms of the various species of goldenrods and asters throughout September, you will find an amazing assortment of insects nectaring on them, including many familiar butterflies and especially the beloved Monarch butterfly. Leaving the stalks and dried seed heads in the gardens through winter will provide seed and shelter for birds and other critters through the lean months.

It is a challenge to choose just one species of these remarkable plants to discuss in this column, but having just witnessed the most incredible flight of Monarchs during the last week of September, we choose New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae).

The magnificent blooms of New England Aster highlight Maine’s late-season landscape with rich colors ranging from deep violet to lavender and pink with yellow centers. Large and showy, this aster can grow up to six feet high. Like most asters it blooms late in the season and provides a critical fall nectar source for pollinators, especially Monarchs as they stock up for their fall migration to Mexico. New England aster is also a larval host for several butterflies and moths including the Pearl Crescent.

This deer-resistant native prefers moist, rich soil but is easily grown in a broad range of conditions, thriving in full sun or light shade in all but the driest soils. It does self-seed in favorable conditions. When this tall aster goes into bloom, the lower leaves begin to dry up and this is normal. If height becomes an issue, pinching back the stems a few times before mid-July can help eliminate any need for staking.

Plant straight species New England aster with companion native goldenrods, Joe-pye weeds, milkweeds, and native grasses such as little blue stem and native mountain mints for a beautiful and supportive late-season pollinator garden. Perhaps the September Monarch flight will visit your corner too!—Jan Getgood

PHOTO: Jan Getgood

Rock the Dock 2013: All about heart and community

Dylan Gold

Dylan Gold

For several months Amy and Andy Barstow of Monhegan Boat Line had been planning an autumn Rock-the-Dock event to celebrate completion of the two-year renovation of the Laura B, but the freak car crash that killed Dylan Gold and injured his mother Allison and brother Wyatt at the Monhegan Boat Line dock on Sunday, August 11 changed all that.

“We are still in shock over what happened,” says Amy. “The entire community is. So we thought we should cancel this Rock the Dock.” [The last dock party was in 2010, a fundraiser for the fisherman’s memorial.]

But as the Barstows thought about how quickly a scene of panic and chaos was transformed into a display of orderly and efficient emergency response they reconsidered and approached the Golds about making Rock the Dock a benefit honoring Dylan, with the funds raised going both to the St. George Volunteer Firefighters and Ambulance Association and to LifeFlight.

Amy and Andy Barstow

Amy and Andy Barstow

“When I talked with Allison on the phone I was amazed by her positive spirit, her grace and her kindness,” reflects Amy. “Port Clyde is a small community with a big heart and I know that by doing this it will do a lot in terms of helping heal the hurt that people here and in all of St. George have been feeling. So this is not all about raising money.” The event is scheduled for Saturday October 19, starting at 2pm.

Barstow points out that the Monhegan Boat Line dock was crowded with people when the Sunday afternoon accident occurred, including a number of young people working for the Boat Line, among them Barstow’s 17-year-old daughter, Sienna.

“The Ambulance Association and LifeFlight—they are truly heroes in my eyes. I will love Randy Elwell [that day’s Incident Commander] forever for the way he acted on that horrible day and I am so glad to know that Tom Judge [who founded LifeFlight and lives in St. George] was on that helicopter. There is a genuine need for donations and I hope we earn A LOT!!! But I will do whatever I can to make this be all about heart—the heart of this community, because I need it to be for my family and for Dylan’s family and for those 17-year-olds who were there that day.”

The outpouring of support for the event is demonstrating that Barstow needn’t worry that community members have forgotten that this Rock the Dock is about Dylan Gold, his family and all those traumatized by and grieving over what happened on August 11. But the event will also be about pride.

“It’s a good feeling to know you’ve got a bunch of people dedicated to providing this kind of emergency response,” says Tim Polky, St. George’s Assistant Town Manager and Fire Chief. Polky was driving back from Massachusetts when the crash occurred. “I listened in to what was happening on my radio. Everything worked the way it was supposed to.” After a pause, he adds, “By the time I got to Port Clyde all the bad stuff had been dealt with.”

A picture of how the emergency response unfolded was pieced together as responders reported on their own participation and heard from others in post-incident meetings.

Within seconds of the vehicle hitting Dylan, Allison and Wyatt Gold the 911 dispatch service in Rockland was flooded with calls. Within minutes ambulances with paramedics from St. George and surrounding communities began arriving at the scene, as did the town’s volunteer firefighters and EMTs. As the ranking firefighter, Randy Elwell took on the role of Incident Commander and began making assignments as the other volunteer responders began arriving. Meanwhile, a team began setting up a landing field for the LifeFlight helicopters at the town ball field. Almost seamlessly each person took up their assigned role, folding in as needed the doctors, nurses and other trained people offering help who happened to be on the dock or in the vicinity when the crash occurred.

“There are over 30 people in this town who wear pagers 24/7 in readiness for an emergency,” says Kate Hewlett, one of the town’s EMTs who responded that day. They are also issued radios, jump kits and oxygen. Then there’s the weekly, monthly and yearly training sessions they attend, along with special courses they take.

“I had no clue what went on behind the scenes, no idea of what it meant that the firefighters meet every week, until I became an EMT,” Hewlett says. “It is an unbelievable community effort—some of these guys have been doing this for 20 or 30 years. And in some cases it is a generational commitment.”

Polky agrees, pointing out that while the town now provides some compensation to its firefighters when they respond to a call, the roots of the town’s emergency response efforts is in volunteerism. “There are limits to what people can give,” he says, noting that most of the town’s volunteer responders have families and are working to earn a living. “We take all the extra time they have for mandated training and then we rely on them to be ready to respond to calls [which average 250 to 275 a year].”

Polky also notes how important the support of the whole town is to its emergency preparedness—support supplied through basic funding in the town budget, through fundraising, and by an all-volunteer Ambulance Support Team and a Community Emergency Shelter Group. To help defray costs the Association also has begun billing for services where feasible.

“All I can say is that it is a community thing,” Polky says.

From everyone’s point of view, it is also a big matter of heart.

To contribute funds, food, raffle items or help to the October 19th Rock the Dock event email Amy Barstow  or call 372-8848.­—JW

A passion for bringing color—and fun—into the home

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn a world of interior design where hardwood floors, granite countertops and other natural materials rule, Pat Kamlin believes she has something important to offer.

“I’m all about color,” she says of the canvas floor mats, cotton duck pillows and bolsters, along with fiber wall art she produces in her Ibis Arts studio on Route 131 near the Kinney Woods Road. “It’s a way for people to put color back into their lives, to put some of the fun back into their homes. It’s just about color and shape and fun.”

If such statements make Kamlin sound like someone who takes an anything-goes approach to color and form, nothing could be further from her approach, which is marked by technical precision and a clear sense of structure.

The name she chose for her studio, Ibis Arts, reflects this. “My business name was inspired by Egyptian mythology. The Egyptian god Toth, who is associated with the ibis and is depicted wearing the bird like a head gear, is given credit for having invented geometry, among other things. Most of my work is geometrically inspired abstracts, hence the name.”

Kamlin, who majored in fine art in college and then later studied at the Worcester Center for Crafts in the professional fiber arts program, calls the painting technique she uses on her floor and table mats “post-painterly” because she leaves no trace of individual brush strokes on the flat surfaces. The brightly colored mats provide an eye-catching accent in front of a sink, under a dining table or along a corridor—and like their predecessors in the 18th and 19th centuries, they provide welcome practical protection for wood flooring.

As for the design of her bold, hand-dyed color block pillows and bolsters, time spent studying architectural design and drafting at the Boston Architectural Center after college, she says, has been a big influence. Available in a variety of sizes and strong shapes, Kamlin enjoys the powerful impact they can make on the design of a room.

Unlike with her floor mats, where she can achieve an infinite variety of colors by mixing a few primaries to get the exact hue a customer is after, for the pillows she uses a very carefully calibrated palette of dyes that took two years to develop.

“It took me two years to get my colors because I wanted to get a good spectrum,” she explains. She began with some basic dye recipes she learned at the Worcester fiber arts program and then “started tweaking and embellishing them,” keeping careful records along the way. The resulting palette of colors, she says, is one where “there are no wrong choices.”

“I find that people are afraid of color—they don’t want to make a mistake. But with these colors you can close your eyes and pick any two or three swatches and they will work together.”
Customers appreciate the reassurance such careful attention to detail supplies—something that frees them up to have the kind of fun Kamlin feels its her mission to provide.

Kamlin has been living in St. George full time since 2007. Her studio occupies the second story of a renovated chicken barn (never used for chickens) located on land that was once part of the town’s poor farm. She is one of the participants in this year’s Artists of St. George Open Studio Tour on October 12-14. For more information on Ibis Arts go to  www.ibisarts.com—JW

Letters, October 10

Long Cove 12.tifMy wife and I ran across your publication this summer and became instant fans.  You guys are doing a great job, and hope you can keep up the good work.

I just found you online, and was enjoying going through some back issues, which in fact prompts my e-mail.  In your August 1 issue, you had a piece on the Long Cove granite quarries, with a picture of a 3-masted schooner along the shore.  Although I had been unaware of the ship’s existence, I am quite certain that the ship was actually named the Abbie Bowker, and was built by my ancestor, Timothy Batchelder Bowker of Phippsburg.  He was a shipbuilder and representative to the Maine legislature.  I’m further convinced by the fact that one of Timothy’s sons got married to a woman named Abbie the same year you report the ship was built—quite the “wedding gift” honor!

I can tell you that you made my day to see an actual photograph of one of the ships my gg-grandfather built.  Thank you!

Best regards,
Wallace Baker