Category Archives: Volume 6

When food is a big part of the camping experience

Livestock is a part of the food system picture at Blueberry Cove Camp

A camper attending Blueberry Cove Camp (BBC) off Hart’s Neck Road in Tenants Harbor—whether taking part in day camp or living in one of the cabins—gets to experience everything a beautiful coastal setting has to offer in terms of summertime fun: boating, swimming, exploring islands, drama, pottery, canoe trips to the marsh, games like capture the flag and campfires.

It used to be, according to BBC director Ryan LeShane, that even the vegetable gardens at the camp were about fun, with the focus on experimentation. “Some years we had 20 different crops so we got just a little bit of everything.” But because Blueberry Cove is part of the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension 4-H program, food systems education for kids with a priority given to putting food on the table has become an increasingly important ingredient of the camp’s mission—and, practically speaking, a good way to reduce costs.

“So now our goal is to get the vast majority of our fresh produce either from our own gardens or from other local sources,” LeShane says. “Last year we finally got to the point we wanted to be with that. We focused on heavy production on a certain realm of crops, mostly different types of fresh greens. I don’t think we ordered in any lettuce all season.”

Some of the gardening volunteers at Blueberry Cove Camp who came to help plant vegetable beds on a windy mid-May morning.

The heavy lifting in this year’s vegetable gardens has already begun. LeShane says Hart’s Neck resident and current BBC board member Jane Bracy is key to this effort. “Jane heads up our volunteer gardeners army—six to 10 volunteers who come to plant the gardens and then come once a week to weed and to keep up succession planting. It’s a huge aspect of the work.”

Once camp is up and running—the eight-week summer season runs from the last part of June through July and then for three weeks in August—the campers become part of the garden work force. They help with weeding and watering the gardens.

“We have salad offerings at lunch and dinner every day. The kids get a chance to get down into the garden, harvest peas, beans, carrots and bring back the produce. We find that when kids have that connection they are more willing to eat what’s offered on the tables. The kids especially enjoy our potatoes, onions and garlic.”

Livestock is also a part of the food system picture, LeShane says. “Last year we also raised some small animals in the summer—two pigs and five goats. We have a connection with a local goat dairy farm up by Ellsworth where we get a couple of their young goats each year and then find families for them. The pigs were great, too, because they could eat whatever we couldn’t compost along with food scraps from the dining hall.”

Last year’s pigs were “processed” by Curtis Meats and will come back into the camp food stream this year. “We want to be honest with kids while we’re educating them about where their food comes from: This is where your pork or bacon comes from, someone raised those pigs somewhere and these are the ones we are raising.”

Fruit trees also figure into what the campers learn about food. The camp has 10 peach trees and a pear tree. The campers also harvest blueberries, raspberries and rhubarb to make into pies and other dessert treats.

Still, the camping season at Blueberry Cove is short and by September, when the residential and day campers are gone, LeShane says, “We still have lots of tomatoes coming on.” That kind of reality, along with the fact that the camp has reached the limit of its summer-camp capacity, has led the camp’s board of directors to develop a plan for realizing a new, ambitious goal for expanding the camp’s mission.

“We’re now at 85 to 90 percent of summertime capacity, averaging over 600 campers a year, so there’s not a lot of growth in that area possible—nor do we have the desire to go beyond what makes our camp unique,” LeShane notes. “I think that the fact we only have 40 or so kids a week in our residential camp programs indicates the desirable position of where we fit in the camp world across the state. There are camps that have 100 or 200 kids at camp a week so some of those kids get lost—a camp like ours is on a smaller scale and that really builds a sense of community.”

Still, LeShane says, “Our question has been, ‘How can we reach more kids?’” The fact that Blueberry Cove is located right in the middle of a year-round community has suggested the answer.

“For me, who grew up as a camper, living and working in a camp that is inside a community has been a great experience. and I find that there is a great interest in Blueberry Cove from St. George,” LeShane reflects. “So our big dream is to become a year-round environmental learning center, a resource and asset to this and other Maine communities.”

The BBC board is now in the process of launching a fundraising campaign to realize that dream. It’s called the Campaign for Kids. One goal of the campaign is to expand the camp’s physical plant. “The idea is not so much to run a residential camp year round, but to provide what we need in order to be able to run a school program—basically a heated indoor space that has bathrooms,” Le Shane explains. “In this sense we’re looking at winterizing the dining hall as a key piece to our future.”

“There’s also a half-built building behind the dining hall which we got a grant from the Hearst Foundation to finish so that we can use it as a year-round science center and leadership training facility,” LeShane adds. “It will have remote technology so that we’ll be able to connect directly with U Maine to bring those resources down here.”

The Campaign for Kids also aims to create an endowment for scholarships. “We want ours to be an affordable environmental learning center for Maine kids, whether for a summer camping experience or for a school group, so we want to keep the fee basis low,” LeShane emphasizes. “Seventy percent of our campers already receive some form of financial aid, through money raised by our annual half marathon, our annual appeal and a couple of grants. But we’d like to do more.”

Finally, there’s an asset the camp already has in place that the campaign hopes to enhance, and that is its commercial kitchen, which was updated and winterized in 2008. If the campaign can raise enough funds to also bring a kitchen manager on board, the commercial kitchen could not only provide meals for school and other groups—possibly making use of those September tomatoes and other late-season crops that the Blueberry Cove vegetable gardens can produce—but also accommodate users who would like to do value-added cooking and teach young people about how to preserve food.

“Because U Maine Cooperative Extension is 4-H,” Le Shane points out, “food systems education for kids is always a goal.”—JW

Jane Bracy notes that gardening volunteers are always welcome. Contact her at to find out more.

PHOTOS: Top, Ryan LeShane, bottom, Julie Wortman

Our town office (not town hall)—a short civics and history lesson

Dedication of the new Town Office in July, 1987

Governance in New England has deep roots in local communities. Some places in the United States have “local” government at what we know as the county level. Maine communities have always been proud—and protective—of the way they govern themselves. And it is the most direct way to be involved in how your government works. You elect Select Board members to oversee the town’s administration, but you, the voter, get to vote at the annual town meeting on items that provide direction to the Select Board. Plus you get to vote on the annual budget. At the county level in Maine you elect commissioners to handle the regular affairs, and elect budget committee members to approve the annual budget. And we all know how the State and Federal government work.

Local communities also have their own town office—not town hall—where you get to conduct official business, and sometimes catch up on local news. Only the larger municipalities in Maine are the places that have a city hall.

Enough of the civics lesson—this is supposed to be a history article!

The current town office was built in 1986-1987 on the site of the old St. George High School. In July 1987 operations moved from the “old” town office into its new home. The “old” town office was once a one-room school house—what is now the School House Museum—that transformed into a town office in the 1930s-1940s. The building was used mostly by the Board of Selectmen to conduct their business, as the town clerk and tax collector did business out of their homes. This manner in which you got your fishing and marriage licenses, and paid your property taxes, continued until 1968 when the St. George adopted the Town Manager form of government and all town business was moved into the one building on School Street.

The School Street site changed again in 2003, the year St. George turned 200 years old. The old cement block fire station had seen its day, and a new fire station was built, attached to the “new” town office. This new fire station was designed with the input from the townspeople to “don’t just replace the fire station, look down the road 40-50 years.” With this in mind, the top floor of the fire station was built with a large meeting room and supporting kitchen big enough for community suppers. Some people may think this is the “town hall” but it is actually the Fire Station Meeting Room. Its primary purpose is to provide space for the fire and ambulance crews for meeting, training and as a command center during emergency situations. Its secondary use is for large meetings, voting and annual town meeting. It also serves as a monthly meeting place for seniors to have lunch and socialize.
—John Falla (Falla is St. George’s former Town Manager.)

Spring study of puffins leads to t-shirt campaign

Students in Mrs. Elwell’s third grade class at the St. George School have been working hard for the past six weeks studying the life of an Atlantic Puffin as part of their spring Expedition. Students were asked to read and write informational text about the different aspects of an Atlantic Puffin’s life, and then created a scratch art design for a t-shirt. Students developed the goal of selling the t-shirts to raise $100 for Project Puffin. With a $100 donation to Project Puffin, students can “Adopt-a-Puffin” and they will receive a picture, biography, and book specific to a puffin on Eastern Egg Rock.

Students collaborated on the t-shirt design, with each child illustrating a specific part of the Atlantic Puffin’s life cycle. Then, they wrote a persuasive piece to be published in the St. George Dragon, advertising their t-shirt sale. Students presented their speeches to several classes at the school and the audience members voted on the speeches they thought were the most convincing. The three pieces excerpted here are the three winners.

The t-shirt design and sale serve two purposes–for students to collaborate and produce a high-quality product with service to the local community in mind. We hope to see you at the Celebration for Learning on June 12 where you can purchase a t-shirt for $15 to support our Expedition goal—and the local community! —Meghan Elwell

Isaiah Felton’s t-shirt pitch:
You need to purchase our t-shirts because we will use that money to buy a puffin. The money will also help “Project Puffin” and learn more about puffins. You want that, right?
Did you know that puffins almost went extinct once? Well, they did. Do you, my friends, want that to happen again? Kirk Gentalen, a seabird consultant said, “People would put nets over the puffins’ burrows to catch them.” Trash and gulls are the biggest bad things, so don’t litter and chase away the gulls…

…So, will everyone just stop putting trash in the ocean? It hurts me that I know that people might like puffins or think puffins are cool, but still put trash or any other bad things in the ocean. But what really stuns me is that people used to shoot puffins. If you buy our t-shirts, then you can help these beautiful harmless puffins.

MaKayla Kalloch’s t-shirt pitch:
Did you know that if you do not buy the t-shirts puffins could go extinct? Even though puffins are not dogs, cats, or animals you like maybe you could learn to like puffins?…

…You are not realizing what you are doing. Just imagine if all the plants and animals in this world went extinct, you would not have any food. You would die and there would be nothing on this planet because you throw trash in the ocean or on the ground. If you want a t-shirt come to the Celebration of Learning at St. George School on June 12 and buy our t-shirt design to support Project Puffin!

Zoe Hufnagel’s t-shirt pitch:
Did you know there was only one pair of puffins in Maine at one time? A man named Steve Kress set out to save puffins and now there are a lot. Still, buy a t-shirt and the population will grow even more.

If you buy our t-shirts, you can help puffins. A lot of things can make puffins die. One way they die is from predators like gulls and peregrine falcons. Puffins can also die from oil spills, boats, fishing nets, and more. Buy a t-shirt and we can help keep those things from happening.

How would you feel if humans were going extinct? I know I would be very hurt. I bet puffins felt that way once. Please help us help the puffins.

New arrivals and last year’s models

Magnolia warbler

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Fact: Most songbirds migrate at night. Every spring countless warblers, vireos, thrushes and sparrows (among others) follow the night sky as they work their way north in search of space to breed and maybe a partner (or two) with whom to share said space. Some of these birds will pass through St George, and some will stay to reproduce.

This “pre-breeding,” songbird migration can be a delight to observe—birds looking sharp and full of color, and males singing their hearts out. With each dawn another wave of hungry, migrating tweeters descends into local yards and forests after a night flight from who knows where. The peninsula has so much habitat, the songbirds can turn up just about anywhere.

Northern parula

For me this situation calls for a little “birding by bike.” On a bike one can cover lot of ground, be looking and listening for birds the entire pedal and stop (pretty much) wherever you hear something. Recent rides on the peninsula have turned up warblers such as Black and white, Palm, Yellow-rumped, Chestnut-sided, Yellow, Black-throated Green, Magnolia and Black-throated Blue, as well as American Redstart, Northern parula, Common Yellowthroat, Ovenbird, and Northern Waterthrush. With other songbird species such as Scarlet Tanager, Blue-headed Vireo, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren and Hermit Thrush adding their songs to the mix it is a glorious time to out and about and listening. And the great news is there are still birds on the way!

And while we are at it… with all my recent talk about “vernal pools” and “racing against time” it would be irresponsible not to give some space to those species that may opt to “take their time” when it comes to hurrying towards adulthood. The Delaney girls—Trinity and Serenity—and their super nice mom Beckie were kind enough to bring me the tiniest of painted turtles that they found crossing the road just down from where I live on Watts Avenue. This dude was so tiny and cute it looked like it might have hatched that day. But that got me thinking—how old is this turtle? Painted turtles are the cool summertime turtles that you see on logs and by your bobbers when fishing the Ponderosa. You know the ones with red streaks on their face and legs that gives the species its common name “painted.” A little research shows they lay eggs in late spring and their youngsters hatch a few months later in August and September. So what’s the deal here with the tiny one?

Painted turtle

Well, Thomas Tyning had the answer (as he always does!) in his Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles: “The young painted turtles remain inside the nest cavity for varying lengths of time. In northern parts of their range, they may overwinter in their nest and do not emerge until the following spring”.

So this little turtle hatched out of an egg late last summer and then essentially napped through winter still in the underground nest where its mom laid its egg. Then just a few days ago it began to scurry and scrape its way out of the only world it’s known! Instead of racing ahead into adulthood, local painted turtles apparently take the “I’ll do that next year” attitude quite literally! A lifestyle choice that seems to be working out for them.

This turtle was lucky enough to cross paths with Trinity and Serenity (undoubtedly the first humans it had ever seen!) who were ready to help and relocate the turtle to a nearby pond. The road is a dangerous place for turtles of any size and they often can use a little assistance to get where they are going safely. “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with helpin’ a turtle,” as they say.

New arrivals or last year’s models—either way there’s a ton going on outside these days. See you out there!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

School Association meeting May 26

The St. George School Association will meet as usual at the Odd Fellow’s Hall in Tenants Harbor on Saturday, May 26th at 4pm. $15 plus $5 dues. Members of the present 8th grade attend free.

Mary has agreed to cater the banquet so we can expect the same great food.  Volunteers are needed to set up the tables during the day and perhaps help carry the food into the hall.

Although no election of officers was held at the 2017 meeting, a young man with illustrious forbearers in St. George has agreed to guide and direct our association for the upcoming year.  He has generously donated 10 one-ounce pieces of silver to be raffled off as door prizes.  If you ever attended school in St. George we hope you will attend.

This year we are breaking new ground because it will be the first time since Alfred Hocking and others started the association back around 1939 that we have held this banquet without any officers or anyone in charge of putting it on. You will see it rise up between two lobster boats in Tenants Harbor all by itself, somewhat like Venus on the Half Shell.

Because to date only one person has agreed to be in charge for the upcoming year, it will be one of the very few organizations in Maine in which there is no infighting, quibbling or backbiting among the membership.

Any complaints about the food, decor or people present will be seen as a move to seize and consolidate power from our soon-to-be-elected president, and the guilty party will have automatically elected himself/herself vice-president of the association for the upcoming year.

Please direct questions or suggestions to

We look forward to seeing you on Saturday, May 26th. —Robert Skoglund, 1953.

True Hall

A. True Hall, 87, long time St. George resident, died peacefully April 25, 2018 at Knox Center for Long Term Care in Rockland.

Born in St. George, July 10, 1930, he was the son of Almond Caleb Hall and Etta MacKay Hall.  True attended local schools, graduating from St. George High School, and afterwards attended Husson College in Bangor, earning a degree in Business Administration.  Upon returning from college he married his high school sweetheart, Shirley Lehtinen, on October 27, 1949.  Their love and commitment deepened over their 67 years together.  True and Shirley made their home in St. George, where he was a life-long member and Deacon of the First Baptist Church of St. George.  True, a member of the Wiley’s Corner Grange, a Mason and member of the Tenants Harbor IOOF, achieved his 50-year pin from each.  He was also a life-time member of the Maine Association of Realtors.

True’s early years were spent on the farm and later in Hall’s Market, the grocery store opened in 1946 by his mother and father in Tenants Harbor. In 1956 he began a career in real estate and insurance brokerage.  After his father’s death in 1968, True, alongside his mother, continued to operate Hall’s Market and was often seen behind the meat counter and delivering groceries. From the small back corner office in the market, he welcomed real estate and insurance customers.  In 1972 while still operating the market, he expanded the realty business, moving the offices to what is now 13 Mechanic Street and soon thereafter brought son Ron and Tim Holmes into the business.  A few years later, family friends, Tim and Gaby Holmes, began operating the market and in 1981 True sold the property to them.  He retired after 50 years in the realty business, a profession he thoroughly enjoyed.

During the early years of raising his family, with the help of his children and other neighborhood kids, he mowed the Wiley’s Corner cemetery, and made wreaths to deliver to Boston to sell for the Christmas season.  You would also see him driving the school bus and tending the laundromat business he began with his father-in-law, Hugo A Lehtinen, Sr.

True and Shirley liked to travel, taking trips abroad and across the country, and spending many winters in Sarasota, Florida. They enjoyed a wide circle of friends and loved hosting parties and gatherings at the house in Wiley’s Corner, at the cottage on Barter’s Point and in Sarasota.  Once he and Shirley learned to dance, they rarely missed a Saturday night event with the Foxtrot being their favorite. In the fall of the year True would always find time for hunting with his family and friends both locally and up north at Dead River.  In the warmer months he enjoyed following the Red Sox, playing horseshoes and croquet on the cottage lawn.  He had a competitive spirit and loved playing games.  He was a fierce Parcheesi player.  For many years a favorite pastime was fishing for smelts at various locations around the peninsula and later he enjoyed trips away to Sportsman’s Rest Camp on East Carry Pond.

True was an avid reader, enjoying every Louis L’Amour novel ever published as well as Agatha Christie and other mystery stories.  He was a great story teller, loved meeting new people, having barn sales, driving one of his old cars in the Memorial Day parade and playing 63 with the brothers on Tuesday nights.  A highlight of his later years was the purchase of a John Deere tractor and mowing his fields.

Predeceased by his wife, Shirley who passed away January 30, 2017, True is survived by his children, Gerald ‘Jerry’ Hall and his wife Suzanne, Glenn Hall and his wife Cindy May, Sandra Hall and her husband Dan MacCaffray, Ron Hall and his wife Jane, Diane Hall, and Jenny Hall Maltais and her husband John Maltais, all of St. George; his 12 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, his sister-in-law Connie Lehtinen of Tenants Harbor; and his niece Sally Lehtinen of Portland.

Family and friends are invited to visit from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Thursday, May 24, 2018 at Burpee, Carpenter & Hutchins Funeral Home, 110 Limerock Street, Rockland, Maine.  A funeral service and celebration of life will be held at the First Baptist Church of St. George, 15 Snow’s Point Road, St. George, at 11:00 a.m., Friday, May 25, 2018.  A reception will follow immediately at Echo Hill, 29 Echo Hill Road, St. George.

‘A constant flow of language’ with all the comforts of a seaside Maine inn

Julia Schulz, Patti Luchetti and Joanne O’Shea at a planning session for this year’s French Immersion at the Craignair Inn

In 2010, when Joanne O’Shea moved with her family to St. George as the new owners of the historic Craignair Inn overlooking the causeway leading to Clark Island, she was elated to find that she could get a French station on the television. The discovery rekindled a love of French language—and, within a few years, the creation of a unique annual French Immersion weekend at the inn. This year the event will take place June 1-3.

“I have a college degree in French, but I lived in Colorado and never used it—there aren’t a lot of French-speaking people there without really seeking it out. So when we moved here one thing was there was French TV, which of course was Canadian, which I couldn’t understand, but I at least knew it was French so that got French back into my mind. I just always loved French. I started taking it in 7th grade, majored in it in college and my husband and I honeymooned in Paris. Then we began having guests here at the inn who were speaking French.”

O’Shea decided to rejuvenate her by then rusty language skills by taking classes in French at the Penobscot Language School in Rockland—there she met longtime Penobscot Language School teacher Julia Schulz and Patti Luchetti, director of Shalimar’s Studio of Oriental Dance, who now plays a planning and support role for the Craignair immersions. For Schulz, who had co-founded the Penobscot Language School in 1986 in response to requests she was getting from home-schooling parents for language instruction, meeting innkeeper O’Shea opened up the possibility of pursuing a modest dream.

“I’d been doing language immersions for high-school and college students at Tanglewood and Blueberry Cove Camps for a while—French, Spanish, German. But they were big weekends, 60 students at a time staying in cabins with no electricity, no heat, and eating meals that we cooked together. These were great, but over the years I kind of wished for a smaller, more intimate, adults-only thing where you could have wine and really nice food in a beautiful place with a calm and quiet character—a setting like that creates a nice atmosphere for learning.”

Craignair Inn immersion participants last year enjoy a fun interaction—in French, of course.

Comfort, Schulz says, is the operative word. “If I were to come up with a slogan for these weekends it would be, ‘Go outside your comfort zone without giving up the comfort.’ Because it’s hard to be immersed in a foreign language day and night. Our goal is to create an atmosphere where people feel safe and relaxed and comfortable and a big part of that is the inn. The setting is so relaxing and comfortable, we get outside and do things, and the food is so good and you just feel good and comfortable there. It’s the idea of pushing yourself, but still having a really comfortable, safe space in which to do the hard work of trying to express yourself in another language and to understand what people are saying to you.”

This marks the fifth year the trio have collaborated on offering an immersion-style way for students of French to become more fluent in this foreign tongue. Groups have been as small as five and as large as 14. “The participants have been people who have studied French but who haven’t quite gotten to the level of just being able to speak it comfortably,” Schulz observes. O’Shea adds, “Julia never puts anybody on the spot, but she includes everyone. During the weekend you can’t go for more than a few minutes without having to say something in French.”

The key, O’Shea, Schulz and Luchetti agree, is to have something interesting to talk about. To that end during the weekend they highlight a particular region of France and some other French-speaking locale and also bring in special speakers. This year the featured regions will be Bordeaux and the French Caribbean. So the food served in the Craignair dining room is tied into that, as are the topics taken up by the guest speakers, who this year are Kate McAleer, founder and CEO of Rockland’s Bixby Chocolates, speaking in French about sourcing chocolate in Haiti and Crystal Robinson, a former high school French teacher who is now finishing up her studies in “agriscaping,” which involves adding edibles to landscape design.

“We’re all intelligent adults, so you want to be able to talk about your interests in this other language,” Schulz explains. “Immersion is a constant flow of language—that is, language in context, so we talk about the food we’re eating, about the weather, about whatever our guests are presenting.”

O’Shea, Schulz and Luchetti take care to pace the weekend with a variety of activities alongside opportunities for rest and outdoor recreation. “Immersion can be tiring,” Schulz admits. “People learn more and have a better time of it if they are relaxed.”—JW

For more information on this year’s June 1-3 French Immersion at the Craignair Inn go to or call 207-594-7644 or email The cost, which includes wine-tasting, meals/snacks, instruction materials, activities tax and gratuity, is $300 plus a discounted rate on lodging at the inn. Special arrangements to participate just for a day or just for a dinner and evening session can also be made. Register online by May 25.

PHOTOS: Top, Julie Wortman, below, courtesy Craignair Inn

Ice house update

When I put together my February 2018 (“Ice houses and the ice box”) on cutting ice and ice houses in St. George, there were no pictures to be found showing this activity in town. Then a few weeks later some pictures and photo albums were provided for me to review and scan, and guess what? Not one, but two pictures of local ice cutting and ice houses were in the collection!

This first picture (top) is believed to have been taken in either the 1930s or 1940s and comes from a photo album that belonged to Harry Graff, who lived on Sea Street in Tenants Harbor. The picture shows the loading of ice onto a truck to be transported to a local ice house. The picture was taken at the marsh in Tenants Harbor and is looking southeast towards the corner of the current parking area and bench. Unfortunately we have no identification of people in the picture. But if any Dragon readers can assist with this, it would be very helpful.

The second picture (below) comes from a collection of pictures that belonged to Bea Smith, who lived on Watts Avenue in Tenants Harbor. The picture shows her father, Charles Rawley, standing in the doorway of his ice house. This ice house was located on Commercial Street in Tenants Harbor, as you proceed down the hill towards what is now the public landing. This is confirmed by the fact that you can see in the background on the right-hand side a corner of the sail loft building. —John M. Falla

North Haven Community School seeks magnet students for unique high-school experience

Maine’s smallest K-12 public school, located on a Penobscot Bay island, is seeking high-school magnet students for the 2018-2019 school year.

North Haven Community School, which has a total enrollment of approximately 65 students K-12, hosted two magnet students during the 2017-2018 school year, and hopes to add more.

Magnet students are currently housed together with a “dorm parent” in a school rental home and return to their families on the weekends. Depending on the number of students participating in the program, magnet students may be housed with host families.

“We strive to offer magnet students a home-like environment in our magnet school house with caring adults responsible for our students, their logistics, meals and program,” school board chair and North Haven Community School alumna Hannah Pingree said.

North Haven Community School offers unique opportunities for hands-on learning and rigorous academics. Students can participate in wilderness expeditions, personalized research projects, whale skeleton rearticulation, carpentry, small engine repair, visual and performing arts classes and extracurriculars, 3D printing, work studies, and the Eastern Maine Skippers Program; as well as more traditional academic offerings, including AP courses.

“In a tiny school students have both the freedom to follow their own interests and passions and they receive personal attention in pursuing passions and getting extra help, when needed. Kids are required to take on leadership roles, to do public speaking, and to make presentations which are essential for the life after high-school,” Pingree said.

“The classes are small groups which makes it easier for me to learn,” said Irene Prescott, a 9th-grade magnet student at North Haven Community School.

Her mother, Sarah Gibson, agreed.

“NHCS offers a unique, hands-on, experiential learning experience. In her freshman year, we have witnessed Irene blossom in this caring and supported environment. She travels independently, joined the basketball team, and become more comfortable expressing her view and speaking in public,” she said. “We are happy to have found a school community which is a partnership: our daughter can flourish and be all she can be while contributing to help an island school flourish and be all that it can be.”

Tuition for magnet students includes room and board, and the total cost is below the state tuition amount, Pingree said. Students receive free ferry tickets.

For more information about North Haven Community School’s magnet program, visit or email Patti Sparhawk at

What makes a good story?

Gavin tells his story to Sophia

By Mila Mathiau

The 8th-grade is taking part in a story-telling expedition with members of The Telling Room. The Telling Room is a non-profit writing center located in Portland, Maine. They think that kids are natural story-tellers and their goals are: to boost confidence, strengthen literacy skills, and provide real audiences by giving young adults a voice. Meghan Vigeant, Willy Ulbrich, and Sarah Price from The Telling Room are helping us tell our stories. Every Monday afternoon, we meet with them and do activities to help make our stories stronger. During the rest of the week, we have classes in public speaking with Mr. McPhail; and then in Mrs. Schmanska’s English class, we analyze stories from The Moth ( to examine story elements and to define what we think makes a story worth telling.

Students do warm up exercises to loosen up before they practice speaking

On Mondays, Meghan has been teaching us how to tell a true story, how to find our own stories, how to tell what makes a good story, how to find our voice and build confidence to tell our story. She has also helped us to practice presentation skills, like good breathing, pronunciation, projecting our voice, and being confident in front of an audience. Several 8th-graders have chosen to share their stories with others outside of our class. Look for our presentation materials and recorded stories at the end-of-year Celebration of Learning on June 12.

Some learning targets we have for this expedition are: I can explain the importance of the story-telling tradition historically and globally. I can tell a personal narrative to develop real experiences and events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequence. I can use effective speaking techniques (eye conduct, volume, posture, pronunciation). At the end of our expedition, we are going to have a performance with invited guests to tell our stories in front of a live audience!

(Mathiau is a Grade 8 student at the St. George School.)

PHOTOS: Courtesy St. George School

Vernal poolin’ and the race against time!

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen—

Leif and Reid show their finds

When we left off last column, spotted salamanders and wood frogs were braving an evening of chilly rain to make their way to freshly thawed breeding ponds lovingly referred to as vernal pools. That was around the 30th of March and the race against time was officially on!

Fast forward 30 days and we find that much has changed! For one thing, the spotted salamanders and wood frogs that we amphibi-napped (snagged on our Amphibian cruise) have put on shows in classrooms at both the St. George and Hope Elementary Schools and were a hit at the latest Cub Scout Pack meeting. They’ve been held by more than 50 kids with more kids to visit! We are big fans of hands-on education, and thank the amphibians for their patience and the students for being kind with them!

Now, take a trip outside (always a good idea) to a local vernal pool and it’s clear that much has changed. Wood frogs have mated, laid eggs and after a quick three weeks they have hatched and the tiniest of tadpoles are now free to swim and find shelter and food in their home pools. A single wood frog egg mass (from a single female) may have up to 2,000 eggs in it—so there are literally gagillions of freshly hatched wood frog tadpoles in St. George as I type. The next generation is here! Welcome!

Spotted salamander egg mass

Spotted salamanders lay their egg masses when the wood frogs are about to hatch and are now the common egg masses found in the pools. A female may lay up to 250 eggs in a single mass and in those eggs young salamanders will remain for the next 4-6 weeks. Their development is easily observed through the translucent eggs as the enclosed embryos will change color, unfurl, and start to kick and twitch as hatching time approaches. When they hatch, the salamander larvae will have external gills for respiring in the water as they join any surviving wood frog larvae that have survived “the race” to this point.

The “race against time” really is the essence of what makes a pool a vernal pool! The frogs and salamanders lay these impressive amounts of eggs in pools that dry up every now and then. It could be every year, or every year or so—often enough to keep fish from living there. The amphibians must mate, lay eggs, and have their young hatch and develop into adults before the “well runs dry” so to speak. For wood frogs it’s two months as larvae—which has them leaving the pools in late June. For spotted salamanders it’s a month or two in this “phase” of life as well, which pushes their pool exodus to late July. The race continues for the next generation—a time to hope that they grow up fast.

My son Leif and I recently checked on pools near the Tenants Harbor marsh and over at the Maine Coast Heritage Trust Bamford Preserve on Long Cove, and we were not disappointed! For the visit to Bamford we invited some friends who live nearby—Andy, Drew, and Reid—to join in the exploration. Some things are just better when shared! Anyway, we found over 50 spotted salamander egg masses at Bamford and everyone seemed mesmerized by the jelly-like traits that the masses seem to have when in hand (or maybe it’s more jam-like traits). The masses are built to be out of the water for extended dry periods, and their congealedness is used to trap water within the mass itself. Gentle handling appears to have negligible impact on the masses. All in all there we found 100 spotted salamander masses in the four pools we surveyed in the Long Cove area that morning, which means at least 200 spotted salamanders are living in the area—get to know your neighbors!

Wood frog eggs ready to hatch

We were only to find one wood frog egg mass however, where we had found 18 last year. When the frogs were “laying down the (egg) masses” in early April the pool’s water levels appeared to be much lower than the past few Aprils. There are undoubtedly many factors that influence how many masses are laid by either species and water level at time of breeding seems to be one of them. The good news is that the one mass was hatching!

The days were good, the vernal pools were great and the company even better. It’s not too late to grab a friend (gently) and count the salamander egg masses at a pool near you. Some things are just better when shared! Enjoy!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen