Category Archives: July 19

For a future teacher, summer camp is a chance to get valuable experience

Meredith Laliberte

In high school and into her first year of college, Meredith Laliberte enjoyed working summers at Dorman’s Ice Cream on Route 1 in Thomaston. “Seeing the joy in a kid’s eyes when that ice cream cone came out the window was special,” she says with a grin. But last year Laliberte decided it was time to make a summer-job shift and join the staff at Blueberry Cove Camp off Hart’s Neck Road in Tenants Harbor. She’s back working at the camp again this summer, too, because she’s found that this is a job that not only allows her to continue bringing joy to kids, but that also is having a significant impact on her professional future.

Laliberte will be entering her senior year at the University of Maine Farmington with a major in early childhood education this fall, so this summer’s work as “Educator for the First Mates,” day campers aged four to six years old, couldn’t be a better vocational fit. “Working at Blueberry Cove has been the perfect move getting me into my career,” she states with evident conviction. “Being in contact with the children here has given me clarity about what I want to do in life.”

Working with two younger counselors, Laliberte plans activities each week for the 15 or so children in her charge, making sure they are equipped with everything they need—including sunscreen and bug spray—for outings to the beach, the woods, or to the camp’s gardens and for art and other projects. “The four to six year olds like to explore, so the curriculum has to roll with what they find interesting,” she explains. “It is important not to be so goal-oriented with them. It’s about the process, not the product. They are wanting to figure things out on their own at that age.”

Laliberte cites an art project making hand prints during the week of July 4 as an example of what she means. “We usually have a camp-wide theme for each week, and that week it was the Fourth of July. So our art project was to use hand prints to make flags. So the question was, what do we have to do in order to make your hand print look like a flag? Maybe make one corner blue and make each finger a different color? But what they really liked was exploring what kind of difference it makes to open or close their fingers when making the prints. I was very happy with the results—the flags were really cool!”

Another example of building her First Mates’ curriculum from the children’s interests involved a week when her kids were spending time with the camp’s goats. “The kids love the goats! This particular week they were fascinated when they saw the goats pooping, so we talked about the fact that the goats eat things and then they poop, just like humans do. So that day the topic was poop!”

Laliberte says she finds it important to spend the beginning of each week getting to know the children in her group. “I’m interested in figuring out how they learn. Some of them need hands-on experiences to be able to learn, but others will use rest time to read about things like ocean life or different species of trees and things like that. Then they go out and identify what they’ve read about. Others explore and then look things up to learn more.”

Determining learning styles and how to work with them to help a student gain understanding is what turned Laliberte on to teaching as a career path in the first place.

“It was in my senior year in high school that I really found a strong urge for teaching—I started tutoring kids in math who were in the same classes as I was. I was tutoring two different kids in the same class and they had two different learning styles. One was more like mine and one was not like mine at all. To be able to have them explain their thinking to me for how they got the answer, it made me realize there is more than one way to solve problems, that just because I got the answer one way and I was the tutor that doesn’t mean that was the right way to get it, necessarily. For someone else it might be a different way. So the goal was how do I make that student successful? That’s the best feeling in the world, to see a student understand, to find the angle that will work. And I’m doing the same thing at camp.”

Laliberte’s tutoring experience in high school also led her to see the value of peer mentoring, something she enjoys seeing take place at Blueberry Cove. “I’ve really enjoyed going to the beach with my kids, especially when we go with the older campers because they learn so much from each other. I think it is really cool when kids can learn from each other and not have an adult facilitator do the teaching. I think it is more meaningful for them. They don’t have to please an authority figure when they learn from an older camper, and the older camper feels proud that they have something to teach.”

After the day campers leave for the day, Laliberte shifts her attention to the residential campers. “I get to hang out with the kids that stay, which I think is pretty cool because we build relationships with them as well. I was a camper throughout my childhood and I love the sense of community you experience at camp. I’m happy to be a part of that for some of the campers here.”

Asked if any experiences she’s had as an Educator at Blueberry Cove have taught her something about teaching that she has been glad to learn, she promptly admits to some valuable failures. “I have done some activities that just didn’t work for the kids, that either went right over their heads or that were too easy. That has helped me to learn how to figure out activities that work for different age groups. And I also now have activities that I’ve learned at camp that I can bring into the classroom.”—JW

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

Note of thanks

We want to take this opportunity to sincerely express our gratitude and thanks to each and every one of you for everything that you have done to help Steve and myself through this difficult time. This surgery was a complete surprise. We did not realize how bad his health was. He was getting to a point when he came home, going up our four-step porch and sitting down at the table that it was very exhausting and he had to rest before taking off his shoes. His cardiologist scheduled him for a Cardiac Catheterization for a review of his valves that looked questionable. Our assumption was maybe a possible stent. For a doctor to say, “Steve, you have too many blockages to stent. We will need to do open heart surgery” was quite a shock. A day or two later, before the scheduled surgery date, the doctors also found through a more detailed test two valves that were severely damaged and needed to be replaced.

I will not go through each detail of every day at Maine Medical. I know each day practically by heart. I think I experienced every kind of emotion there is. (Fear, Anger, Sadness, Joy, Disgust, Surprise, Trust and Anticipation)

It is the wonderful actions of others that keep us going. During a time like this we realize how much our family, friends and community really mean to us. I cannot tell you how much this has meant to Steve and me.

Thank you again and God bless you all.

Ruth & Steve Jarrett

Myxomycetes of our dreams

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Scrambled egg slime

A significant, early summer rain can fill an entire forest with a magical energy. Water (and lots of it!), backed by the longest daylight lengths of the year, have plants thriving, insects taking flight and forming the bottom of food chains, and (if things go right) forest floors littered with mushroom after mushroom. Yes, these are the salad days for life in the woods. And with all that is to be seen, foraged and appreciated, it feels like an appropriate time to give a shout out to one of our favorite (and we do play favorites) groups of “earthling things” that are seldom foraged and often easily overlooked–the slime molds!

Slime molds are collectively known as “Myxomycetes”–derived from the Greek “myxo,” meaning “slime” and “myketes” meaning “fungus.” Taxonomically speaking, that’s pretty much all that Myxomycologists (I may have just made up that word) agree on, and the confusion/disagreements begin on the Kingdom level!

Wolf’s milk slime

Historically, slime molds have been considered a group fungus and some hold fast to this view, giving slime molds the exclusive “Sub-Kingdom” status. Others feel that with their unique combination of traits slime molds are their own Kingdom, bringing them on par with Animals, Plants and Fungus alike (quite the compliment). And yet others dare to insult slime molds by tossing them into the Protoctista, a Kingdom universally viewed as the “trash Kingdom” (huge generalization). Similar to the island of misfit toys, Protoctista is a collection of unrelated castoff life that humanoids can’t really figure out how to categorize and so they are banished and lumped (another huge generalization). The confusion about where slime molds fit in doesn’t stop them being slime molds! They are what they are and they are worth checking out!

For a good chunk of their existence slime molds are protozoan-like. This is the Plasmodium stage and can be tricky to observe as the molds are living within decaying logs, stumps and leaf litter. Depending on the amount of water in the immediate environment at this stage, the molds will move in either an amoeba-like fashion or with a tiny flagellae or tail. As they move, they engulf and feast on bacteria, fungal spores and anything else in their way. Slimes get a “tip of the hat” for helping to lower levels of bacteria in the woods, a niche we all can appreciate!

Coral slime

A good rain (like we are discussing) can inspire a slime to morph into their fruiting bodies, often similar to Ascomycete fungus. This is the time the molds emerge from their home substrate and migrate–even several feet at times–to an exposed location. The slimes then lose their sliminess and “go to spore,” drying up and releasing their spores to the winds and rains in a variety of ways. These fruiting bodies can emerge overnight or over the course of days, and change within hours (or over the course of days), putting on a trailside metamorphous in clear view for all to see.

Recently, a few of our favorite slime molds have been putting on trailside shows in local, shady woods like the nature trail by the school and the town forest trail off Kinney Woods Road. This year seems to be a particularly good one for the Coral slime (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa) with both its column forms (variation fruticulosa) and honeycomb forms (var. poriodes) being found on logs along both trail systems. Wolf’s milk slime (Lycogala epidendrum) patches are also numerous with their pink candy dots turning brown and puffball like. Both species are found on local logs after rains summer through fall.

Chocolate tube slime

For a group of creatures that are not commonly eaten—they may taste good when covered with enough chocolate, but the texture—slime mold common names are full of food references like chocolate tube, scrambled egg, pretzel, carnival candy, raspberry, and tapioca slimes. Chocolate tube (Stemonitis splendens), scrambled egg (Fuligo septica), and tapioca (Brefeldia maxima) slimes seem to do particularly well in mid-coast Maine and may be spotted after rains along with coral and wolf’s milk.

Slime molds are forest (and field) dwellers whose presence is interpreted as a sign of healthy (and moist) woods. And while I can honestly say that I have never gone out specifically to look for slime molds, they are part of any summertime woods excursion. As far as unanticipated distractions go, there is none received with such open arms as a good patch of slime mold. So much mystery, so much unknown, unrealized, so much to learn.

See you out there!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

A clay artist always imagining new horizons

Those who are familiar with clay artist George Pearlman’s work are enticed by its unusual color palette referenced from his environment. He derives many of the colors from the winter scenery here in Maine. “You start to appreciate the subtle winter colors here in Maine,” he explains. “I make my own colors. It can take up to five years to perfect a hue.” Over the years his palette has expanded to also include the brilliant hues of British Columbia, where he also spends time and where more vivid colors abound.

Pearlman’s colors add relevance to the forms he paints on his pots. “I want to get into a conversation about nature,” he says. “It’s mark-making in reference to a leaf, stem, stalk, trunk or canopy.” As his designs continue to evolve, Pearlman is finding meaning in the spaces between the forms that he paints on his pots. “I am now at a place where I want to incorporate more and more open space without content.” It is his ability to imagine new horizons for his work that keeps Pearlman working hard.

It was in 1998 that Pearlman moved to St. George. His life story before that time begins with the pursuit of fine art in secrecy. Born in Queens, New York, to parents who were full-time professionals, Pearlman was forced to repress his love of art in order to conform to their desire for him to become a corporate professional. As a child, he would wait until after bedtime to covertly render artful drawings, hidden under a blanket draped over his desk to conceal the light by which he worked. Although his strong desire to become an artist never waned throughout his childhood, Pearlman’s parents would pay for his college education only if he pursued a degree in business. Therefore, he graduated from Syracuse University in 1983 with a B.S. as a dual major in Transportation Distribution Management and Marketing. However, during the final semester of his senior year, and unbeknownst to his parents, Pearlman was able to enroll in fine art courses, including ceramics.

Armed with a fierce determination to become a master ceramicist, Pearlman eventually left a lucrative job with an international shipping company in New York City after a short period of employment. Entrepeneurial by nature, he pursued opportunities to learn from other ceramicists and New York galleries by working for them in exchange for instruction. He also studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York City at that time. Once his skills increased to the professional level, Pearlman landed a residency at Peter’s Valley School of Craft in the Delaware River Valley where he taught a workshop. And, after a short stint in California learning from West Coast ceramicists, he returned to New York where he landed a teaching job at Kingsborough College, teaching three courses in ceramics. He also had his first breakthrough selling all his work to a notable gallery in Brookline, Mass. With some cash in his pocket, it was time for Pearlman to buy a home and set up his studio again. This took him to northern Philadelphia. But he continued to follow many opportunities at home and abroad.

After a long series of teaching and gallery jobs and an artist’s residency in Latvia during the fall of the U.S.S.R., Pearlman returned to the U.S. with the desire to pursue graduate studies in ceramics. He earned an MFA in ceramics from Penn State University in 1994.

It was during his graduate years that Pearlman’s work transformed, growing to a grand scale because the school’s kilns were enormous. This allowed him to move beyond functional pottery to create sculptural art. “I got to work in a place of abundance,” he explains. “Making pots is a metaphor for making bodies that have parts like necks, feet, and so on—there’s a real physicality to it.” Just after graduation, Pearlman held his first solo show at Penn State, exhibiting his sculptures, ceramic vessels and drawings. The show completely sold out. Spurred on by this success, he came to Maine for six months as an artist resident at the Watershed Center for Ceramic Art in Edgecomb, where he briefly managed the Center before moving on to other opportunities throughout the country.

But Maine beckoned him to return and so he set down roots in St. George in 1998 and opened his own studio and gallery at 1012 River Road, where his work may be viewed. Pearlman is also represented by the Holly Hamilton Gallery in Portland, and at Craft in Rockland. His award-winning works have appeared in many other notable venues as well, such as the Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington, D.C., The Montclair Museum in New Jersey, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft. This St. George artist had been recognized by the Maine Arts Commission as an Individual Artist Fellow. Additionally, you may visit his website at www.georgepearlman.com to view his work and read his biography. But, the best way to learn about Pearlman’s pottery is to stop by and talk to him!

—Katharine Cartwright

 

Check out the planets in July’s night sky!

July is a great month in St. George for viewing the planets. The days are long and the nights are short and most of the planets are visible in the night sky. Earth will be reaching the point in its yearly revolution where it is farthest away from the sun. If you are looking towards the Leo constellation (follow the handle of the Big Dipper), you will see Jupiter, also known as the Red Giant. It will be visible to the naked eye, but if you happen to have a small telescope, or even a good pair of binoculars, you may be lucky enough to view four of its biggest moons.

The most exciting news in the sky this month is Mars! On July 31, it will be closer to Earth than it has been in the last 15 years. Mars will rise in the east at sunset and set in the west at dawn. It should be visible to the naked eye all night long and will look like a giant glimmering orange star.

I hope you grab a blanket, maybe a friend, turn off all of your lights and enjoy the night sky.
—Willow Mae McConochie (McConochie is an avid astronomy buff who watches the night sky from her family’s home in the woods near Otis Cove.)