The staff at Maine Audubon’s Fields Pond Audubon Center was excited to offer a week-long summer field intensive this August for Bangor area high school students. This work-study course was designed with a focus on educating students in three main topics: wildlife habitat protection, forest ecology, and service learning projects. More importantly, this course gave students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in these fields and enjoy time outdoors before their school year began.
The students spent the week with Fields Pond Center staff learning about Maine’s wetland and forested habitats, their relationships to each other, and how they are essential for the health of the environment for both humans and wildlife. Students had the opportunity to meet with a variety of professionals throughout the week to gain deeper insight into these concepts.
Andrew Toothaker, co-owner of Hart Farm, was kind enough to offer up his time, knowledge, and a tour of the farm, where students learned about how Hart Farm is run using sustainable agriculture concepts that work in balance with the natural environment. Students also met with John Bryant, forestry professional and Vice President of the Holden Land Trust (HLT), who educated the group on sustainable forestry practices. John guided the students through the HLT trails to observe different timber harvesting methods up close. Students also got the opportunity to add a historical perspective on the forestry industry in Maine through a visit to the Maine Forest and Logging Museum.
On a wet, rainy day, students were fully engaged in a service learning project using their knowledge of ecology, and a little hard work and perseverance, to help improve the environmental health of their community. Working alongside the Bangor Parks and Recreation department, students planted dozens of native milkweed and nectar plants at Essex Woods in Bangor, with the goal of improving Monarch Butterfly habitat in the area.
The students later used their new found knowledge along with various tools to perform real data collection for Fields Pond. The group executed a hands-on assessment to identify key habitat features in different sections of Fields Ponds forest.
To wrap up the week the group got lucky with perfect weather and traveled out by canoe to perform water quality data collection that will contribute to a long term monitoring program of Fields Pond’s water. This data is used to ensure the pond’s health and, in turn, the health of the habitats and wildlife surrounding it. The resident loons of Fields Pond seemed as enthusiastic about the conservation efforts as the students were, coming in close to observe the group’s activities!