Close this search box.

Portland Public School Partnership Means Fieldwork for Everyone

Wabanaki cultural sharers Mihku Paul (left) and Minquansis Sapiel (right) with first-grade students

May is an especially beautiful and bustling time at Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth. Migratory birds are returning and nesting, plants are bursting, and the forest and pond are active with critters after a long and quiet winter. It’s also a time when we welcome many school groups to come and explore the thrills of nature in spring.

This month, Maine Audubon was especially excited to host every first-grade student in Portland Public Schools (PPS) as part of its district-wide fieldwork: 500 students! This field experience is part of the First Grade unit called Friends who Walk, Swim, Fly, and Grow which is part of the integrated Wabanaki Studies & Life Science curriculum. This inaugural experience was co-designed and facilitated by Maine Audubon, Katie West at PPS and Mihku Paul, member of the Maliseet.

With the help of Maine Audubon educators, the Environmental Literacy teachers from PPS, and Wabanaki cultural sharers, students were guided through four activities over the course of their visit. Students made seed balls to assist with native plant seed dispersal, wandered the woods with magnifying glasses and binoculars, searched for macro-invertebrates and frogs at the pond, and were introduced to indigenous language, culture, and ways for exploring and connecting with the natural world. It was a week filled with joy, exploration, and curiosity, which we hope to replicate for years to come.

Making seed balls to assist with native plant seed dispersal with Maine Audubon Associate Director of Education Molly Woodring
Searching for macro-invertebrates and frogs at the pond

In mid-May, Maine Audubon also teamed up with Portland Public Schools to release more than 1,500 Endangered Atlantic Salmon fry, which every third-grade student in Portland had raised in their classroom since February. For the fourth year, and with the help of Fish Friends, each school got a permit from the Maine State Department of Marine Resources to rear and stock fry into the Little River in Lisbon Falls, part of Androscoggin Watershed.

Watch the video of our release here!

Raising Atlantic Salmon in the classroom is a student action project that extends third-grade learning as it relates to life cycles, river ecology, dams, and human interference for migratory fish, as well as opportunities for stewardship and restoration. By being a district-wide initiative, it also provides all students in Portland with a shared learning experience that is directly tied to the Wabanaki Studies & Life Science curriculum.

Maine Audubon continues to prioritize programs that are equitable, sustainable, and build connection to the natural world. We’re proud of the district-wide experiences we helped to provide PPS students with this year, including Maple Thanksgiving and the third-grade visit to Gambo Dam in September. We look forward to more district-wide work to come!

Investigating in the woods with magnifying glasses