Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Station Maine carved ice this weekend.  Winterfest in Camden makes it possible for groups and individuals to learn this skill for just the cost of the block of ice.  If one intends to be a chef this is the skill that can make all the difference in catering an event.  For the rest of us it is a reminder, once again, of who we are.  Mainers.  We live in the north.  You don’t see many ice carving events in North Carolina. 
For the youth of Station Maine Winterfest more than reinforced this strength of cultural identity.  Ice carving put another skill in their young hands.  Another opportunity to say “I can”.  Another reason to walk taller.  A deeper sense of belonging that is offered by a community who understands education in a sense so much deeper than standardized tests.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Mind

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.” -Plutarch

Saturday, January 28, 2012

We are Not Alone

I'm just back from an Open Water Rowing coach's meeting.  There was a lively exchange of ideas and dreams, but the thing that struck me the hardest was how un-competitive we all are.  OK, things can get a little exciting in the middle of a race, but as a collective body all these coaches want is to help our kids.  We want them to believe in themselves.  We want to empower them to lead happy and productive lives.

We are not along.  I am willing to believe that there are thousands of groups of adults who sit from time to time just like we did and discuss how they (we) can support each other and grow programs where kids can blossom.  

Knowing that makes it lots easier to get up in the morning.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A New Outlook

Most of us believe at some level that kids need to know the things that we ourselves have found worthy in our own education.  My fondest memory of seventh grade English, actually my only fond memory of seventh grade, is memorizing poetry.  We were required to memorize a verse every week of a chosen poem, all of which I can still recite and all of which have made my life richer.  Yet can I in good conscience impose that education on today’s youth?

We need to think past our own prejudices and put ourselves back in the technological world, the "real world" where these kids live.  In this world every fact, and every great poem, is a Google search away.  Let's get to the core of "doing" things through which they can discover a few passions of their own rather than force on them the education that we may or may not have found worthy in our day, but which is, sadly, the education of another time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Real Work

We hauled our gig this afternoon for maintenance.  The seventh grade did it.  Of course I helped, but they did all the work.  Samantha volunteered to cox, understanding that it would be the most challenging maneuver she had yet seen.  My place was backing the trailer down the ramp.  The kids brought the gig over, we hooked her up, and pulled her out.  It really was that simple.

For anyone involved with boats hauling is just one of those routine things that you do.  For these kids it was an opportunity to see how it’s done.  An opportunity to try something challenging that has real world need and real world results.  When she was out they asked intelligent questions because they were genuinely curious.

This simple act is experiential education.  These kids will be a part of the reality of running this world some day.  We owe them as many real world experiences as we can possibly offer them to prepare them for that time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Education and Physical Activity

In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity.  Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together.  With these two means man can attain perfection.                                    …Plato

Monday, January 23, 2012


I play tennis occasionally with friends.  Doubles.  We’re not quite ready for Wimbledon yet, but we’re getting better.  I noticed at one point in the game my partner was anxious.  “If we lose this point” she told me “we’ve lost the game”.  I laughed, and told her OK, whatever.  I’m here to have fun.  She laughed.  She relaxed.  We won.

America loves a winner and, don’t get me wrong, it feels really, really good to win.  Competition is good.  It focuses our attention and makes us play better.  But if we allow competition to drive us, or worse yet drive our children, we have taken away far too much of the joy of any game.

I want my kids to be the best they can be at anything they put their hands to.  But, more than that, I want them to take pride and pleasure in their own growth, enjoying every moment of the game, feeling their bodies move and their hearts pound and feeling themselves as whole human beings, body, mind, and spirit.  If they win, that’s great too.  Next week we won’t remember who won which game of tennis.  We’re there for the fun of it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Polar Plunge

Check it out.  Thirty students and community members plunged into the icy north Atlantic today.  The temperature was about 15ยบ.  The chill factor was considerably less.  I try not to think about the water temperature.  The show was short.  Smiles, a count down, the rush of bodies and the froth of water.  And screaming.  Lots of screaming.
Parents were there with blankets to receive the shivering students and hustle them into cars with the heaters running.  Friends were there to cheer.  The EMTs and ambulance were there, just in case.  All of which says the community turned out to support and encourage this madness.
The point, in theory, is to raise money for Project Graduation.  The reality, I believe, is that this plunge is its own education.  Today those kids learned something priceless.  Forty years from now these they may have forgotten the prom, at least the details, but they will never forget running into that frigid ocean with their friends.  And they will never forget the community who helped them make it happen.  

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Running an experiential education program becomes considerably easier when you live in a community that understands and supports your efforts.  For Station Maine, Rockland is that community.

Our trailer, after eight years of hard use and abuse is showing its age and needs major repairs.  The project is being taken on by the Welding/Fabrication class of our local Voc/Tech.  Ed Lee, the welding instructor, suggested that we need to know what paints are state of the art to give this rebuilt trailer its best start in life.  He sent me to Rockland Marine.

Rockland Marine, our neighbor, hauls and paints some pretty serious vessels on her ways, and has done so for more than a hundred years.  John didn’t just recommend a strong, industrial grade epoxy primer and undercoat.  He donated two gallons, insisted on delivering them himself, and suggested E.L.Spears, our local hardware store, for a good solid enamel top coat.

Spears was quick to recommend a top quality enamel to finish the job.  And even quicker to donate it. 

Belts are tightening all over Maine.  The economy is no easier here than elsewhere.  It’s just that we live in a community that understands the magic that happens when you put a kid in a boat.  We live in a community that supports that effort however they can.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Sometimes we go sledding with our crews.  No apologizes here.  Our facility is right next to a park that boasts the best sliding hill in town.  Once or twice a year when the kids arrive right after a fresh snowfall we take advantage of that hill.  The spontaneity, strenuous exercise in racing back up the hill, the sheer joy of doing something so crazy all work to send the kids back to school refreshed and ready to tackle anything. 

Do I recommend this for every day of school?  Absolutely not.  But for a mid-winter day on the coast of Maine where the snow may yield any minute to the tempering effect of the Atlantic ocean, I recommend it as the most worthy education activity in the world.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Maine Education Plan

I was sent this press release today from the Maine State Department of Education.


It's a worthy read.  The State of Maine is trying to listen and make education for our kids more "user friendly".  I'm not sure what will change, but I'm encouraged that the people at the state level aren't so recalcitrant that they can't hear the rumbling around them.  Having figured out that No Child Left Behind translates into No Child Permitted to Advance, we are searching for a solution to education that prepares students to make their way in the world and that holds schools accountable for that education.  Of course it's not a magic bullet, but we're off to a great start.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Tide

A while back I took one of my seventh grade rowing crews down to the boat. The tide was particularly high.  I pointed it out to them, how normally the tide doesn't come up so far.  See how big the South End looks right now.

One of my young charges piped up “Is that why it’s not all, like, Jack Sparrow like last week?”  He was deadly earnest. 

It took a minute for me to translate and respond.  Jack Sparrow is, of course, the captain in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. He is surrounded, or opposed by a wild array of slimy sea creatures.  The only way this young boy from the coast of Maine could find to describe low tide was to liken it to a film.  He had personally spent so little of his time by the shore that tide was something spectacular.

Of course that troubles me.  But rather than worry about who’s to blame and what’s to be done I think I’ll just take pride in the fact that, at least in Rockland schools, kids row as a normal part of their schooling.  They may be seeing, or noticing the tide for the first time, but at least they are seeing it.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Work is the universal language. Everywhere I’ve traveled I may not speak the language, but if I can do a day’s work with my new friends we will find ourselves bonded beyond language. We will have each others measure. We will understand each other deeply. This is the ethic I teach the crew of Station Maine before we go anywhere.

I grow tired of hearing how this generation lacks a work ethic. I often respond by asking who has shown them how to work, because how to work is something that is much more effective when it is shown rather than “taught”. Who has got out and shoveled the driveway with them? Who has pulled the weeds alongside them? Who has shown them through example that you put your hand to the rake and you don’t stop til somebody comes out of the house with lemonade and calls break time?

It takes a certain amount of maturity to figure out that when you focus on the task at hand and actually DO the work it will get done. It takes a certain amount of adult guidance to get kids to that point. If we give them that, real work and real partnership in getting it done, we will have given them a gift that will guide them for the rest of their lives.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Arctic Sea Smoke

It's bitter cold out this morning.  Zero in Rockland and less inland.  The beauty of waking up on the coast of Maine today is the sea smoke.  It's a sort of fog that comes to cold areas when the temperature of the water isn't as cold as the air above it.  Sea smoke rises and floats in little wisps which are stunningly beautiful in the morning light.  I remember studying about Arctic Sea Smoke in some science class in school and wondering if I would ever see something so exotic.  Today is was mine to enjoy.

I hope parents and schools can find a way to show this wonder to their children somehow this winter.  I get it, it only happens on bitter cold mornings when we're all fighting to get the house warm and praying that the car will start.  Still, for many of us, all it takes is a swerve by the ocean on the way to school, shopping, church, or wherever people go early in the morning with their children.  It is a magical experience worthy of the trip.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A beginning

My hope with this blog is to begin a conversation about education, particularly experiential education.  Please join me in sharing your ideas and comments of how we can provide a better education and a better life for our children.  My focus is on the coast of Maine, but these ideas, and I hope your ideas as well, are transferable to any place in the world.  Let's see what happens.