Students Benefit from Recent Summer Science Program

By Jayna Smith

Maine Indian Education recently teamed up with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to offer students from Indian Township School and Beatrice Rafferty School an opportunity to enhance their science knowledge.  About half of the students from both schools who are entering grades 6, 7, and 8 took part in a two-week day camp which involved hands-on experimenting, testing, and analyzing of local water resources in the area. 

Harper Dean of Maine Indian Education explained that this was the first year for such an opportunity for the students.  “It was a hands-on program that focused on the resources here and we hoped it would be a positive event for the children.”  Not only did the students have fun, the transition into high school, Dean explained, would be an easier one with the exposure of this type of science to the students.

The program has been in the works for only six months, with planning and organizing between Maine Indian Education, MIT, and the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge.  It was during the first week when the students spent time at the Refuge doing data collecting and analyzing.  “The children did a lot of tests for water quality, did a lot of exploration, and took a lot of measurements,” Dean explained.  “They did a good job understanding the resources available at the Refuge.”

During the second week, the students toured Calais’ water and sewer treatment facility.  “We wanted the students to understand not only what happens out in the wild, but also how water and water quality are supported in the city,” Dean said.   

A trip to Eastport’s bay was also included on the agenda.  Students took water samples and analyzed them at the Cobscook Bay Resource Center.  It was there where the group looked for phytoplankton in their samples and gained an understanding of the relationship between those organisms and the clams harvested in the area and what a delicate balance exists between the two.

The students even embarked on a schooner trip during their two weeks of educational adventure.  Dean said, “We gave them a great sense of Quoddy Bay and the St. Croix River by going on a schooner trip—the Ada C. Lore.  They spent the morning seeing the bay and what was there.”  He added that Abby Pond, executive director of the St. Croix Waterway Commission, “gave great commentary” to the students while on the trip.  The Eastport trip ended with a tour of Cook Aquaculture where the students got a first-hand look at the fish pens. 

Finally, toward the end of the two-weeks, the students worked together in groups putting together presentations of what was learned.  Dean was very pleased with both the turnout of students and the success of the events.  “I was very excited that we had that many students sign up.  The teachers have all been great and many kids are already looking forward to next year,” Dean said, but first, those who attended on a regular basis this year will have the opportunity to take an over-night educational field trip in the fall to visit MIT and Harvard.