KITTERY, Maine – Most of the fifth-graders at Shapleigh School had no idea there was a 150-acre nature preserve in their town, but after spending half their school day learning about Brave Boat Headwaters, the students gained a new appreciation.
“I had no idea this existed,” said Connor Garvin, a student in Kate Sheldon’s class. “This is nature.”
The outdoor classroom field trip, which encompassed several different educational experiences, an interactive quiz and lunch, was roughly a year in the making between the school and the Kittery Land Trust, which is preserving the stretch of land.
“We realized quickly that this is the perfect outdoor class and an opportunity for the community to connect to and learn about the land,” said Christine Bennett, executive director of the Kittery Land Trust. “We’re providing the platform and any expertise about the land we have. It’s for the schools to decide how to use it.”
Tuesday was the first field trip any Kittery school students have taken to the Brave Boat Headwaters, while there have been a couple of community activities, including a snowshoe and cross-country skiing event in February that attracted roughly 300 people.
The land features a diverse population of animals and plant life, as well as walking trails with the ultimate goal of creating a 1.5-mile loop of trails. The land is also nearby several other conservation projects, including one in York, connecting preservation land from the York River to Brave Boat Headwaters.
Student Emerson Bouffard had no clue the large parcel of land was there for public use, but said she enjoyed her first experience there Tuesday.
“I like it – it’s been really fun,” she said, adding the students searched the area for different types of animals and searching through the rocks, drawing what they found.
Students also partook in nature writing and learning how to use a compass.
“It’s been pretty cool,” said student Tyler Hamel. “My dad had shown me how to use a compass but I learned a little bit more today.”
Sheldon said the excursion and others like it has been in the works since the spring. “It’s nice for the kids to see a property like this in their own town,” she said.
Bennett said the KLT is continuing to partner with the schools to have more learning opportunities at Brave Boat Headwaters.
There are also several community events this month pertaining to the Brave Boat Headwaters and Kittery Land Trust, including a community conversation about the effects of technology and the importance of getting outdoors. The KLT will host a fall foliage walk through the Brave Boat Headwaters Oct. 17 from 10 a.m. to noon.
In November, voters will have the opportunity to approve or deny a $275,000 bond to help the land trust fund the conservation project.