Last week, the Katahdin School at Camp William Hinds in Raymond, opened its doors for family and friends at its first open house.
The Katahdin School is an off shoot of the REAL School on Mackworth Island. The district brought the 21 students from Windham and Raymond who were attending the REAL School to the newly created Katahdin School.
The new location is a partnership with the Boy Scouts of the Pine Tree Council and RSU14. The school is located in the finished walkout basement of the new dining hall on Plains Road in Raymond. The dining hall is due to open this summer. Everything the REAL School improves on will be shared, like its hoop house or proposed bike trails, and everything the Scouts have, like the ropes course and kayaks, will be used by the students.
“We’re really lucky to offer something like this to our students,” said principal Rich Meserve.
“To have young people use this as a school really completes the benefit and investment. It also makes our donors especially happy,” said Scout executive Eric Tarbox. “This isn’t just a business relationship. It’s outdoor experiential learning and helping kids become more, and be more,” which is the same mission as Scouts.
The school opened on September 1, but in the old dining hall on Panther Pond, with no heat. Once it got too cold, they bounced around, all the while having experiences like fishing on the first day of school, where one student caught an 18 inch bass. They also went white water rafting, mountain climbing and ziplining. All of the unsettled moving around was considered “building character,” said Meserve. “We feel right at home in this space,” he added.
“It’s a beautiful area,” said Marie Reidman, who teaches English. The opportunities are endless. “They can swim, canoe or fish if it’s not going well in the classroom.”
Four students addressed the crowd. Julia, a junior, struggled with depression and anxiety. “I’m very thankful for having this opportunity from the teachers to the students to the van drivers.”
Ellen rarely attended school before the Katahdin School. “I’ve been every day. There are a lot of opportunities,” she said.
Melinda has an anger problem. The school has helped her in school and outside of school. “I get enough attention from the teachers,” she said. “There is a lot of encouragement to go outside of our comfort zones.”
Tyla was expelled from school as a freshman. Now as a senior, she will be the first person in her family to graduate from high school. “Thank you for making this a possibility,” she said.
The school is based on a relationship model with experiential learning a key focus. Rod Nadeau holds 14 licenses and certifications in outdoor activities. He mixes his teachings with other educational standards. Paul Field is the STEM teacher, where students experience some science and math through the use of a 3D printer and a 3D pen.
Ben Woodman was one of the first graduates from the REAL School in 1988. As an employee for Lowe’s he was able to help negotiate a great deal for the materials including providing the paint and drywall as well as the crew. “(The REAL School) was the best thing that could ever happen,” Woodman said.
Work on the dining hall was primarily done by the military and the IRT program. Camp ranger Scott Martin over saw the completion of the interior work by his crew.
Both Meserve and Tarbox hope that this will be a joint venture far into the future, which will be mutually beneficial.