Forty-two bright-eyed high school juniors arrived on August 26 to become Semester 55, so after a quiet stretch in late August, Chewonki is back to normal, teeming with life. These new students hail from 32 different schools and 16 states, from Maine to Florida to California to Oregon. They spent a few days getting to know each other, teachers and staff, semester norms, and Chewonki Neck before classes began last week. They also put in a good stint at the farm: in a two-hour period, they harvested 1,704 pounds of potatoes and 5,000 onions! Clearly they have a strong work ethic; you can observe it in action by watching this short time-lapse video made by semester Spanish teacher Chris Percy.
One new faculty member and three teaching fellows are among the fresh faces of Semester 55. Mike Bell is teaching Literature and the Land (the semester English course) and serving as the Semester School’s academic dean. With a B.A. from New York University and a M.Ed. from Harvard, Mike has taught and been a dean and a director of campus life in a variety of settings in California, Indiana, Thailand, and New Jersey. During the summers he’s been assistant director of a boys’ camp in New Hampshire. His penchant for Ultimate Frisbee and aikido is sure to make him a popular man on campus. Hannah Billian, a recent graduate of Warren Wilson College, is the science teaching fellow for 2015-2016. Hannah already knows Chewonki well: she has been a instructor and leader for our Outdoor Classroom and Wilderness Trips programs. Hannah studied environmental studies and biology in college and spent last year working at a nature-based school here in Maine. Last year, Hannah taught at a nature-based school in the midcoast region. Mountains, rivers, and oceans call to Hannah: she’s always ready for an outdoor adventure. Fiona Haslett, an alumna of MCS 41, is the sustainability teaching fellow for 2015-16. She just graduated from Colorado College as an environmental science major and integrating sustainability into higher education was the subject of her senior thesis. Fiona was a member of the Colorado College Campus Sustainability Council and she spent the last few summers working on a Maine farm and leading outdoor trips in California, Alaska, and the Yukon. Eric Levenson is the math teaching fellow for 2015-2016. A native of New Hampshire, Eric graduated from Bowdoin College, where he was an anthropology and environmental studies major with a minor in education and a strong bent toward data-driven research. He’s led whitewater kayaking trips for the Bowdoin College Outing Club, backpacked the 270-mile Long Trail that runs the length of Vermont, spent a semester studying in Zanzibar, and lead wilderness trips for students in New England, Colorado, and Alaska.
This week semester students have found their rhythm and are moving from morning chores to classes to science field trip to work program like old pros. Spotted on the Quad: Steve Kerchner’s math class figuring out how to measure the height of a tree using water balloons launched from a slingshot and Sue West’s art students intensely, silently drawing plants in bloom in the perennial bed.