One of the biggest questions on my mind when applying to Maine Coast Semester was what daily life felt like. Now that Semester 63 has been at Chewonki for just over two weeks, I feel that I have a fairly good grasp on how things run and am confident that this knowledge can help future students as they explore their options at Chewonki.
A typical day here can begin anywhere between 5:00 and 6:45 am. If you like to run, shower or get work done early in the morning, students are allowed to leave their cabins beginning at 5:00 am, but I like to stay warm and cozy in my bed until the morning bell at 6:40 am, (unless my cabin is on its two-week farm chores rotation, which begins at 6:15 am).
As a semester student, our first obligation of the day is at 6:55 am. The entire semester meets in the small circle of adirondack chairs located under two very tall pine trees at the center of campus. At this time, the leader of the day (each student gets to do this at least once during their time here) will share a quote or poem before sending everyone off to morning chores. At first blush, early morning chores may seem dreadful, but I’ve found that they leave me with a feeling of accomplishment and productivity for the entire day. Morning chores range from sweeping the Wallace (our dining hall) to writing down the weather and hanging it up on The Brain (a bulletin board with essential information, dish crew schedules, work program assignments, field lab packing lists and more).
After morning chores we launch right into breakfast. Every breakfast has a cereal bar and a special meal item, today it was scrambled eggs and cinnamon rolls. After breakfast we have a morning meeting where the entire semester meets again to set the intention for the day. The leader of the day shares a story, students share the news and a faculty member will share announcements. After morning meeting we have 30 minutes before classes begin so we can gather our schoolwork, finish any last minute assignments, and the meal’s dishcrew can wash the dishes. Our dishcrews consist of 5 students working on a rotating schedule. Students do dishes at breakfast and dinner, but faculty and staff cover lunch so we can go to class.
Typically, we have 3 or 4 classes in the morning. On Mondays, the whole semester meets for Human Ecology Seminar and Wednesdays we have a school meeting. At 12:30 we head back to the Wallace for lunch. Lunch and dinner are eaten family style, instead of buffet, in order to promote community.
In the afternoons on Monday and Wednesday, we have a short period of free time before our afternoon classes. On Tuesday and Thursday, we have either work program or science field lab. These are two of the really amazing, hands-on parts of Maine Coast Semester. On Friday afternoons, we also have work program but this time it’s with all 40 students.
Following these activities, there is an allotted section of time for us to get a little homework done, take a shower or go on a walk before we go to dinner at 6:15 pm. Every weeknight and Sunday night from 7:30 to 9:30 pm we have study hours so students can do all of their homework without the stress of missing out on social activities. Sometimes, if we finish our work early, we will go out for a night walk or lay under the stars. On Friday nights, we have a guest speaker instead of study hours. At 9:30 pm, we begin to get ready for bed and head back to our cabins for 10:00 pm check in. While it is recommended that students get as much sleep as possible, we are able to stay up with our cabin mates and play card games or talk as long as we stay in the cabin.
On weekends we don’t have chores or classes (unless you have farm chores) so students can unwind and do whatever they feel they need to. Some may hike on Chewonki Neck, others may write an essay or complete other homework. As you progress into the semester, there is an option to bike or walk into nearby Wiscasset and visit the local grocery store to stock up on snacks. What students do with this time is completely up to them. On Saturday nights, students get to plan an event like a coffee house, game night or skit competition. Saturday night curfew is at 11:00 pm to accommodate event needs. On Sundays, there is no breakfast but rather a brunch at 10:30 am which allows us to sleep in after a busy week. Some community members even hold yoga or fitness classes in the morning for the early risers. After a mellow weekend, we get to do it all over again.
Maine Coast Semester is a once in a lifetime opportunity that allows students to try so many new things and shape their education exactly how they want. It teaches students how to create and live in a community, manage time and countless other skills. Each day we get to do something new and learn more about ourselves. This blog post barely scratches the surface. You just have to take it day by day.
Ruby Peterman, Baxter Academy for Technology and Science, Portland, ME