Education programs

Olivia Thompson journals in her “Magic Spot” for Place Program

LEA education programs are always growing and changing to meet the needs of our students and the teachers we work with, and to reflect the interests of the public. Our education programs are funded through the generous contributions of our members, and grants. Please consider becoming a member to support our growing programs!

LEA Fourth Grade: Place Program

Place stands for Promoting Local Awareness and Care for the Environment. Place-based education is part of a nation-wide movement in environmental education to foster an understanding of local environments. The Place Program in 4th grade is a year-long series of lessons designed to introduce students to the natural world through observation and quantitative and qualitative data collection techniques.  Each month, students at Stevens Brook, Sebago and Songo Locks Elementary Schools explore the woods behind the school to collect weather data, create nature journals and work on their sensory awareness.  Through these explorations, students learn about adaptations, structure and function, Maine trees, animals, birds, plants and the cycles of change within their forest ecosystems. In addition to the PLACE program, the 4th grade students now embark on a study of soils to highlight the importance of soil in the watershed. This program is inquiry-based, as students generate independent research questions that help guide their explorations of soils. In the introductory lesson, students collect and analyze a soil sample from behind their school.  In the second lesson, they extend their learning about soil to examine soil samples from different ecosystems. They also use hands-on demonstrations to explore soil formation processes. The culminating activity is a field trip to Bald Pate Mountain where students follow an interpretive trail focused on soil ecology and formation. This program is partially funded by the Lake Region Garden Club.

Fifth Grade: Extending Place

Students at the Stevens Brook Elementary School are continuing their explorations from the place program in fourth grade. As fifth graders they will delve deeper into understandings of water and resource use and conservation, investigate plant structures, pollution, decomposition, food webs and ecosystems and start to develop an understanding of the global human footprint. This new program, designed with teachers and being piloted the 2016-2017 school-year, supports the Next Generation Science Standards and utilizes Project Learning Tree curriculum and Mystery Science lessons.

Sixth Grade: Living Connections Program

The Living Connections Program is a year-long watershed education program in sixth grade.  LEA’s teacher/naturalist visits classrooms twice per month to teach students about Earth systems, focusing on the hydrosphere.  Students begin the year with an exploration of water properties.  Lessons on watersheds, the water cycle, groundwater, aquatic insects, trout ecology, and wetlands creating a foundation for understanding interactions between the hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere.  The second part of the year focuses on threats to water quality, including invasive species and erosion.  This portion of the curriculum introduces the concept that human actions can affect the quality of Earth’s systems.  The culmination of this program is the Hey You! Cruise (see below).  The Adopt-a-Trout program is an additional component of the Living Connections Program, as students raise brook trout from eggs to fry and release them into local rivers.

Hey You! Cruise

In June, echoes of “Hey You!” ring out over Long Lake as students participate in the annual Hey You! Cruises on the Songo River Queen in Naples.  The Hey You! Cruises serve as the culminating activity for students in the Living Connections Program and as a special program for students at Waterford Elementary in Oxford and Sebago Elementary.  Volunteer actors at stations along the east and west shores pretend to do things that are harmful for water quality, such as bringing in sand to a beach, cutting down the vegetative buffer, or taking a bath in the lake.  Students on the Cruise have learned over the course of the year that these actions degrade water quality.  So, to stop the transgressors, they yell out a resounding, “Hey You!”  The Hey You! Cruises are a great way for students to make the connection between their in-class learning and real life application, allowing them to put their knowledge into action.

Seventh Grade: Field Studies at Lake Region Middle School

The Field Studies for Middle School Students Program is currently offered to all seventh grade classes at Lake Region Middle School. This program is designed to encourage students to understand ecosystem processes through direct contact with the natural world.  Students engage in inquiry-based field science activities to collect and analyze forest ecosystem data.  They also develop science communication skills through oral and written reports.

Trey Turcotte works with his classmates to create fixed radius plots which they will study through the year.

LEA teacher/naturalist leads students to a forested area behind their school to explore the ecosystem twice a month throughout the year.  Sensory development lessons at the beginning of the year help students understand that use of the five senses is essential in scientific processes. Students establish fixed-radius research plots and through a combination of field and lab-based activities, students collect qualitative and quantitative data about ecosystem components. At the end of the year, students visit the Holt Pond Preserve to extend their learning by comparing forested and wetland ecosystems. As a culminating synthesis, students create a field guide or other product to demonstrate their understanding of ecosystems as the relationships within the environment that change and cycle over time.

Eighth Grade: Physical Science at Lake Region Middle School

The physical science unit at the middle school level focuses mainly on water chemistry and the physics of erosion and weathering. Students perform experiments to explore the physical effects we can have on the water and land around us.

Lake Region High School

Ninth Grade:

LEA supports learning in the 9th grade with lessons on global water supply, shore land zoning laws and erosion and connections to local economy. We also support a climate unit, lessons in a Junior Maine Guide class, and wherever else we can offer assistance.

Brandon Bell explores Tingley Brook looking for benthic macroinvertebrates with his fellow Junior Maine Guides.

Natural Sciences with LEA (grades 10-12)

Designed as an opportunity for students to continue to delve deeper and explore what they are interested in, the Natural Sciences with LEA class provides a framework for open investigation. Co-taught with lead Science teacher, Joe Dorner, the class is working towards understanding multiple levels of ecosystem connections. Students start off the year designing and building plant presses, and collecting and identifying leaves of tree species native to Maine. Through a series of on-going projects, students grow hydroponic plants to harvest and understand inputs and outputs of agriculture, explore “ecosystems” in aquarium tanks that they build and monitor, contribute to an online field guide for Pondicherry park, develop an understanding of algae and macroinvertebrates as water quality monitors, and culminate their learning by developing an ecosystem field day for area 4th and 5th graders. This program is funded in part by TD Bank.

On a more individual basis, LEA provides internships and courtesy boat inspector job experiences to many high school students. These experiences enhance students’ college applications and provide real exposure to environmental career options.

The Natural Resources of the Lake Region Series: Public education

The Lakes Environmental Association offers outreach programs throughout the year as part of the Natural Resources of the Lake Region Series. The goal of the series is to encourage a connection to place through exploration of the remarkable lakes, streams, wetlands and woodlands of the region. We believe that a strong connection to place will foster and strengthen watershed stewardship.

Guided walks and natural history presentations are supported with help from Hu and Raynor Caplan. Dr. Caplan is a former LEA Board President and Mrs. Caplan served LEA as Board Secretary.

Holt Pond

Holt Pond is LEA’s outdoor classroom. With different ecosystems within walking distance of one another, Holt Pond provides the perfect opportunity to learn about nature in its varied forms and functions. Holt Pond is a favorite field trip for local school groups. Trails are an essential part of the LEA education program, as the best way to teach about the environment is to bring people into it. LEA hopes to expand the Holt Pond part of the school-based education program.

Pondicherry Park

Pondicherry Park is a 66-acre tract of land in the center of Bridgton, where visitors can step away from the busy streets into the quiet of the park’s forested trails. Within the park, visitors find a wide variety of ecosystems for hands on learning and exploration. These diverse ecosystems just beyond the majestic Bob Dunning Bridge have been the location for many of LEA’s Caplan Series events including tree identification walks, animal tracking investigations, scavenger hunts for families, and native herb walks. We are also partnering with the Bridgton Historical Society to offer programs that focus on both local history and nature. Not only is the trail system in Pondicherry Park a fantastic location for adult educational walks, but it also provides an expansive outdoor classroom for student education as well.

The 4thgrade students of Stevens Brook Elementary School visit Pondicherry Park’s beautiful outdoor classroom every month with LEA, using their senses as tools to discover and collect data about the forest ecosystem. Their data collection includes changes in the seasons, changes in weather, the roll of producers, consumers, and decomposers, the names of animal tracks, and the types of native plant species that grow within the forest. They also use the park to explore the characteristics of soil in forests and wetlands. Under the forest canopy, the students learn about how soil is made and the names of the soil horizons, while also performing percolation tests, and comparing soil from different ecosystems.

Staff Information –

photo 5Mary Jewett is the teacher/naturalist at LEA. She was born and raised in Bridgton and has a deep love for the great outdoors and learning about the world around her. She has many family members in the area including aunts, uncles, grandmothers, cousins and her sister. She feels very lucky to have the support of both a big family and the community. The thing she likes best about her job is seeing the hands of her students shoot up after asking “Did anyone learn anything today?”

Education in Action at Holt PondAlanna Doughty received her Bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Environmental Science in 2005 from the University of Maine in Orono after attending Alaska Pacific University and College of the Atlantic.  She returned to school at USM for a Masters in Education, and finished in 2011, just shy of her daughters second birthday.  She also spent time working for Outward Bound, Ocean Classroom, and Winter Journeys and loves being outside.  She graduated from the Lake Region School District and is excited to inspire students in learning about our local ecology.  She brings her enthusiasm for the outdoors in general and wetland plants in particular to the table, and loves being a part of the educating crew at LEA.


Lakes Environmental Association, 230 Main Street, Bridgton, Maine, 04009