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Desert of Maine – The Desert of Maine: A Journey Through the Sands of Time

September 8, 2020 @ 10:00 am

A ten-week homeschool course at the Desert of Maine will take students ages 9-14 on an in-depth, integrated journey through the history, geology, and ecology of this special place. The class will meet Tuesdays at the Desert of Maine in Freeport (95 Desert Road) starting September 8 – October 27th from 10 am – 12 pm.

For the first five weeks of this course, we will literally get our hands dirty digging into the history of the Desert of Maine. We will begin with the obvious question: why is there a large expanse of open sand in the middle of a New England forest? We will seek the answer to this question using real-world observations as we explore how aspects of geology, biology and agriculture came together in just the right way to create what is essentially a small dust bowl. We will learn about the Tuttles who farmed here in the 1800s—examining their methods, their cultural assumptions about the land, and some of the difficulties they faced as their fields became unfarmable. From here we will dive deep into time, looking at the geological processes that have changed Maine’s coast over the last 30,000 years. This exploration of ice, ocean, and wind will provide the framework for understanding how the Desert formed and what makes this landscape so unique.

Once we have gained an understanding of what happened here, the class will turn its eyes to the future, developing hypotheses about what lies ahead for the Desert of Maine. We will conduct “forensic” analyses in the surrounding forest to think about how certain ecosystems have changed over the last hundred years; and we will look closely at the reforestation taking place on the boundaries of the dune field, paying particular attention to the tug-of-war between the forest and the sand. Of course, we humans play an active role in the future of the land that sustains us; so with that in mind, we will discuss a range of diverse cultural and philosophical ideas about the relationship between the people and the natural environment. Given this focus, we hope to have a Wabanaki speaker share their perspective.

The final three weeks will be project-based, with students synthesizing and presenting what they have learned about the Desert of Maine. Alternatively, they can use that information as the foundation for exploring specific topics in greater detail, or as the springboard to more open-ended questions. Some questions that might be interesting: what meaning can we draw from the story of this landscape? How do different ways of knowing (e.g., scientific observation; deep listening; storytelling; map making; drawing) form your understanding of the Desert of Maine? How can we best care for the land that supports us? Do environmental restoration and cultural healing go hand in hand? How will you help others understand the importance and fragility of Maine’s coastal landscapes?

To enroll in the course and learn more about course fees, times, dates and location, please email mela@desertofmaine.com.

Desert of Maine
95 Desert Rd.
Freeport, ME 04032

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