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Bath, ME (March 29, 2021) - A few weeks ago, art teacher George McGinty’s love of the outdoors translated into a winter adventure for fourth graders at Fisher Mitchell School (FMS). McGinty held a winter sports-themed door decorating contest in February and awarded the winning class with a day at Lilly Pond Community Forest in Bath.
“I think it’s really important to get kids out in nature,” said McGinty. “I love skiing, skating, and sledding and have fond memories of doing those things when I was young.”
McGinty collaborated with physical education teacher Jason Carter and the winning class’s teacher (Erika Phippen) to plan the trip. It took the class about 45 minutes to walk to the site, which is inaccessible by vehicle (one of the reasons why it’s so special, McGinty said). Students had about an hour to experience three stations: Phippen led an exercise on tree identification, Carter helped students build a survival shelter from snow and tree debris, and McGinty showed students how to ice fish.
“Ms. Phippen is probably one of the most outdoor-oriented teachers at FMS. She showed the students how to harvest sap from a balsam fir, which she uses to make salves,” McGinty said. “I taught the kids how to set ice fishing taps and how to use a jig rod – we caught three species of fish: yellow perch, chain pickerel, and largemouth bass.”
If students got cold, they could gather around a campfire and roast marshmallows and drink hot chocolate. By the end of the trip, Phippen said she thought they had made some lifelong appreciators of nature.
“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been asking students to do schooling online and rely on online entertainment. They are saturated with screen time,” said McGinty. “We were able to show them the woods and nature which is waiting for them in right in their backyard.”
The success of the field trip was echoed in haikus the students wrote in class afterward. One student wrote, “Snowy, icy, cold; Calming, peaceful, relaxing; Friends, fun, amazing.”
McGinty said he would love to organize another trip, and would, at the very least, continue to incorporate nature into his art classes.
“It was great to see our students just being kids, without fear,” he said. “Just having fun in the woods.”
Photo: 4th Grader, Avery, and her catch of the day!