El Bosque de Nosotros / The Forest of Us
Maine Outdoor School and Mano en Mano led a free, bilingual 4-day program series on weekends in May and June 2018 focused on learning about the importance of diversity in nature and in human communities with funding from the Maine Community Foundation.
The first day focused on building an understanding of diversity. Students from a diversity of backgrounds and ranging in age from elementary to high school worked on identifying as many living things as they could, using field guides and each other’s knowledge, on the summit of Downeast Coastal Conservancy’s Pigeon Hill. They related the health and resilience of an ecosystem to its biodiversity, later making models that illustrated the importance of diversity within their own support networks.
Day 2 focused on relating the growth of a forest to the growth of a human community. By seeing the stages of forest succession in action on the Birch Point Trail of the Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge and playing games that helped them understand how forests change in response to disturbance and how many different types of trees exist, students realized that human communities are very similar to forest communities--and both rely on diversity to maintain their resilience.
At the Ingersoll Point Preserve on Day 3, another Downeast Coastal Conservancy holding, students focused on understanding how a diversity of communication styles and strategies increase the resilience of a community. They played games that challenged their own communication skills and that illustrated how fungi and trees communicate.
The fourth and final day involved hiking in yet another ecosystem, along the Hidden Pondstrail near Tunk Mountain. They returned to the central question of how diversity builds resilience and strength by learning about the diversity of minerals that compose granite, making it an especially strong rock. They built small shelters that further illustrated that a diversity of building materials makes for a stronger shelter. Wowed by the plethora of lichen-covered glacial erratics and boulder caves that punctuated their learning, students reflected on their experiences in the program by doing reflective writings (in Spanish or English) and drawings about the components of a landscape and what they had learned and enjoyed during the program.
Through this program series, students not only learned about how diversity yields natural and human resilience while valuing their own differences, but also were exposed to a variety of local hiking trails and preserves that they can visit with their families and friends. All students reported that they had fun, learned new things, and would like to have a similar program again!