AMC launches new Maine schools program
By Rob Burbank
AMC Outdoors, November/December 2012
Looking to its long-established A Mountain Classroom program as a model, AMC is sharpening its focus on outdoor education programming for schoolchildren in Maine’s Piscataquis County. The new AMC Maine Woods Community Youth and Environment Project kicked off at the start of the school year in September. It is overseen by recently hired Clint Hensley, a Bowdoinham native who is based out of AMC’s Greenville office.
Hensley’s charge is to work with local schoolteachers and students to help kids develop a deeper connection to and understanding of the natural world around them. To do that, he encourages hands-on outdoor learning that complements traditional classroom lessons. Locations include school grounds and AMC’s nearby wilderness lodges and 66,500 acres of conservation and recreation land.
Hensley will offer outdoor educational programming for local schools and community organizations. The heightened commitment to outdoor education in the region is an outgrowth of AMC’s Moosehead Area Schools Project. AMC developed that project in 2008 to offer outdoor experiences to every Piscataquis County student at least three times over the course of their schooling.
“We are excited to have Clint on board as a locally based educator dedicated specifically to outdoor learning experiences in Piscataquis County,” says AMC Senior Vice President Walter Graff. “We look forward to expanding our work with local teachers and youth service providers to provide more and more outdoor opportunities for kids.”
The new Maine Woods Community Youth and Environment Project is supported by generous funding from the family of Malcolm Hecht Jr.
Hensley coordinates programming based along two lines of curriculum: one of ecology and Earth science, and another focused on outdoor education, team-building, and leadership. He says he works with teachers and school administrators to complement their curricula as well as to meet state-designated learning goals, known as Maine Learning Results.
“The local woods, mountains, waters, and trails provide ideal settings for young people to explore, enjoy, and learn about the outdoors, and we’ll be helping them engage in outdoor activities so they can make those often life-changing connections,” says Hensley. “It is just so vitally important.” Hensley earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies from the University of Southern Maine in Portland and a master’s degree in environmental education from Western Washington University-Huxley College of the Environment in Bellingham, Wash.
He holds a Wilderness First Responder certification. With scenic and ecologically rich locations near local trails, waters, and peaks, AMC’s Maine Wilderness Lodges provide ideal venues for outdoor learning in the 100-Mile Wilderness Region, Hensley notes. Overnight residential programs and day programs are both available.
AMC offers these programs for free or at very low cost to help ensure strong local participation. “We’re especially enthused to build upon our long years of success with our A Mountain Classroom program in the Whites and bring AMC’s expertise in environmental education and outdoor exploration to benefit the Maine communities in which we work,” says Andrea Muller, AMC’s North Country Youth Education Director. “This marks yet another significant step forward in AMC’s Maine Woods Initiative.”