Pour a pitcher of water on the ground at the height of land in Crawford Notch, and the portion that dribbles to the west will eventually find its way to Long Island Sound, while the liquid that falls to the east will have the Gulf of Maine as its ultimate destination.
This spot, where AMC’s Highland Center stands and several hiking trails lead to nearby peaks, is a natural watershed divide. While the where-it-flows story may seem far-fetched, it actually makes sense when you think about it—and when you watch how that water travels.
It’s one of many lessons young people have learned while engaged in A Mountain Classroom, AMC’s experiential learning program for students in grades 4 through 12.
“Since the 1970s, A Mountain Classroom has combined environmental education, personal growth, and team-building in outdoor settings where hands-on discovery helps to illuminate lessons learned in the classroom and students gain a better understanding of and appreciation for the natural world,” says Andrea Muller, AMC’s North Country youth education director.
Created in the 1970s, A Mountain Classroom now provides more than 8,000 student experiences per year, and works with 100 or so schools throughout the Northeast.
AMC instructors work closely with teachers to help ensure A Mountain Classroom topics augment the lessons kids are learning in the school room.
If focused on Earth sciences, students might learn about water quality through stream study activities. Or, the curriculum may be designed to help them gain a deeper understanding of forest ecology as they observe trees, plants, and other organisms that make up the forest community. A Mountain Classroom students can also learn about animal adaptations while observing animal tracks on a snowshoe hike. In addition, the program offers a rich slate of team building and leadership development curricula, Muller says.
AMC has brought the formula to Maine where Dawna Blackstone, AMC’s Piscataquis County education program coordinator, is working with elementary, middle, and high school students from throughout the county and beyond to help them learn about the outdoors through first-hand experience, via forest hikes, snowshoe outings, and related activities.
Known as AMC’s Maine Woods Community Youth Environment Project, the effort uses AMC’s Maine Wilderness Lodges for overnight field trips and the organization’s surrounding conservation and recreation land as an outdoor classroom.
Through these efforts, Muller notes, AMC is committed to reaching kids from a wide range of cultural, ethnic, and financial backgrounds with a blend of hands-on, science-based learning, leadership, and team-building activities in spectacular locations, and inspiring them to become more closely connected with the natural world.