By Kara McCrimmon
Cobscook students visited Downeast Salmon Federation’s (DSF) East Machias Aquatic Research Center on the first school day in October to help with Atlantic salmon restoration efforts--one of the many meaningful field trips to meet with scientists and assist with conservation work that makes the Cobscook program so impactful. Six years ago, Cobscook students participated in the first year of fin clipping at DSF, a step to identify hatchery-reared salmon in order to measure the effectiveness of restoration efforts. That year, about 53,000 fish were released into the East Machias River. This year, they will release about a quarter million hatchery salmon into suitable salmon habitat.
The Cobscook program has also seen growth since its inception. In 2010 Cobscook started as a one year option, offered in partnership with Calais High School. This year, students who enroll as 9th graders can look forward to completing their entire high school journey through the Cobscook Experiential Program.
As the program has grown, its work with area partners has deepened, which offers students the opportunity to develop relationships with local mentors through long-term projects.
“Marine science interests me, and it’s a field I would like to pursue considering it’s been one of the subjects that has interested me the most in school over the past years,” says senior Mason Fortier, who has had the opportunity to work with marine science experts each year at Cobscook. “Working with professionals in the marine science field has helped me figure out that this is what I want to do. And doing things like fin clipping is really fun and it adds to the experience – it gives me more ideas about what I could do after college.”
This is exactly what Cobscook is designed to do – to support students in achieving success within a small group, family-like school setting. Over the last seven years, Cobscook has proven that community-engaged, experiential learning has countless benefits. It serves not only to educate and empower its participants, but also to connect students with themselves, their peers, their adult mentors, the broader community and the natural world, reinforcing a culture of personal and community wellbeing and environmental stewardship.