Chewonki Semester School
|Chewonki Semester School|
|Type||Private single-semester boarding program|
|Head of school||Ann Carson|
Chewonki Semester School, formerly the Maine Coast Semester, is a challenging academic program with an emphasis on environmental studies for high school juniors in Wiscasset, Maine operated by the Chewonki Foundation. The program was founded in 1988 by S. Scott Andrews, currently a faculty member teaching U.S. History. Students in the school study the natural history of the Maine coast, work on an organic farm, go on two short wilderness trips, help maintain the campus, and participate in a rigorous academic program that adapts to the student's sending school's requirements.
Each semester is 16 weeks long. There are approximately forty students per semester at Chewonki Semester School, as well as roughly 12 faculty members. Students live in winterized cabins. Classes are usually small, with no more than 12 students per class. Each student is given an advisor, who they meet with once a week to ensure that things are going well with cabinmates, peers, teachers, and parents.
All classes are taught at advanced levels and can be considered honors courses. There are two core subjects students must take at Chewonki: English and Natural History of the Maine coast. There are two different English courses that can fulfill the English requirement: Literature and the Land and Ethics: Understanding and Choice. Natural History of the Maine Coast also includes a once-a-week field trip to various sites near the school and on campus. Three other classes must be taken by Chewonki students, and everyone gets a free period. Chewonki offers several different math courses including Algebra 2, Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus and AP Calculus AB and BC.
Languages are also offered at Chewonki Semester School. There are various French and Spanish classes ranging from roughly year 3 of learning to an AP equivalent. A few different social studies courses are available. Environmental Issues and Ethics, which involves two in-depth studies, one into a current issue in Maine and one as an Independent Research Project, Current Issues, which deals with contemporary world issues, and US History are all options for students. Art and the Natural World is also offered at Chewonki.
In the fall of 2013, a new academic program called Human Ecology Projects was implemented. Students design and work on these projects all semester and then present them towards the end of their time at Chewonki.
In addition to these courses, Work Program is assigned to all students twice a week. Tasks in this include anything from planting seedlings at the Salt Marsh Farm to making mozzarella cheese in the kitchen for dinner. This lasts for roughly two hours.
Academics are taken very seriously at Chewonki. Study hours are from 7:30–9:30 p.m. every day except for Saturday, and students are expected to do their work during this time, though extra time is often required to complete all assignments. Students are given a specific study space in which to do their work. It is not necessary to possess a computer at Chewonki, though most students do.
Students are housed in several different cabins, which are used during the summer for Camp Chewonki. Bathrooms are not located in the cabins, but are a short walk away. Students get a cot as well as a few shelves to put their belongings on, and all cabins are equipped with wood-burning stoves, which cabinmates get to learn how to use. Anywhere from 5–9 students live in the cabins together. Cabins are also each given "cabin parents," who are there to make sure things run smoothly in the cabins.
Cabins currently used for girls include Gordy Hall, Orchard House, South Hall, and Binnacle. Cabins currently used for boys include Pete Gillies, and Ranch House. Various cabins have switched the genders they hold in the time since Chewonki's founding, and will likely do so in the future.
Salt Marsh Farm
Salth Marsh Farm is Chewonki's 25-acre organic farm. The farm is run by the power of Sal the draft horse. Semester students are very involved on the farm. The cabins rotate through farm chores. Each cabin takes a turn for two-weeks, rising before the other students to go to the farm and milk the cow, feed the chickens and sheep, turn the compost, and groom Sal. The farm is another way the students are connected to place and learn about sustainability. The farm produces 10,000-15,000 pounds of produce annually. The farm also raises sheep, pigs, cows, and chickens for milk, meat, eggs, and fiber. During the winter, the farm staff as well as students manage a 150-acre woodlot which provides fuel for buildings on the campus.
Weekends and events
There are always weekend events planned for students, some student-planned and some faculty-planned. Friday night is study hours, followed by regular check-in time.
Saturday mornings are usually devoted to a group activity, which can include anything from a visit to the Farnsworth Art Museum to Orienteering to community service. Saturday night events are planned in rotation by dish crews, and can involve anything from a contradance to iron chef cookoff to a scavenger hunt.
Sundays are devoted to relaxation in some respects. Brunch isn't until later in the morning (around 10:30 a.m.), and the afternoon is usually free, with an early buffet dinner. Students then go to study hours to prepare for the following school week.
There are some longer overnight trips that Chewonki students participate in. In the fall, there are wilderness trips, and in the spring, there are winter camping trips and canoe trips. Both semesters also participate in solos, which are 48 hour stays in specific locations along Chewonki Neck dedicated to self-reflection and personal growth. Students are provided with a tarp, sleeping gear, food, and water. The solo is in no way a survival challenge, it is a period reserved for students to reflect on the previous months.