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Stacyville students learn outdoors with BikeMaine

Among the many staffers and volunteers who make the BikeMaine ride happen are 22 middle and high school students with the Katahdin Learning Project in Stacyville who are serving as a tent crew and getting to experience a different kind of education.

“We’re out of class but still in school,” Carilynn Hanson, a Katahdin middle school science teacher who helps lead the Katahdin Learning Project, said Saturday.

The Katahdin Learning Project started two years ago in a partnership with the Friends of the Katahdin Woods and Waters as a way to promote community service and experiential learning for students in the RSU 50 school district in southern Aroostook County.  

“When they brought in the national monument, it kind of sparked a need for our community,” Hanson said during a break from setting up 80 tents on the first day of BikeMaine in Presque Isle. “We have the great outdoors and there’s so much learning that can happen out there. We’re learning how to take care of nature.”

The students are serving as the tent porter crew for BikeMaine. Each day that the riders travel, the youth team dismantles, sets up and moves 80 tents for riders who paid extra for the service. During the afternoon, the students do have a curriculum, which includes outings to cultural and historical sites, Hanson said.

This will be the second year that the Katahdin Learning Project youth crew are working the BikeMaine even. In exchange, the group receives $7,000 from BikeMaine for outdoor activities at the school, Hanson said.  

“They’re in school, it’s just outdoor school,” Hanson said. “All the activities that we do, the kids are actually learning a lot more than what they would learn in the classroom. They’re learning respect, responsibility, how to team work, collaboration and problem solve.”

The Katahdin Learning Project is part of a movement in education aimed at increasing opportunities for experiential and community-based education that focuses on hands-on, real-world learning.

Hanson said the Learning Project helps motivate students in their education and get them interested in community service and learning.

Students have to meet a range of requirements in order to participate in activities like the BikeMaine tent crew, Hanson said.

“They have to maintain their grades. They have to be respectful all year. They have to really prove that they deserve to be here.”

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