Freeport summer camp has girl power down to a science

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FREEPORT — While most kids at summer camps expect to play outside or do arts and crafts, campers at Coastal Studies for Girls go to learn about science and the environment.

CSG, at Wolfe’s Neck Farm, is a semester school for 10th-grade girls that focuses on marine sciences and leadership. Its summer camps offer younger girls an opportunity to learn about various science fields.

“We’re looking to change attitudes around (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at a younger age,” John Wensman, CSG’s director of teaching and learning, said.

For the past three years, the school has offered three, week-long overnight camp sessions a summer. The first two sessions, which each had nine girls this year, were for girls entering sixth and seventh grades. The third session, which had 14 girls and took place last week, was for returning campers entering seventh and eighth grades.

Colleen Lea, a camp counselor from Brunswick, said the camp is a great way for girls to learn about the school. Lea attended the school as a high school sophomore in the spring of 2011.

“I like that (the camp) is giving girls who maybe have never heard of this place a chance to experience it,” she said. “(CSG) tries to take a lot of things from the school and use it for the camp.”

Lea said the camp is very similar to the school, but on a much smaller scale.

“The camp gives a basic introduction to leadership skills,” she said. “The school is that, but much more in depth.”

Maggie, a seventh-grade camper from Brunswick, said she wanted to go to the camp after hearing about it from a friend. Last week, she said she was enjoying the experience.

“I like that we learn so much about the environment and I like the leadership and team building games we play,” she said.

Lea said going to CSG, whether for camp or school, is “definitely worth it.” Wensman said many former students and campers would agree.

“Girls come away from this transformed,” he said. “We hope that they are more confident … more authentic.”

Wensman said CSG teaches girls to use their voices and that the school encourages “fierce conversations,” instead of talking passively.

“We want girls to take those skills into the world and be triumphant,” he said.

Wensman said CSG is a single-sex school and camp because it empowers the girls.

“Research shows that in mixed communities, women sometimes lose voice and don’t always take advantage of opportunities,” he said. “(Being single-sex) changes the dynamic in a way that’s powerful.”

Wensman said CSG wants girls to “see themselves as real scientific thinkers.” He said the school and camp teach girls about science in a straightforward way.

“It’s very far from magic cookbook science,” he said. “This is real science.”

The girls and teachers spend most of their time outside, engaging in “experiential, space-based learning,” according to Wensman, who said “the coast is our classroom.”

The school also brings in guest speakers throughout the semester so girls can hear from women who work in science.

“That modelling is incredibly powerful,” Wensman said. “It really humanizes what it means to go into science.”

CSG, which is going into its 12th semester this fall, enrolls 15 girls each semester. Although the girls who attended the camps still have a few years before they’ll be old enough to attend the school, Lea said some of them are already thinking about it.

“A lot of them say they want to come to the semster school,” she said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Sidebar Elements

The week-long camps at Coastal Studies for Girls in Freeport introduce younger girls to the semester school by engaging them in science and leadership activities. Last week, campers took part in a mock town hall meeting to tackle the issue of clear cutting, inspired by their reading of Dr. Suess’ “The Lorax.”

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.