Freeport's Coastal Studies for Girls lives on at Portland all-girls academy

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PORTLAND — The Maine Girls’ Academy has added the marine science and leadership-based curriculum developed by the former Coastal Studies for Girls in Freeport.

The Maine Girls’ Academy is investing in “strengthening (and) innovating our school,” Amy Jolly, head of the academy, said this week.

With MGA’s commitment to science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM studies – Jolly said it’s only “natural for us to want to grow Maine-related opportunities for field research, leadership development and critical thinking.”

And, she said, “Our proximity to the tidal zones, seashore, and many environmental research institutions (in Maine) also make this a natural next step. It is an exciting opportunity to build on the strengths of each organization to best serve girls in the future.”

Coastal Studies for Girls closed at the end of 2017, according to a press release from The Maine Girls’ Academy.

After “a year of organizational evaluation and exploration, (the Coastal Studies) board and MGA agreed to transition many … key elements into the (Girls’ Academy),” the release said.

Jolly said she didn’t know all the details that led the Freeport school to shut down, but said this week that the program’s board came to the realization that its “model was not sustainable.”

But, she said, the board also “recognized they wanted the educational opportunities, philosophy, and Coastal Studies for Girls’ spirit to continue (and) after careful reflection and analysis, they decided to have the program live on at MGA.”

“We are delighted that The Maine Girls’ Academy will allow more girls to experience the powerful combination of science and leadership education,” that was the hallmark of Coastal Studies for Girls, said Jennifer Mathews, former head of the coastal program.

Jolly said The Academy is still discussing “how to best incorporate the Coastal Studies for Girls spirit and opportunities into the MGA curriculum and student life experience (but) with acquisition of (the coastal studies) curriculum, we are now starting to incorporate core elements of (its) leadership course into MGA’s leadership lexicon.”

In addition, as part of the new middle school opening at The Maine Girls’ Academy in the fall, Jolly said, “we will introduce Coastal Studies for Girls-style field-based science learning (to our) middle school girls, (who) learn best when they experience instruction in integrated and experiential ways.”

“Our rigorous high school program already includes research related to the environment, including the social justice aspects and real solutions to real problems,” Jolly said, so “we look at the Coastal Girls Studies curriculum as another accelerant to grow all of our STEM programming.”

Coastal Studies for Girls might have been best known for its summer camp offerings, and Jolly said The Academy will continue that tradition this coming summer.

Specifically, she said, “Girls particularly interested in marine science can get a hands-on look at coastal ecology and aquaculture at our residential summer camp for girls in partnership with Hurricane Island.”

This summer camp experience is open to any interested girl, but Jolly said the other Coastal Studies for Girls’ curriculum is only open to students at The Maine Girls’ Academy. However, she added, “We are not ruling out resurrecting a residential component for the future.”

Overall, according to Jolly, The Maine Girls’ Academy “will be working to best meld the Coastal Studies for Girls’ cornerstones of intention, solitude and reflection, challenge, community, action, lifelong learning, and gratitude with the MGA experience across the school curriculum and summer camp experience.”

To assist with the transition, Jolly said The Maine Girls’ Academy is working closely with Mathews and has also welcomed one former Coastal Studies for Girls board member to its own governing body.

The Maine Girls’ Academy is also holding an open house, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday, March 15, where students and their families can learn more about the integration of Coastal Studies for Girls. RSVP for the open house at

In folding Coastal Studies for Girls into The Maine Girls’ Academy, Jolly said, “We honor (its) heritage and envision a future in which (it) continues as an integral part of girls’ education in Maine.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Coastal Studies for Girls, initially headquartered at Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport, has now been folded into The Maine Girls’ Academy in Portland. Here a group of girls celebrate the adventure of a coastal studies summer camp experience.