Grants further expeditionary learning at Portland school

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PORTLAND — Two grants, one annual and one new, will allow some city students to continue their expeditious learning.

Casco Bay High School received the two grants for its freshmen and senior Quest expedition programs.

CBHS Principal Derek Pierce said one is for $30,000 from the Portland-based White Pine Foundation and the other is for $3,000 from the Hoyt Foundation of Holland, Massachusetts. Pierce said the White Pine Foundation has been a supporter of the expeditions since they began nine years ago, but this is the first year Hoyt Foundation gave the school a grant.

“Both (grants) go to making sure every kid can participate,” Pierce said.

The Quests, Pierce said, are four-day, three-night orientation-based excursions that promote student learning, sense of community and leadership. The Senior Quest, which runs Sept. 20-23, is an opportunity for 12th-graders to “unite and take stock of who they are and where they want to go,” Pierce said.

The seniors either backpack the White Mountains of New Hampshire or kayak and camp on Cow Island. But before they leave, each writes a letter to a first-year student, which, Pierce said, is a way to provide advice. The first-year students read the letter from the seniors on their own Quest, this year being held Sept. 27-30.

The Freshmen Quest explores the question of what makes a successful community. Pierce said.

The freshmen kayak at Cow Island, where they become more comfortable with themselves, each other, and Casco Bay High School. When they return, they interview the senior from whom they received a letter.

“We’re super grateful to both (organizations) for making this possible for all our kids,” Pierce said.

Pierce said the Quests promote community, citizenship and leadership through writing and adventure-based learning. CBHS partners with Rippleffect and the Telling Room to implement the expeditions. Freshmen write a reflection about their experience, while the seniors participate in a college essay writing workshop after they return.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.