Cape Elizabeth residents and CELT members Lisa Gent and Suzanne McGinn began CELT’s education programs in 2003. Since then, CELT programs have grown to a multi-grade, year-round program with opportunities for outdoor and in-classroom learning.
Field trips are offered throughout the school year to the first, third and fourth grade classes at Pond Cove Elementary School, using curriculums co-developed by CELT and teachers. These field trips address current required educational standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. The first-grade trip in winter focuses on sensory exploration of the habitat at Great Pond and investigating how adaptations help wildlife survive.
The third-grade spring trip takes place in Robinson Woods where students explore lifecycles and population dynamics through a pond study and the game, “Oh, Deer!” The fourth-grade students return to the forest habitat of Robinson Woods in fall, winter and spring to track how the habitat and wildlife change in each season. Each student receives a journal to record observations on the trail and reflect back on what they learned when they return to the classroom.
Field trips are led by the education coordinator and a group of trained, dedicated volunteers.
Field trips are also available for classes outside of the Cape Elizabeth school system for a fee.
The Environmental Resource Center
At the Pond Cove Elementary School’s media center, CELT has created a hands-on Environmental Resource Center (ERC) to provide the elementary school teachers access to resource materials on environmental education, field guides, nets and other materials that can be borrowed for use in the classroom, or on field trips.
Pond Cove Natureland and Raised Bed Gardens
Natureland outdoor classroom at Pond Cove Elementary was developed in 2008 and 2009 by the CELT Education Committee, after teachers expressed a need to better engage their students in science, natural history and experiential learning. Natureland provides the school community with an outdoor, hands-on learning space and gives students an alternative area for imaginative, exploratory, non-structured play.
The project was made possible by the generous support and contributions of the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation, the Pond Cove Parent’s Association, Portland Trails and many community members and volunteers.
In March 2019, the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation approved a grant to fund a major renovation of Natureland as part of the Operation Rebuild: Learn, Play, Grow Outside!project to create a new, nature-themed playground space at Pond Cove. The updated Natureland design includes more garden beds, a bird and butterfly learning garden and opportunities for students to compost, observe wildlife and collect weather data.
For 10 years (2007-2017), CELT volunteer Beth Owens managed the raised bed gardens program for second, third and fourth graders. Students plant seeds in the classroom and then plant the seedlings and care for them in the raised beds in order to learn about organic gardening and composting. The program has since been taken over by teachers in the school.
Begun in 2000 and now a rite of passage in the spring, the eighth grade trail project at Cape Elizabeth Middle School promotes service learning. The students have joined CELT on several properties to build boardwalks and bridges, create new trails, clear invasive plant species, close down illegal trails and spread wood chips. This program is currently coordinated by CELT volunteer Mike Hankes.
Since October 2017, CELT has been collaborating with a group of high school students to test the water quality at Great Pond and Alewife Brook. Thanks to a grant from the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, students are able to use a multi-parameter probe to test several biotic factors of the water at once, while also making visual observations and investigating freshwater macroinvertebrates. Ongoing water testing occurs spring through fall.
Senior Transition Projects and Student-Driven Learning
Each spring CELT is fortunate to offer and supervise community-based trail service projects to Cape high school seniors. The projects relate to our mission areas: conservation, stewardship and education. Previous projects have included trail maintenance, trail photography and event coordination assistance. We are also open to supervising student-driven learning experiences or other independent study projects related to our mission. These could be trail-related or could focus on our education programs.
Classroom programs are offered throughout the school year to any grade level. Hands-on, environmentally focused lessons are developed by CELT with guidance on the topic provided by teachers and the school curriculum. Current offerings include a bird beak adaptations lesson for first grade students, the structure of seeds for second grade students and mapping the local watershed for fifth grade students. These programs can take place either in the classroom or at the CELT office.
Over the years CELT has distributed over $10,000 in mini-grants to Cape teachers in support of environmental education in their classrooms. These grants are available to teachers at all grade levels for classroom materials, professional training, subscriptions and field trips.