Tracking: more than just following your dog

TRAINING YOUR PERFORMANCE DOG

by Carolyn Fuhrer

Tracking involves teaching your dog how a certain job (following the track) needs to be done. It requires the handler to have the sensitivity, knowledge and skills necessary to help the dog achieve this goal. It is not just following wherever your dog goes. If you let your dog wander around and intermittently follow the track, you are not defining the job that the dog has to do. This will not enable the dog to clearly understand the job and ultimately lead to confusion, stress and failure.

So how do you avoid this in training? First of all, do not run blind tracks until you feel you can “read” your dog and have confidence as to whether or not your dog is tracking. Be particular about who you choose to help you; just because someone has a tracking title – even an advanced title – does not mean they have the ability to help you and your dog to succeed.

Training sessions need to build upon success, expose problem areas and ultimately create training scenarios to solve those problems. Just going out and laying a long track with lots of “problems” and letting the dog wander all around until they seem to “solve” them, is not training with any purpose and will not help the dog learn.

Tracking involves solving problems step by step and recognizing when a problem is starting to occur and being able to recover to where you know tracking was correct, and then being able to refocus your dog.

Recovery occurs in gradual stages. It is more than just backing up. In recovery, the handler actually becomes the leader and backs up slowly as the dog works back towards them. You cannot turn around or pull your dog towards you. You must have a style of handling that allows you to recover ground as your dog moves towards you while searching. It is more than just going in reverse a certain number of steps.

A good handler is constantly in tune with the dog while recovering and observing carefully for track indication which could occur at any moment. At that point, the dog becomes the leader of the team again.

Following behavior that is not tracking will take you further and further off the actual track, confuse your dog, and will cause you to fail in a test. You must be able to determine when your dog is looking or searching for scent and actually tracking the scent. Searching can develop into tracking and tracking can move into searching; being able to determine when this is happening is where the expertise of teaching truly becomes evident. Well planned tracks will teach both dog and handler.

Don’t wander – have a purpose.

Happy tracking.

Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 90 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 2 Champion Tracker titles. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 25 years. You can contact her with questions, suggestions and ideas for her column by e-mailing carolyn@dogsatnorthstar.com.

Obituaries, June 8, 2017

JOAN A. BARROWS

WINSLOW––Joan Anita (Masse) Barrows, 85, of Winslow, passed away on Sunday, January 15, 2017. She was born in Winslow, May 9, 1931, to Joseph Cyrille Masse and Adele (Laliberte) Masse.
Joan was the head cheerleader at Winslow High. After high school, she met and instantly fell in love with Paul Barrows, who happened to be the star basketball player from rival high school Waterville High. They were married for 18 years until his passing in 1971. Together they had three daughters, Deborah Culpovich, Jody Panarelli and Kelly Barrows-Botero.

Joan, a resident of Maine her whole life, also enjoyed spending time with her family all over New England, often visiting her brother Arthur Masse in Connecticut, or taking in a Red Sox game with the grandkids in Boston. She also made many trips to the West Coast where she would visit her sister, Dolores “Lou” Norton, or spend Christmases in the mountains of Park City, Utah, with her family, and her long time companion, Ron Webber.

Joan had nine grandchildren: Alexandra Juarez-Aleksieienko, Amanda Champagne-Meadows, Abby Champagne, Chris Panarelli, Emilio Botero, Samuel Botero, Nico Panarelli, Megan Panarelli, and Daphne Botero.

SHAWN M. FENNELL

ALBION––Shawn Michael Fennell, 46, passed away in Vista, California, on Friday, May 19, 2017, following a courageous battle with cancer. He was born in Waterville on November 22, 1970, the son of Wayne and Sandy Fennell, but moved to Albion shortly after.

He attended Albion Elementary, where he played many sports, but really excelled at football where later he was an outstanding defensive tackle for the Lawrence Bulldogs, in Fairfield, all through high school. His lifelong dream was to be a Marine, so he left for boot camp at Parris Island in July 1989. His duty stations included: New River, North Carolina, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Okinawa, Japan, Quantico, Virginia, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Vienna, Austria, Vladivostok, Russia, Fort Leonard Wood for a second time, Camp Pendleton, California, and Kandahar, Afghanistan.
During his military service, Shawn was in the following military occupations specialties: motor transport, Marine Embassy Guard and Military Police.

After 22 years and attaining the rank of gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corp. it was time to retire. Shawn had a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, but decided to pursue another degree in respiratory therapy. He loved living in Vista, California, where he had many friends and was passionate about working out and being healthy. Shawn loved his daughter, Sydney, very much and was able to spend time with her in December of last year. His life was filled with many adventures all over the world and influenced many other people that he met.

Surviving Shawn are his parents, Wayne and Sandy Fennell; daughter Sydney Fennell; brothers, Chad and Derek; sister-in-law, Monica; nephews Conner, Nicholas, Evan and Kamren; several aunts, uncles and cousins.

An online guestbook may be signed and condolences expressed at www.gallant.fh.com.

Memorial donations may be made to: The American Cancer Society, 1 Bowdoin Mill Island #300, Topsham ME 04086.

RUTH F. COTE

WATERVILLE––Ruth Cuthbertson Ferland Cote, 90, passed away on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, at Lakewood Continuing Care Center. Ruth was born in Winslow on April 17, 1927, the only child of James Nelson Cuthbertson and Ruth Allen Cuthbertson.

Ruth graduated from Winslow High School, class of 1944, and was involved in their scholarship program. She worked as a medical secretary for many years until her retirement from Kennebec Valley Mental Health Center.

Ruth had a passion for reading and always had many books within reach. She was an avid knitter and crocheter, and her children and grandchildren were blessed to have received her beautiful afghans. Ruth greatly enjoyed the Belfast camp retreat which was held yearly by Moonlight Bay at Lakewood.

She was predeceased by her first husband, Albert “Pete” Ferland; and two grandsons, Joshua Moss and Nathan Davis.

She is survived by her husband, Carl Cote; children: Elizabeth Ferland, Virginia Allen (James), Sarah Cunningham (Lloyd), Peter Ferland (Beth), and Paul Ferland (Sherry); her stepchildren: Thomas Cote, Angela Davis, Emily McDonald (Charles), and Beth Ferland (Peter); 19 grandchildren; many great-grandchildren; and two great-great-granddaughters.

To view a video collage of Ruth’s life and to share condolences, memories and tributes with her family, please visit: www.veilleuxfuneralhome.com.

Memorial donations may be made to: Humane Society Waterville Area, 100 Webb Road, Waterville ME 04901, or The Moonlight Bay, Camp Program, Lakewood Continuing Care Center, 200 KMD, Waterville ME 04901.

DONALD F. MASSEY

WINSLOW––Donald Francis Massey, 85, of Winslow, passed away at Oak Grove Nursing Home, on Wednesday, May 24, 2017. Donald was born on February 16, 1932, in Waterville, the youngest child of Louis and Mary Anne (Thibodeau) Massey.

Don graduated froom Waterville High School in 1951, where he excelled as an athlete in football, basketball and baseball. After graduating high school, Don enlisted in the United States Navy, serving from 1952 to 1956 and then became a Korean War veteran.

On September 21, 1957, Don married the former Patricia Gagne. After an honorable discharge from the Navy, Don worked at Houle’s Plumbing and Heating, in Waterville, where he began his career. He then worked at Keyes Fibre mill in Waterville, from where he retired in 1991.

During his younger years as a father, Don was dedicated to spending as much time as possible with his family. He was an excellent little league coach as well as an umpire. He also spent each winter flooding the neighborhood basketball court so neighborhood children could ice skate. Don also enjoyed spending time and creating memories with his family at their camp on Moosehead Lake.

Once retired, Don spent a lot of his time helping out family and friends, as he was always doing things for others. He helped raise his grandchildren. He could always be found at his brother’s establishment, Steve’s Restaurant, or sitting out in front of his garage, waving to each person who went by. He became a self-taught carpenter in his retirement, crafting beautiful pieces of furniture for both family and friends.

Don was predeceased by his parents; sons Bruce and Michael Massey; brothers Nelson, Joseph, Edward “Pee Wee”, Alfred, George and Steve; sisters Irene Brown and Rita Wetzler; half-sister Margaret Stewart; half-brothers John and Leo Gaudet; and son-in-law Todd Labbe.

Don is survived by his wife of 60 years, Patricia; daughter Brenda Massey-Labbe; son Todd Massey and wife Cheryl; grandchildren Brittney Massey-Labbe, Kurt Massey, Brian Massey and Kayla Massey; sister-in-law Bernadette Massey; and several nieces and nephews.

To view a video collage of Don’s life and to share condolences, memories and tributes with his family, please visit: www.veilleuxfuneralhome.com.

Memorial donations may be made to: Hospice Volunteers, of Waterville Area, 304 Upper Main Street, Waterville ME 04901.

ROBERT H. REED

FAIRFIELD CENTER––Robert H. Reed, 91, died Saturday, May 27, 2017, at the U.S. VA Medical Center at Togus. He was born in Gardiner on May 23, 1926, the son of Harold and Ethlyn (Morrill) Reed.

Robert was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II. He was employed by the U.S. Postal Service, in Oakland; worked at Togus; and retired from the VA  Hospital in Los Angeles, California. Robert lived many years in Tennessee. He was a member of the Masons for over 30 years.

He was predeceased by his wife Betty in 2014; two sisters, Leila Luce and Maxine Gallagher; and two brothers, Edmund and Tom Reed.

Surviving are a daughter, Bonnie Noel, of Sidney; a sister, Laura Stevens, of Oakland; and several nieces and nephews.

An online guestboook may be signed and memories shared at: www.lawrybrothers.com.

R. ALLAN WENZEL

WEEKS MILLS––R. Allan “Al” Wenzel, 74, died Tuesday, May 30, 2017, at the Alfond Center for Health, in Augusta, following a long illness. He was born in Friant, California, on March 6, 1943, a son of the late William L. and Ella B. (Hamann) Wenzel.

Mr. Wenzel was a US Navy veteran and was a 50-year member of the American Legion and served as post commander on both coasts.

He had been employed by Digital Equipment Corp. and Lohman Animal Health for many years.

Al would take vacation time every year in order to work the Chicken Bar-B-Q at the Windsor Fair, which he did for many years. He also served as a volunteer fireman for many years at the Weeks Mills fire department.

Mr. Wenzel was predeceased by three brothers, Wilber, Lauren and Paul Wenzel and three sisters, Letha Jenks, Bernice Chancellor and Caryl Turl.

He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Linda L. (Haskell) Wenzel, of China; two sons, Timothy A. Wenzel, of Madera, California and Adam L.Wenzel and wife Linda, of Clovis, California; a daughter, Yvonne J. Meek and husband Loren, of Exeter, California; three brothers, Wayne Wenzel and wife Jean, of Clovis, California, Roy Wenzel and wife Karen, of Marysville, Washington and James Wenzel and wife Linda, of Camarillo, California; two sisters, Louise Oppelt, of Brookings, South Dakota, and Ila Alford, of Placentia, California; four grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

Arrangements were under the care of Plummer Funeral Home, Windsor Chapel, 983 Ridge Rd., Windsor ME.

Condolences, photos and stories may be shared at www.plummerfh.com.

BRENDA J. FOSTER

BENTON – Brenda Jane (Holt) Foster, 68, of Benton, passed away on Sunday, May 28, 2017, from complication related to cancer. She was born November 5, 1948, in Waterville, to Sumner and Josie Holt.

She is survived by her longtime love of her life, Robert (Bobby) Bergeron; sons, Robin Foster and his wife Jocelyn Young, Eric Foster and his wife Lynda and her daughter Angie Foster; as well as three grandchildren, Zachary, Taylor and Austin Foster.

Brenda was extremely proud of her dad’s military service and his participation in World War II in the South Pacific, where he was injured by gunfire. She was deeply patriotic and rarely seen without her American flag pin on her shirt.

Brenda worked at Klearview Manor, in Fairfield, for nearly 40 years in the laundry before recently retiring. She worked tirelessly with great pride to ensure all the residents looked their best. Everyone knew when Brenda was on lunch break when the smell of her burned toast she loved so much permeated Klearview’s hallways.

Brenda loved reading, keeping track of the weather, thunderstorms, and tending her beautiful flower gardens. She loved every chance she could get to go to the beach, ocean, mountains, or “up north.”

She enjoyed jamming to her favorite band, U2; and shared two wonderful trips with her daughter to see U2 perform live.

She got great pleasure in the wild songbirds, hummingbirds, crows, squirrels, deer, woodchucks and raccoon families who frequented her well-stocked feeders for years. She loved all her kitties that came in and out of her life.

She especially enjoyed her many adventures through the years all over Maine and beyond with her daughter Angie.

Memorial donations may be made to the Humane Society Waterville Area, 100 Webb Road, Waterville, ME 04901.

SHARON PLATO

CHINA – Sharon Plato, 61, passed away on Monday, May 29, 2017, following a three-year battle with cancer. Sharon was born on May 22, 1956, in Augusta, the third child of Alton and Eleanor Williams.

She was predeceased by her father and a younger brother, Clinton Williams.

Sharon is survived by her mother, her husband and soul mate of over 43 years, Eric ‘Rick’ Plato, of South China; siblings Wesley Williams and his wife Chris, of Bucksport, Gail St. Hilaire, of Bradenton, Florida, Dale Williams and his wife Lisa, of Bowdoin, and Jeremy Williams and his wife Lydia, of Readfield; her best friend of 46 years, Sharon Dunn, of Readfield; many nieces and nephews.

Memorial donations in memory of Sharon Plato can be made to: MaineGeneral Home Care & Hospice, P.O. Box 828, Waterville, ME, 04903-0828 or online at www.mainegeneral.org/hospice.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Plummer Funeral Home, 983 Ridge Road, Windsor, ME.

Condolences, photos and memories may be shared at www.plummerfh.com.

DONALD B. SHORES SR.

OAKLAND ­– Donald B. Shores, Sr., a resident of Oakland and Fairfield Center, died on Monday, May 29, 2017, at Maine General Medical Center, in Augusta, following weeks of battling cancer and treatment complications. He was born on September 13, 1940, in Albion, the son of the late Erlon N. Sr. and Gladys (Brawn) Shores, and graduated from Besse High School in 1960.

Donald co-owned and operated with his sons, Shores Dairy Farm, from 1982 until retiring in April 2016. He loved his family, cows and cats. He cared for his friends and was always helping a stranger.

He was not a man of many words, saying he loved or cared about you, but he showed you through phone calls, giving unexpected gifts, remembering all his children and grandchildren on their birthdays and Christmas. He would drop off candy, flowers or gifts to those he wanted to show his appreciation. He kept his promises and was a man who made a difference in the lives he left behind.

He had fond memories and stories of his years working for Woolworth Estate, in Monmouth, for 12 years as herdsman and in their gardens/greenhouse until 1972. He moved his family to Fairfield to work for Tozier Farm, before purchasing his own dairy farm. He loved driving old beat-up looking white pick-ups. Bail-a twine and duct tape were his tools of choice. His truck cab was always full of his possessions and bags of cat food ­– this did not stop him from picking up a hitchhiker, and only his great-grandchildren liked to ride with him.

He is survived by his children, Jolene McPhetres, of Sangerville; Richard and Cheryl Shores, of Canaan, and their children Katie and Tyler; Deanna and David Proulx, of Oakland, and their children David E. and Brittany, and their children, Bailey and Brooklynn; and David T. and Betsy, of Oakland, and their children Dallas and Samantha; the mother of his children, and business partner, Judy Shores; Linda Daigle, of Fairfield Center, and her children Lisa, Larrisa, Laura, Larry and their families; brothers, Manley Shores, Amasa and Danny, all of Albion; Allen, of Winslow; and Erlon Jr., of Waterville; sisters, Louise Bellows, and Gloria and Ron Gregory, all of Winslow; sister-in-law, Lois Shores, of Albion; as well as many nieces, nephews and cousins.

He was predeceased by his parents; son, Donald (Chip) Shores Jr. in 2015; stepmother, Beverly; brothers, Dale, Herbert, and Frederick; great-grandson, Bryce; and his beloved cat, Bozie (Smidge).

Children: David E. and Brittany, and their children, Bailey and Brooklynn; and David T. and Betsy, of Oakland, and their children Dallas and Samantha; the mother of his children, and business partner, Judy Shores; Linda Daigle, of Fairfield Center, and her children Lisa, Larrisa, Laura, Larry and their families; brothers, Manley Shores, Amasa and Danny, all of Albion; Allen, of Winslow; and Erlon Jr., of Waterville; sisters, Louise Bellows, and Gloria and Ron Gregory, all of Winslow; sister-in-law, Lois Shores, of Albion; as well as many nieces, nephews and cousins.

He was predeceased by his parents; son, Donald (Chip) Shores Jr. in 2015; stepmother, Beverly; brothers, Dale, Herbert, and Frederick; great-grandson, Bryce; and his beloved cat, Bozie (Smidge).

To leave a message of kindness, please visit: www.shoreynichols.com.

Class of 2017 graduates from Colby College

Area residents were part of the 478 seniors who graduated from Colby College, in Waterville, on May 21, receiving a bachelor of arts degree at the college’s 196th Commencement. Former Vice President Joe Biden was the guest speaker.

Celie M. Deagle, who majored in history and classical civilization, attended Skowhegan Area High School and is the daughter of Paul and Sharon Deagle, of Canaan.

Erin E. Whitney, who majored in government, attended Cony High School, in Augusta, and is the daughter of Brian and Stephanie Whitney, of Augusta.

China Planning board meeting canceled

The China Planning Board meeting scheduled for Tuesday evening June 13, has been canceled.

CHINA NEWS: Thurston Park work awarded to Palermo company

by Mary Grow

China selectmen took care of miscellaneous business at their May 31 meeting, including:

  • Finishing the awarding of bids for work on the north entrance road to Thurston Park, started at their May 15 meeting, by awarding the bid for road improvements to S. D. Childs, of Palermo. On May 15 selectmen were not sure his bid and Robin Tobey’s covered the same work; after Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux said they did, the board voted 4-1, with Joann Austin opposed, to accept Childs’ low bid. Board members expressed appreciation to Tobey for assistance he has given the Thurston Park II Committee.
  • Approving a $300 appropriation for trapping out the beavers whose debris under the bridge on the way to the park has flooded the road. Thurston Park II Committee member Jeanette Smith said a public tour of the park is scheduled for Saturday, June 17, so restoring access was imperative. • Appointing Sheldon and Joyce Goodine as members of the China for a Lifetime Committee, which is scheduled to meet Thursday evening, June 22.
  • Seeking volunteers for other positions, including budget committee secretary (who can be chosen from anywhere in town), members of the committee to plan and supervise China Community Days Aug. 4-6 and people to do trail work in Thurston Park.
  • Approving a liquor license renewal for the China Dine-ah, on Lakeview Drive. • Agreeing to give the owner of a foreclosed property additional time to redeem it by paying all back taxes and fees, after L’Heureux explained that the bank holding the mortgage had been expected to pay the town but had not.

Approving a consent agreement, including a fine, recommended by Codes Office Paul Mitnik to allow a resident to use the addition to his house even though the resident failed to comply with state-required inspection rules.

Board members did not proceed with plans for administering the stipends for emergency services personnel approved at the March town meeting, because they were waiting for advice from Town Attorney Alton Stevens. They had an estimate for repairs to the Weeks Mills schoolhouse, now a town-owned historic building, but took no action. They heard resident Dale Worster’s repeat request that they activate the town’s Economic Development Committee and assigned the task to L’Heureux.

TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Committee member Tom Michaud said the committee hoped to have an RFP (request for proposals) ready for review and recommendation at a June 5 meeting, so selectmen can begin choosing a contractor for planned recreational improvements at the head of China Lake’s east basin.

The May 31 selectmen’s meeting was attended by members of the Greater Neck Road Neighborhood Association, who asked selectmen to ban parties in Parris and Catherine Varney’s barn at 701 Neck Road. The town planning board denied the Varneys’ application to use their barn for commercial events in October 2016; the Varneys appealed to the board of appeals, who in December 2016 remanded the issue to the planning board to redo with clear explanations for its decision. Before the planning board could act, neighbors, including Greater Neck Road Association members, filed an appeal with Kennebec County Superior Court, which had not acted as of May 31.

Association members alleged the Varneys are holding events in the barn without the needed permit and in violation of state Fire Marshal’s regulations. They asked selectmen to enforce the town ordinance. Selectmen, L’Heureux and Mitnik declined to act at the May 31 meeting, on four grounds: • Board Chairman Neil Farrington did not want to discuss the issue without advance notice (it was not on the May 31 agenda), in the absence of the Varneys and before the court acted. He expects the court to return the question to the planning board, not to the selectmen.

  • Selectman Jeffrey LaVerdiere questioned whether the Varneys’ activities constitute a business; if they do not, he defended residents’ right to use their own property as they choose.
  • L’Heureux said after the town received a request for enforcement action from the association, he sent it to attorney Stevens to determine the proper legal response. Until he has Stevens’ reply, he said, the issue should not be on the selectmen’s agenda. • Mitnik said from what he has been told, the barn parties are for Varney friends and family and are non-commercial. “If you have to have a planning board permit to have a party for friends and family, that’s a pretty sad state of affairs,” he commented.

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, June 12.

On Tuesday, June 13, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the former portable classroom behind the town office for voting on the RSU (Regional School Unit) #18 school budget for 2017-18 and a state bond issue.

Vassalboro News: Taxes raised by .88 mils; might be less with state funding

by Mary Grow

Hours of negotiation between budget committee and school board members and the board of selectmen paid off at the first session of Vassalboro’s town meeting June 5, as voters approved all recommended appropriations.

One resident asked how come the recommendations of the town boards were all in agreement. Budget Committee Chairman John Melrose first joked that it was because the budget committee was able to persuade selectmen the budget committee was right. More seriously, he said officials worked toward consensus, believing it to be in the town’s interest.

Lauchlin Titus, chair of the selectmen, called 2017 “one of the toughest budget sessions I think I’ve ever been involved in.”

Currently, voters have raised their tax rate by 0.88 mils (88 cents for each $1,000 of valuation). However, town officials and state Representative Richard Bradstreet expect the final increase to be less, because they expect more state funding for schools than in the budget the legislature is now reviewing.

To cover the expected change, a new 2017-18 school budget article says that if state school funding is higher than expected, the additional money will be used to lower taxes, up to the $338,681 coming from the town in the budget approved at the meeting. When Larisa Batchelder asked about postponing a vote on the school budget until the legislature and governor approve state funding, Selectman Philip Haines said a later town vote would require a special town meeting, with a quorum requirement that might be hard to meet in the summer. Town officials expect a final figure in July. In 2016, selectmen set the tax rate at their Aug. 8 meeting.

Town meeting continues on Tuesday, June 13, with local elections and a written-ballot vote to approve or reject the school budget. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the town office.

Voters at the June 5 open meeting agreed to group multiple articles together, including the municipal government appropriation and the school appropriation, sparing the need for Moderator Richard Thompson to read each item separately. With only a few questions and comments from the 120 or more voters assembled, the meeting lasted less than two hours.

In addition to authorizing 2017-18 spending, voters approved an amended Shoreland Zoning Ordinance and a revised Sanitary District Charter; allowed selectmen to apply for state aid to rebuild the East Vassalboro boat launch; approved exercising the “put option” with the Penobscot Energy Recovery Company (PERC); and elected five budget committee members.

The PERC article was followed by an explanation that a voter suggested was not entirely clear. Town Manager Mary Sabins explained in a sentence: when Vassalboro agreed to send its trash to PERC years ago, the town bought part ownership in the company, and now PERC is buying back Vassalboro’s shares for an expected $13,514.13. Donald Breton, William Browne, Peggy Schaffer and Eddie Scholz were re-elected to the budget committee for two years, and Phil Landry defeated Holly Weidner by four votes for the seat vacated by Lori Fowle. The complete town meeting warrant is in the 2016 town report, which is dedicated to the late Jim Mitchell. Mitchell also received a posthumous Spirit of America award, accepted by his widow, Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell, and other family members.

China schools hold Forest Day celebration

 by Mandi Favreau

Last Friday morning’s torrential downpour didn’t dampen spirits at the China Schools as they hosted their 9th Forest Day Celebration. “Who can find a white ash?” Cindy Lyford called out as students enthusiastically pawed through leaves set out on the tables, trying to find the right match to add to their leaf rubbings. Down the hall, an Inland Hospital volunteer led kindergarten students through some basic yoga, while students in the cafeteria listened to a Maine forester’s presentation while eagerly awaiting the arrival of Smokey the Bear.

The China Schools Forest Day Celebration started in 2000 and has typically run every other year, with one three-year gap. “In all the years we’ve done this, this is the first time we’ve had to start the day inside,” said semi-retired China Primary teacher Elaine Philbrook who heads up the event with former China Schools teacher and Maine Master Naturalist Anita Smith. “It still provides a good change of pace and gets the students up and moving around.”

The event is typically set up at stations scattered through the China Schools’ Forest and community field and is designed to help students develop an appreciation for nature. This year’s presenters spread out across classrooms and hallways with activities focused on either the natural world or physical activity.  Nearly every station had a hands-on component that allowed students to interact with the material in a different way. CPS Pre-K through fourth graders rotated through stations on topics like recycling and composting principals, tree, plant, and animal identification, and monarch migration.

The China Middle School presentations were geared toward more advanced skills and concepts such as map and compass, forestry management, soil testing, and nature writing. Students got to meet a ball python, learned how to budget natural resources for survival, and one intrepid group even ventured out into the wet forest to learn the very important skill of identifying poison ivy.

Even with nearly all the activities based inside, the focus was still very much on the natural world and all that nature provides us. “It’s so important to foster a connection with nature,” said Anita Smith. This is perhaps even more crucial for middle school students who tend to spend more time inside and on devices. “The mapping presentation even uses tablets to show them that nature and technology aren’t mutually exclusive,” Ms.Smith added.

While many of the 35 volunteer presenters were Maine naturalists,  forestry professionals or presenters from  Project Learning Tree and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, many were also parents, grandparents or community members with a passion for nature and a desire to share their knowledge with the school community.  “Everyone is eager to get involved,” said Ms. Philbrook.  Local businesses also contribute; this year MJEK Seafood donated food to the luncheon.

“As soon as we wrap up one event, we start thinking ahead and planning the next one,”  Ms. Philbrook said. “Many of our presenters never miss a year, but we’re always looking for new presentations and people who want to be a part of this day.”

For more information on the China Schools’ Forest and pictures of Forest Day please go to https://www.facebook.com/chinaschoolsforest/.