During Semester 51, student Catherine “Cat” Gouchoe took a chance to explore a personal passion beyond the boundaries of the academic classroom as a means to positively transform the lives of some of Chewonki’s neighbors. Her Human Ecology Project, or HEP, researched the potential of local farms to make an impact on local hunger. That project, with help form a generous grant, led to the development of a small section of the Chewonki Farm designated for donation to a local food pantry; a legacy now in its second year.
Semester Human Ecology Projects complement students’ academic experience in the classroom as well as the work and life experiences they have in the community both on and off-campus. Human ecology as a field of study takes an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to solving social and environmental problems, a study that dovetails perfectly with the Chewonki mission:
Chewonki inspires transformative growth, teaches appreciation and stewardship of the natural world, and challenges people to build thriving, sustainable communities throughout their lives.
Offered the occasion to delve into an area of personal interest, students develop critical thinking skills, intense research abilities, create something to share with others, and contribute to the natural and human communities in Maine or in their home areas.
Some ambitious students pursue their Human Ecology Projects well beyond their semester at Chewonki. Now a senior at the Thacher School in Ojai, California, Kipper Berven’s Project on aquaponics, a method of sustainable urban agriculture, became a fascinating website detailing its efficiency, productivity, and appropriate uses in major cities, including his own.
This year’s HEPs are no less inspired. Sam Arsenault of Wiscasset High School wonders how Maine residents might implement green energy in their homes, especially on tight budgets. Leon Kraiem of the Grace Church School in New York plans to study how human separate their daily routines from circadian and seasonal cycles and what effect that may have on a person’s health.
Cat’s two rows on the Chewonki Farm from Semester 51 continue to produce fresh food every season. Each Tuesday, students harvest the vegetables during Work Program. Each Thursday, another group of students delivers the vegetables to St. Philip’s Church Food Pantry. (Read more about Cat’s HEP Project and Chewonki’s ongoing work with St. Philip’s Church here.) This fall, those deliveries have included 144.5lbs of carrots, 85.5lbs of potatoes, 76llbs of tomatoes, and 80lbs of zucchini and summer squash.
What impressive contributions will Semester 53 make to human ecology and their communities? We cannot wait to see. Be sure to check back on the blog for the latest Chewonki news and later, some examples from this semester’s Human Ecology Projects.
– Story by Alexandra Desaulniers, Admissions Associate. Photos by Chris Percy, Semester Faculty.