Our Work Program, daily chores, and dish crews are a cornerstone of the Maine Coast Semester educational experience – the part of our program where students do authentic daily work with their hands that has value to the community and that develop a number of skills and dispositions: showing up, developing a personal work ethic, experiencing collaboration and accountability on a team, craftsmanship, and finishing strong. Work Program takes place with adult educator guides from Maine Coast Semester faculty and across the Chewonki Foundation, often with music, satisfaction, and the connections forged in organic conversations. Completing the common, essential, and sometimes inglorious tasks of a community – independently and on teams – offers a tangible rite of passage for adolescents, compelling students from being driven by extrinsic/external motivation to intrinsic/internal motivation – doing a job well not because one is told to, but because it feels good to contribute one’s efforts to the community we call home.
Our Work Program is woven into the fabric of each day. We start each morning cleaning and taking care of our place in student-faculty teams before breakfast. A background and cyclic vitality to each day plays out in the dish room, where students and faculty take part in a weekly dish crew. On two afternoons each week – on Tuesday/Thursday and Friday for 1.5-2 hours – students join Work Program rotations doing community work that is authentic, real, and mentored by adults on Chewonki’s Farm, wood crew, facilities crew (which may include repairing, building, moving, fixing, or painting), kitchen crew, trail crew, invasive plant removal, raking leaves and shoveling snow, outdoor programs, Traveling Natural History Program maintenance, writing blogs, and weekly mop-and-clean and Friday night social planning. Our Work Program cultivates an active, connected, community-oriented lifestyle which includes exercise, skill building, and camaraderie.