Exploring Ornithology: A Week on Hog Island

by Fianna Wilde, senior at Oak Meadow School
During this past summer, my sister Blythe and I attended a week-long teen birding camp on Hog Island, Maine. The Hog Island Camp, run by the National Audubon Society, is now in its 80th year of existence.

Photo Credit: Fianna Wilde
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Having applied for and received scholarships to attend, we joined 22 other teens to learn about everything from bird banding to seabird restoration. In the sport of birding there are few young people, so spending time with other fledgling birders was particularly special.
Not only was this our first camp away from home, it was also our first time birding on the East Coast. Other campers were endlessly helpful with identification, and everyone was so willing to share their knowledge.
Photo Credit: Fianna Wilde
(Oak Meadow Archives)

We designed an advanced study project (ASP) through Oak Meadow about our explorations in ornithology, and our trip to Hog Island was a part of that adventure. Being able to pursue my dreams and incorporate them into my high school experience is one of the reasons I find Oak Meadow extremely special.
A Day on Hog Island…
4:00 a.m. Get up and out of bed, having awoken long before, unable to sleep because of the excitement of unknown birds singing and the lobster boats motoring around checking pots.
4:30 a.m. Out the door and down the creaky wooden stairs of Crow’s Nest cabin to meet up for a bird walk or thrush banding with Scott Weidensaul (program director) and a few other souls.
7:00 a.m. Breakfast, finally!
Photo Credit: Fianna Wilde
(Oak Meadow Archives)

The weather held, and we motored out aboard Snowgoose III on an all day trip to Eastern Egg Rock. Common tern chicks hatching, Atlantic puffins feeding, and painting the five research interns’ shelter on the island while being dive bombed by a tern parent are memories I will never forget.  
12:00 p.m. Lunch  
Off to a bird banding workshop, or an intro to recording bird song, or drawing with the resident artist.
6:00 p.m. A delicious dinner.
7:30 p.m. Nightly presentation by someone highly regarded in his or her field; tonight it was Stephen Kress, author of Project Puffin and director of the Sea Bird Restoration Program that brought puffins back to Eastern Egg Rock.   
Photo Credit: Fianna Wilde
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Then teen campers known as the Corvids met to discuss the day, do activities, and enjoy bonding time.
Bed? Not quite.
Owling with Josh Potter (teen camp leader), moon and star gazing, and then journaling time.
10:30 p.m. Heather (teen camp leader) singing and playing her guitar as the campers fell asleep, to do it all again tomorrow. Paradise!    
Hog Island, Maine is an incredible place with remarkable people. The National Audubon Society camp I attended, Coastal Marine Bird Studies for Teens, would be an excellent camp for teens with a strong interest in birds, hands-on learning and a love of nature. Hog Island hosts camps for those interested in other aspects of birds, including drawing and photography or a wish to learn more about nature. Explore the Hog Island website (http://hogisland.audubon.org) to find out more.
Photo Credit: Fianna Wilde
(Oak Meadow Archives)

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Author Fianna Wilde is a senior at Oak Meadow High School. “Since I can remember, I have loved all aspects of nature. My sister Blythe, also a senior at Oak Meadow, and I used to have lunch with all of the bugs we found around our yard. Two years ago my family moved to Morro Bay, California, and that is where my love of birds took flight. From then on, birding evolved from a pastime to a passion. “

Applying to College – Make It Work for You!

By KD Maynard, Oak Meadow College Counselor
The process of applying to college can be grueling and intimidating. There’s another side to it, though – it can be a wonderful culminating activity that can wrap up your early schooling and launch you into an engaging and fulfilling college experience, later seguing into a similarly satisfying life. College is not the right path for all students leaving high school, and there are other options available, so keep an open mind as you go through this process. I encourage you to look at the process of gathering information and making a ‘what’s next’ decision as a celebration of yourself as an individual and the launchpad into the next phase of your life. It’s exciting!
If you are pursuing a college experience, here are some tips, regardless of how old you are or the nature of your aspirations:

  • The college search process is about FIT. Who are you as a student, and what is important to your?  What setting would provide the appropriate mixture of comfort and challenge, the mix of academic and non-academic options, and so on?  A good college search involves a lot of introspection and prioritizing; first looking inside, and then researching programs to best accommodate identified needs.
  • Isolate criteria that are most important to you, the student. There are myriad features to consider. Look at the content of the academic programs and other options, the campus climate, the sense of community and connection, and so on. For one student, a large international population will be essential; for another, a hands-on engineering program; for another, proximity to home or perhaps a city; for another, the ability to make one’s own decisions about curriculum. Figure out what’s important to you, and go after it!
    Photo Credit: Charlie Siegel (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo Credit: Charlie Siegel
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  • Plan ahead. Regardless of how soon you will be applying to college, there are points to consider and steps to take to position yourself for the best result. Check out recommended (or required) high school course programs, “normed” options (e.g., standardized test scores or college courses that evaluate your learning against a larger population and can also put you in competition for scholarship money), your state’s regulations regarding diplomas, and – vitally important – the comprehensive documentation of your learning over time.   
  • Research. Explore what’s out there, track what looks interesting or promising, tap into multiple sources of primary and secondary information about schools and programs. Familiarize yourself with the structure of colleges, the steps to the application process, and the characteristics of places that ‘feel right’ and those that don’t.  These are all part of an organic process that takes time to gestate and grow. Start anytime, and don’t skimp. It’s an investment in your future.
  • Strategize. If you do this research thoroughly, you’ll be able to make strategic decisions, such as whether to apply early to a school, whether to apply to a selective major or just seek entry to the school, or whether there’s any possibility you might be able to afford to attend a school with a scary price tag. It’s an iterative process of ruling options in and ruling them out, and it’s best to keep opportunities open for as long as you can.
    Photo Credit: Anabell Corwin (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo Credit: Anabell Corwin
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  • As a homeschooler or a student who didn’t follow a cookie-cutter educational path, you bear a certain burden of responsibility. Don’t assume that admissions people understand homeschooling or the choices you’ve made. You need to educate them! Provide ample documentation (e.g., syllabi, reading lists, and project descriptions). If offered an interview, DO IT and be prepared with an ‘elevator speech’ about your educational choices and why you are primed and ready for college. You WILL stand out as a student who is accustomed to making choices and pursuing them . . . but you need to paint the picture for the admissions office.
  • Don’t succumb to sticker-shock. College educations are expensive – startlingly so. But don’t dismiss a school you love because of the price tag. Dig deeper. Look at the average cost of attendance (‘tuition discounting’ often brings down the cost of attendance, even for students who don’t qualify for financial aid) and put yourself out there. Be realistic and apply for schools you know you can afford, but if you’re excited about a costly school, give it a whirl. My daughter was able to attend a private liberal arts college halfway across the country for less out-of-pocket than attending her state school (where my job afforded her a tuition waiver). It can happen!
  • Recognize the value of the college search process, and take time to appreciate it. Yes, you can approach it as an annoying hassle unworthy of your time, but that won’t change the fact that you have to go through it if you want to get a college education. Accept the challenge to look closely at yourself and what you want next; savor and share your high school successes; and position yourself to be a motivated, curious and eager college student. Keep looking until you find that college that will ‘fit you like a glove.’    

Oak Meadow’s free college counseling webinars are geared to address various segments of the college search and application process in detail. We aim to provide background and recommendations, regardless of where you are in the college search process. Join us!


KD Maynard’s professional experience has revolved around assisting high school and early college students to find a fit in their choice of college and academic program, thereby enabling them to engage fully and to successfully meet their goals. She has held roles in college admissions, college counseling and financial aid, academic advising, teacher training and curriculum development, and administrative/leadership positions. She has worked at Brown University, World Learning, Marlboro College, The Putney School, Community College of Vermont, and University of Massachusetts Amherst. KD’s liberal arts background (AB from Brown and MALS from Dartmouth ) provides her with a worldview that seeks to make connections between and among people, ideas, and a sense of a greater good.

12 Ways to be Flexible During Your Homeschool Day

If you’re a student who is learning at home, congratulations! There are so many ways you can benefit from the flexibility that home learning allows. Here are a few possibilities. Can you think of any others?

  1. Follow your body’s rhythms. Go to bed when it feels right, then wake up when your body is done resting. If you need a mid-day nap, go ahead and take one.
  2. Wear whatever you like. Stay in your pajamas all day if you want! There are no dress codes when you’re learning at home.
    Photo Credit: Kim Bessent (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo Credit: Kim Bessent
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  3. Get comfortable! Choose any room in the house or a nice spot outdoors. Put your feet up if you want to. Find a quiet spot without distractions. You know your needs best.
  4. Organize your day as it makes sense to you. If you are sharpest in the morning, concentrate on academics at that time of day. If you’re a night owl, save your work for when you feel most alert.
  5. Set your own pace. Skim over topics you already have experience with, and spend as much time as you need on topics that are challenging or unfamiliar. If you get excited about something, dig deep and enjoy! Take your time when that feels right. You are the captain of this ship.
  6. Get up and move around! If you’ve been sitting and focusing on academics for awhile and you start feeling antsy, put down your work and go outside for some fresh air and exercise.
    Photo Credit: The Allen Family (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo Credit: The Allen Family
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  7. Eat when you are hungry. Put off breakfast if you want to. No need to wait for lunchtime to roll around if you get hungry sooner than that. Snack at will. Listen to your body!
  8. Make the most of your energy highs and lows. Optimize your productivity by working hard when your energy level is high and giving yourself a break when you need to take it easy. There’s no external schedule to follow, so you can mold your work flow to your needs.
  9. Enjoy a change of scenery. You have the freedom to take your work anywhere you go! Take advantage of the opportunity to travel and explore. Even if you stick close to home, you can get out and work in the library or a cafe or a beautiful park.
  10. Visit popular spots when crowds are smallest. Weekends and afterschool hours are notoriously busy for libraries, museums, historical sites, and other attractions. Show up on a Monday morning and you may just have the place to yourself.
    Photo Credit: Wendy Hawkins (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo Credit: Wendy Hawkins
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  11. Integrate life with learning. Balance your academic work with the other kinds of work that are important – housework, animal care, community service, volunteer work, and/or a paid job if you have one. Your role in your family and community are just as important as your role as a student.
  12. Relax! There’s no hurry to go anywhere. Put your feet up and enjoy the peace and quiet while you learn at your own pace and in your own way.
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