Beaches, Barnacles, and Bumbling Biologists

IMG_1453 (2)Dan Papscun, Class of 2018

Pictures and Video by Ezra Gudeon, Class of 2018

Waves roar and crash against the seaweed-covered rocks, scattering small groups of students from their perches near tidepools along the water’s edge. As the water recedes, they return to their vacated positions to once again stare into the small pools, where life somehow survives, despite the overwhelmingly destructive power of the ocean. Some students are more drenched by sea spray than before, save for a few tasked with watching the ocean for more large waves. They are once again completely absorbed by the tiny ecosystems within the pools. Hours later–exhausted, sore, and wet, but with high spirits–the students troop back to camp, to dry off, eat, and relax around a campfire before turning in for the night.


Every year for the last eleven years, Berkshire Waldorf High School’s senior class has traveled to Maine in the middle of September. They spend a full week on Hermit Island, a private campground along the coast, and use the time to study biology and zoology in the tidepools at the tumultuous water’s edge. Eight other Waldorf schools from the Northeast join in, so in total, there are about 110 seniors on the island for the week. When they arrive, the seniors are divided into four groups, within which they will spend most of their academic time. Each group contains students from every school, often facilitating bonds that last longer than a single week.


Each day, the schedule revolves around the tides; as tidepool study must be conducted at low tide, classes, meals, and free time are adjusted accordingly. This year, the schedule was quite forgiving, and the students only had to awaken especially early on one day. Throughout each day, the seniors attend “Main Lesson,” a 2-hour biology course, rotate through classes of watercolor painting, microscopy, beach and dune studies, and poetry writing workshops, and spend time studying the tidepools.


“My favorite aspect of the labs and Main Lesson was the mixture of science, creative expression, and art, through the exploration of what we were studying. Blending all these aspects resulted in new ways to look at the subjects,” said Solomon Bennett.


After a week of exploring the island, cooking on camp stoves, swimming in the ocean, studying biology, meeting new people, and sleeping on the ground, a welcome diversion occurred on the drive home; the entire BWHS class stopped for a steaming plate of breakfast at a local diner. The best part? They didn’t have to clean up after themselves.

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