THOMASTON, MAINE – On October 24th, nine 8th grade students and five adult leaders embarked on an educational expedition to explore the cultural, historical, and environmental impact of the paper mill industry in Maine, all while learning about photography. The program is called Photo Treks, and is offered to 8th grade students in the second year of their six-year Trekkers experience.
Photo Treks is a five-day place-based photography expedition. The program combines environmental education, digital photography and exploration with youth mentoring. Students spent four nights at Unity College, visited Maine’s Paper & Heritage Museum in Livermore Falls, and toured a former paper mill in Jay. Students also viewed a presentation by the Androscoggin River Alliance to learn about the environmental impact of the pulp and paper mill industry. Students then toured an operating mill, Great Northern Paper, in East Millinocket to learn from the company’s perspective about the pros and cons of its impact on small communities. By showing both sides of the issue, the Trekkers students were able to make up their own minds about what they think and feel regarding the many environmental and economic issues that were discussed during the expedition.
Throughout their journey, students captured the essence of the experience through digital photography. Photographer Kari Wehrs, of Maine Media Workshop in Rockport, instructed the students on camera orientation and digital photography, and assisted them in selecting their best pieces to be professionally formatted and printed. Wehrs assigned each of the students a project with specific photographic goals to work toward throughout the 5 days.
“My goals were to fill the frame. I made decisions on what I thought best described the mills. I used different angles because I’m trying to capture dimension…what I hope the viewers will learn from my work is how the mill has an effect on the people and the towns around it,” said Trekkers student Kat Howarth in her artist statement.
Program Manager and trip leader Meredith Lynt says, “What I think is the most impactful aspect of this program is the ability to expose young people to areas of Maine that they’ve never seen before and in some cases, have never even heard of before. This exposure was obtained through the first-hand stories of those who have been directly impacted in some way by the paper industry. This generates respect for our state in young people and generates a sense of responsibility to care for the people and places that make up the state of Maine.”
The students will be showcasing and selling their artwork in a local exhibit in February at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport. To see pictures and read the Trip Log, visit http://www.trekkersonline.com/expedition.php?id=117. To learn more about Photo Treks, contact Program Manager Meredith Lynt at 594-5095. To learn more about Trekkers, visit www.trekkersonline.com.
Trekkers is a non-profit outdoor-based mentoring program that connects young people with caring adults through expeditionary learning, community service and adventure-based education. Trekkers’ serves the communities of St. George, Owls Head, Cushing, South Thomaston, Thomaston, and Rockland. Seventh through twelfth grade students meet throughout the year to design their expedition around five educational components: community service, cultural awareness, wilderness exploration, environmental awareness and adventure-based education. Trekkers’ yearlong programming culminates in a 3-14 day educational expedition within the continental United States.