My Week at Hog Island
Text and Photos by Morgan Occhuizzo
The week I spent at the National Audubon center on Hog Island Maine is an experience that will forever impact my instruction. The trip reaffirmed my belief in the power of outdoor education for children and adults of all ages.
Reaching Hog Island isn’t easy. It is an isolated and special place where cell phones don’t work and there is no need for the Internet. Teachers spend their week immersed in the natural world. You reach Hog Island by traveling down a short gravel road where a weather beaten Puffin sign greets you and reaffirms that you are indeed in the right place.
The sight of the island makes you stop, take a deep breath, and reflect on the beauty that surrounds you. As you board the small boat and are transported to the island you are greeted by the smell of the locally sourced food being made in the cafeteria as well as the sight of the Fish House, a weather beaten gathering hall that has seen the likes of famous naturalists such as Rachel Carson and Roger Peterson.
My home for the week was a house called the Port Hole. The modest accommodations are all you need. Most of your time is spent soaking in the beauty that surrounds you.
We were awoken in the morning and called to meals by the chime of the large dinner bell that sits in the middle of the island. Going to and from the Fish House campers are treated to the sight of the Ospreys and their young as they flew two and fro above us.
Each day was structured around your individual interests. Some of the amazing activities I chose through the week included a nighttime exploration of insects and bats. We learned about the multitude of creatures around us and were lucky to see and hear bats flying over us in the evening.
We engaged in a bioluminescence activity at night, star gazed over the pitch black Maine coastline, listened to the sound of birds in a pristine coniferous forest, and captured skeleton shrimp in the bay. We used skeins and learned about the amazing creatures swimming around the Maine coast, boiled and ate fresh periwinkles on the beach, and hiked around to learn about native plants and animals.
One of my favorite experiences from the week was a trip to a bog! We hiked about a mile and a half through the woods without a trail to an isolated bog. We walked along the sphagnum moss and explored the amazing plant life around us including bunch berries, bog orchids, and wild cranberries. If you stepped off the sphagnum moss you sank up to your waste into the bog. Many campers lost shoes and other items in the water. It was completely worth a lost shoe or two to experience walking through a bog.
I came back from my trip invigorated and excited to share the knowledge from Hog Island with other teachers. I have since moved into an Administrative position so I will be able to share my story and lessons learned with a multitude of educators. I left Hog Island knowing that I would be back again. The Audubon Society offers a week long family camp each summer. When my daughters become a bit older we plan to take them on this amazing journey into the natural world.