Kate Carlisle ([email protected])

WATERVILLE, Maine—Colby College students, who already have access to unparalleled cross-disciplinary learning, now have more opportunities to enhance their education outside the traditional classroom—on the coast of Maine. New partnerships with the Up East foundation on Allen Island and the Herring Gut Learning Center in Port Clyde will turn these Maine treasures into learning laboratories and provide unique experiences in multiple subject areas and topics.

A road on Allen Island

A road on Allen Island (click to enlarge)

Allen Island, a private island owned by Up East Incorporated, a Wyeth family foundation, will be the site of classes studying the chemistry and ecology of Muscongus Bay, creating documentary films and understanding the cultural geography of Maine, and much more as Colby faculty members develop courses that make use of this incredible resource. Colby students working at the Herring Gut Learning Center, a school serving the communities of the St. George peninsula, will explore the ways alternative education can improve the trajectories of young people and, ultimately, an entire community.

“These new partnerships offer innovative opportunities for students and faculty at Colby to expand their scholarly work and make important contributions that will impact Maine and far beyond,” said President David A. Greene. “This is another example of how being located in this beautiful state makes it possible for Colby to offer educational experiences that don’t exist anywhere else. We’re especially grateful to the foundations, and the Wyeth family, for supporting these exciting initiatives.”

The 450-acre, largely uninhabited former fishing island in southern Muscongus Bay was purchased by the Wyeth family in 1979. In addition to its compelling natural landscape (including potential prehistoric sites), the island has facilities for research, classwork, and overnight stays for students and faculty.  

“I am delighted that Colby College and Up East have developed an agreement to establish a multidisciplinary educational program on Allen Island,” said painter Jamie Wyeth. “Since the time my mother, Betsy James Wyeth, formed Up East, it has been her goal to create opportunities for fishermen to interact with marine scientists, for archeologists to interact with historians, and to support the community and residents of the mid-coastal region of Maine. The relationship with Colby promises to do all that and more.”

As a site for teaching and learning, Allen Island provides opportunities across the disciplines, in the humanities and interdisciplinary studies as well as in the natural sciences. This semester students in an American studies digital humanities course are studying the cultural history of coastal communities. A cinema studies class has visited the island to create a documentary film on the lobster industry. Geology students are studying formations on the shoreline, and, under the direction of Dr. Frank and Theodora Miselis Professor of Chemistry D. Whitney King, students will build a long-term climate monitoring station on Allen Island and use the island infrastructure to monitor water column properties, current, and sea state in Muscongus Bay.

Students at Herring Gut Learning Center walk along the shore

Students at Herring Gut Learning Center walk along the shore (click to enlarge)

The partnership adds to the potential of a recent $800,000 grant to Colby from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for an environmental humanities initiative.

The Herring Gut Learning Center in Port Clyde, founded in 1997 by Phyllis Wyeth, offers local students hands-on study and experience in aquaculture and marine science, including work on a kelp farm and in a salt-water laboratory. Colby students will work with Herring Gut students and in the center’s outreach programs that train participants in the preservation and economic development of coastal communities.

“This collaboration will provide additional educational opportunities to the more than 200 students from our area who we teach,” said Ann Boover, lead teacher at Herring Gut. “It’s very exciting.”

Up East was founded by Betsy Wyeth to support environmental and ecological research, preservation and education in order to promote the natural habitats of fish, wildlife and the forests of mid-coast Maine.