On March 29, the Russell Scholars gathered together with Lisa Hibl, director of the Russell Scholars Program, and traveled to Hawkes Preserve in Gorham. The academic group was led through the trails by Brenna Crothers, who works for the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust and knows the trails well. The trails wind all the way along the Presumpscot River, including the Cumberland and Oxford Canals. While giving the Russell Scholars a tour of the trails, Crothers made sure to explain the different types of trees, plants, tracks, and signs of animals.
After the Russell Scholars were led through the trails with a group of 5th graders, a group of 3rd graders went on the trails, led by Allie Rimkunas, an art teacher at Great Falls Elementary School. Each child took a sketchbook on the trail, so they could sketch what they saw in nature. The children were encouraged to stop and observe the nature around them, allowing them to take time to later draw what they saw in better detail. These books would be used to help the kids write nature poems with the Russell Scholars on April 10.
On April 10, a group of 2nd graders joined a large number of Russell Scholars. Their art teacher was very energetic, fun, and colorful. The poems written by the kids will be combined up into one big poem, which will be included in a book about all of the land trusts across the state of Maine, with one specific chapter on the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust. The children were worried about beetles and ticks during the exploration, shouting warnings of danger to one another. However, they did get to enjoy watching turtles come out of hibernation in between their moments of fear. On this excursion, the kids were asked to write about different parts of nature that were visible to them, and a question that they had about nature. They were then asked to answer their questions in their poems.
“It’s important to explain that this is a collaboration between not just Russell Scholars and Great Falls Elementary, but an initiative including the Presumpscot River Land Trust. The end goal is that the kids’ poems about the trail right at their school will be published next year in a book alongside info about the land trust itself. Proceeds from book sales directly benefit the land trusts. In other words, this is environmental activism” says Hibl. The poems project is a part of Writing the Land, “a collaboration between poets and protected lands.” The poems are written by poets who are inspired by the land preserves and want to share that inspiration with others.
The Hawkes Preserve Trails are open to the public and offer many activities. These activities include hiking, running, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Directions for the trails can be found on their website. The listed rules for the trails are no hunting, picking up after yourself, and bringing out what you bring in. The trail is one mile and the difficulty is considered easy. The trail can be accessed from two points, Tow Path Trailhead at the end of Route 202 in Gorham, or Great Falls School Trailhead at the back of the school parking lot.