Wonderful organization that does well by the local and broader community it serves. Takes its mission of environmental education and creating nurturing learning environment seriously and succeeds.
If you are looking for an organization dedicated to environmental education for students of all ages, look no further than the 501(c)(3) Chewonki Foundation in Wiscasset, Maine. It will meet your highest expectations (as it has mine), whether your interest is in a summer camp for boys or girls on a 400n acre Roger Tory Peterson Sanctuary on the Maine coast, or to study up-to-date methods to conserve energy. Programs, led by well trained knowledgeable leaders, stress community building and foundation owned properties throughout Maine offer many ecological habitats for study. They are reached by hikes, boats and kayaks.
It has been a pleasure to be associated with Chewonki for over over 70 years as a camper, counselor, board member and advisor. My time there led to advanced degrees and professional positions in environmental education.
Thanks for being our 200th reviewer Renny!
Chewonki offers campers and students opportunities to unplug, reflect, learn and grow. My sons have had the challenging and rewarding experience of participating in Wilderness Trips. And we have a soon-to-be-Semester student in the house!
I had the privilege of volunteering in the Development Office for about 3 weeks. I remain impressed w/ Chewonki's crystal clear mission statement, generous scholarship awards and the exceptional quality of people that Chewonki attracts and retains.
Chewonki fosters an appreciation for the simple things, for the environment, for meeting a challenge head on, and for living and working in community with others. This appreciation often shifts a person's (especially a young person's) entire worldview. This is the magic of Chewonki. You hear over and over and over again: former Chewonki participants say that Chewonki has changed their lives. It changed my life.
Never before have I been a part of such a caring and thoughtful community. Both camps (in Wiscasset and at Fourth Debsconeag) attract the most interesting and inspiring people from all around the globe, and I am honored to say that I worked there for two summers. Every trip leader and staff person I have met at Chewonki puts all of their energy and passion into each day.
The Chewonki Foundation is an exceptional community filled with beautiful people. I hope to return to Chewonki as a trip leader again. I would hope too that those unfamiliar to this place would come and join us for the days to come!
My experience at Chewonki changed my life. After graduating from their semester program, I went on to join their Girls Camp leadership program and later became staff. The lessons that I learned at Chewonki will stay with me forever; more than technical wilderness skills, I learned how to listen, to create and foster community, and to lead others to their own self-discovery. All this because of the outstanding staff and programming at Chewonki.
Chewonki is a fantastic organization that I hope to stay involved with. One of their programs is a Semester School for high school juniors, of which I was a student this past spring. It was one of the best things I've ever done!
The Chewonki Foundation changed the way I will live my life forever. I went for a semester last year and learned about the importance of finding my true self, exploring the world, how to truly enjoy learning, and it taught me so much about agriculture. The people that are a part of this Foundation have hearts bigger than anyone I have ever met. They are experts in what they teach and their goal is to truly better this world and create leaders that will make a change. I will always go back to Chewonki knowing it is my home and where I found people that cared whole heartedly about me and the things I love. A feeling like that does not come easily and requires a lot of thought and skill. This is such a wonderful foundation in every way shape and form.
The Chewonki Foundation has educated and inspired young people for almost 100 years! I was a student in a year-round program in 1975, a wilderness trip participant, a wilderness trip leader and now a board member. Much of what I did in my professional and academic life hails back to what I learned about myself and the interests I developed at Chewonki. The foundation has a wonderful, vast campus and fantastic staff. Its teachers lead by example to impart their reverence and knowledge of the natural world, high school academics, wilderness adventures and leadership - the list goes on. I, like most folks who've had the good fortune of being in a program at Chewonki, was transformed by my experiences there.
No doubt Chewonki changed my life. Granted, I am one to believe that every experience you have changes your life in some way, but Chewonki changed mine in a significant and positive way. I have experienced the organization in a few different capacities: I was a semester student during my junior year of high school--a program that provides value for almost anyone, from anywhere. We worked and learned and explored in atypical ways, and I will certainly never forget those four months. I keep in touch with my classmates and teachers equally. Secondly, I participated in Chewonki's Wilderness Leadership Expedition during the summer after the Semester School. I got a taste of what is a virtually unmatched wilderness trip program for teens, and was able to learn a great deal about white water canoeing technique, as well as leadership skills and wilderness medical training. It sounds cliché but I think I'm going to say it anyway: Chewonki builds an extremely strong bond among its community, such that wherever I go, if I meet a Chewonki person, I know we will have more than enough to talk about
Chewonki changed my life, and I know it will continue to change the lives of others for decades to come.
I worked for Chewonki for three summers at their boys camp. It changed my life. It's hard to put into words, but I will never forget my experiences there.
I participated in their semester program as a junior in high school, and I've gone to visit several times since -- the organization encourages development of an authentic self, and they still remember me and treat me like family. The experience taught me to believe in the inherent value of my individuality, and to recognize my capacity to work for socially responsible changes in the world. It drove me to alter my list of colleges to apply to, switch majors, and pursue a career path I wouldn't have considered before.
Chewonki has had a profound influence on my life and three of my children as well.
When I think of my years as a camper and counselor two words come to mind joy and core values. From its very beginnings in 1915, the people who serve this incredible organization as teachers, volunteers, cooks, managers, etc. have found ways to expose participants to the joy of being with and learning from the lessons nature provides. We have all benefited from the experiences of jointing together in community to become better responsible citizens.
I recommend a Chewonki experience to anyone seeking a safe place where people genuinely care for each other while providing ample room for joyful experience and personal growth.
Not many organizations stay in business for a hundred years. I takes a successful track record to stay in business this long. And with the continuing support of all those who are touched by its good work I pray for another successful 100 years.
I have been associated with Chewonki for over 50 years as a camper, employee, board member and now an advisory board member. Operating a boys camp, girls camp, co-ed wilderness trips, a semester school for high school juniors and an outreach natural history program that reaches thousands of students each year school,the organaztion provides a foundation for young people to grow, mature, learn and interact in the natural world around them. Lessons learned here have been passed on from generation to generation as well as world wide.
I have been volunteering since November 2011. I come to Chewonki for one day(sometimes two) a week to help create The Chewonki Archives. Chewonki was founded almost one hundred years ago. It is a really fun project as we have amazing albums, photographs, the papers of the founder Clarence Allen, plus movies, audio and memorabilia. All the staff at Chewonki are so positive and enthusiastic, it is a joy to be part of the organization. As I am there so much, I have gotton to know many people and work together. Chewonki lives the values that it is teaching, and being part of that is what makes volunteering at Chewonki great. We listen to each other and respect each other. The people that work at Chewonki are cheerful, caring and always ready to help each other and pitch in. We have dish crew where everyone takes turns cleaning up after lunch. Usually 5 people have signed up and its actually really fun, because everyone is working together in harmony.
We discovered Chewonki for our sons through Boys Camp and Wilderness Trips. Not only did the boys have a great time through repeat programs but they also learned about themselves, the natural world, and the community of people - especially counselors and program directors - who loved their company and their universe, who formed honest, personal relations with the boys. We now have personal experience with nearly all of Chewonki's programs through the friends and family we have introduced to its programs. I became involved to give back but it's Chewonki that gives back so generously to me. My hope as a board member is that we can keep Chewonki strong - and help make it even stronger - while making its programs available to even more children, teens and adults. Chewonki is a superb advocate for a joyful but also a thoughtful, intentional relationship to social communities and the natural world. The world needs Chewonki and I am so very honored to be a small part of such a powerful and transformative organization. There are many best parts of Chewonki but one of the very best of all that superiority is the people.
What makes Chewonki a great organization is the people who lead it, and the space where you are when you help at Chewonki. My most memorable afternoon in recent years was when I turned myself over to the staff at the farm and did what I was told. I had a chance to help prepare a field (and learn the difference between rock walls in New England), collect eggs from the hens (and have one for breakfast the next day) and milk a cow! The sky above us that beautiful afternoon is not one I will soon forget. And the lessons I learned from Megan are not soon forgotten!
Chewonki is an amazing place where children and adults can learn more about the natural world and the future of sustainability while also learning more about themselves! The organization is filled with dedicated professionals who spend endless amounts of time and energy improving the environment around them.
Chewonki simply does good work. My experience with Chewonki includes attending the Chewonki Semester School, leading wilderness trips, and serving as an Advisor. More than any other organization I have encountered Chewonki does one critical thing very well. It is conscientious and intentional about pursuing programs that achieve its mission. While this may be a high-level success, it is extremely rare among non-profits and for-profits alike. Luckily for its students, the adherence to Chewonki's mission comes without pretension or dogma, and it translates into extremely impactful, educational, and fun experiences in the outdoors. I don't know anyone who has left their Chewonki experience without feeling enriched and challenged to live a more intentional and conscientious life of their own.
I'm the parent of a Chewonki Semester School student - that was over 20 years ago. Chewonki changed my son's life. He learned what it means to be a trusted member of a community, learned to be a steward of the natural world, and found an outlet for his quirky sense of humor. I'm happy to say that he never recovered from the experience. He returned to work as a camp counselor for many years, a math intern, and the IT person. My husband and I have been Chewonki enthusiasts for years, and two years ago I became an Advisor to the organization. I've heard wonderful things about the girl's camp, and look forward to seeing granddaughter become a camper. Chewonki manages to stay true to its mission while at the same time keeping pace with changes in technology, educational pedagogy, and environmental pressures. It is just a magnificent organization!
My daughter was part of semester 46 and it changed her life. The opportunity to meet 40 other top students and learn to live with and for each other and our planet resulted in a wonderful self confidence that has and will serve her well for the rest of her life. Chopping the wood for their cabin wood stove, gathering eggs and milking the cow for breakfast, working on global warming issues - forming a community of caring, well educated stewards to lead their generation in finding solutions to problems my generation and prior have wrestled with is a great outcome of the Chewonki experience.
Chewonki changes lives. I first became involved with Chewonki as a young teacher more than twenty years ago, and I think of the lessons I learned there as my second graduate degree, or far better, the place that best taught me about how to treat other people, how to pursue intellectual passions, and how to better live in balance with the natural world. I was always an outdoorsy person, but Chewonki taught me to look at and listen to the natural world with more precise senses just as it taught me how to be a caring teacher and a hardworking colleague. Chewonki is always my gold standard for what it means to work in a healthy job, but more than that, it defines what a strong, vibrant community can be.
Currently I have 58 years of Chewonki under my belt. My outlook on life and personal rules of community were learned and developed from my experiences at this organization. I have had children who have experienced and been changed by Chewonki. Currently, I have a grandson who took up white water kayaking at Chewonki only now to find himself accepted by professional kayakers on the west coast. His ability to interact, learn from and be fully accepted by these professional is due to the lessons from Chewonki. I have also helped several Maine islanders to take various programs at Chewonki and have been amazed by their professional development and love of learning due to this organization. Through the years I am continually amazed to watch how the Chewonki experience seeps into the psyche of all who experience this amazing organization.
I have been involved on the board for over 10 years and was a camper in the 1960s. My sons have been wildness trippers and my daughter a semester school graduate. I can say unequivocally that Chewonki changes lives and it does so in all of its programs. It reaches thousands of young people every year and instills in them a love of nature; teaches them responsible stewardship of our natural resources; leadership skills and respect for others.
There is something for every young person at Chewonki. They will be a better person for it.
Where do I start raving about Chewonki? I was a 4 year tripper and before that went to Chewonki's old sister camp, ALC for 5 years. My experience at Chewonki started even before that. My mom worked in the offices there, and as a kid, there was nothing I would rather than run around campus with the other staff kids, playing games in the woods and sneaking popsicles from the kitchen. The 2 years that she worked there were some of the best of my childhood. I also did the vacation day camps every year, at least twice year, for probably 3 years. I remember falling into the farm's duck pond, building igloos, playing Camouflage in the woods, and assembling the skeleton of a whale. Not only was I getting incredible hands on learning experience from a young age, I also was having the time of my life. The same was true when I was on wilderness trips. I started on a trip that has since been stopped due to the founding of the Chewonki Girls Camp (which I can't say I have any experience with). It was an all girls 3 week canoeing trip. We lived in a yurt on base camp of 2 weeks, while doing day paddles, and then canoed down river for the last week. It was the perfect transition for me. After that trip, I wanted to challenge myself more, so for the next three years, I did a different type of trip every year. Sea kayaking, white water kayaking, and a hiking/canoeing combo trip were my choices. Those trips led me to some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life. My leaders were inspiring, approachable, funny and super caring on every trip. My trip mates, despite differences in social status, age, and race, all bonded together as a family. On trips, you are a part of something bigger than you realize. After a few days, you fall so easily into your new trip life that you don't realize that is making a stronger, more thoughtful, and happier version of yourself. Even when a day seems like the worst you've ever had, you'll wake up in morning knowing that you made it through and that gives a feeling that is indescribably empowering. I had my fair share of tough days on every trip. My first year, while portaging a canoe for a couple miles, me and my partner lost our grips and the canoe came tumbling down.. on my face. Though my nose has never looked quite as straight, I look back on that day and laugh about how miserable I was, because I know that it really wasn't that bad of a day after the pain stopped. My experience at Chewonki really shaped me into a better person, with a love for everything around me. Despite the fact that I haven't been able to do trips for the past two years, I still carry everything I've learned with me. Chewonki gave me a sense of motivation and personal strength that has benefited my life in every way. I hope to work there next summer as support staff at the boys camp, so that I can give back at least a fraction of the amazing guidance I received as a camper, and to be able to be surround the strongest, happiest community I have ever been a part of once again. To all parents and prospective campers that have managed to read all the way through this, I want you to know that Chewonki has a place for everyone. The best choice I ever made was going, and finding out just how life changing a summer camp can really be.
My son will attend Chewonki for his third summer this year. It has been a fabulous experience for him. He has grown from an awkward, impulsive, quirky little boy, into a helpful, compassionate, and responsible 13 year old who has the confidence to try new things, make new friends, and express his ideas. Each year his councilors and activity leaders have serve as amazing positive role models for him as he explores his developing self. He will tell anyone who is listing that he love's Chewonki. Over the past few years, he has learned to eat salad, how to manage his emotions when hiking and discovering you are NOT there yet, found his power in a paddle, and a love of Archery. We're excited to see what stories he returns with this summer!
Review of Chewonki Camp for Girls. Our daughter attended this camp in the summer of 2009. We would NOT recommend this camp. Unlike the Boy’s Camp, the Girl’s Camp is far more rigid with emphasis on areas one would not expect. Focusing on a girl’s willingness to try what the camp defines as delicious food rather than a girl developing independence to make one’s own choices is one example. We will focus on the rigid rules around food because it is unexpected when one is choosing a camp and this rigidity extends to other aspects of how the girl’s camp is run.
Food was a particular concern of ours due to a diagnosed medical condition diagnosed at a leading Children’s Hospital that limits the variety of foods our daughter can eat. She needs simply cooked foods with no spices or strong textures. The camp director, Genell Vashro, said that alternatives would be provided to her.
While the camp did provide alternative to vegans, it did not to our daughter. Instead, we assume the director made a judgment that our daughter’s condition was actually pickiness and arrogantly thought that by forcing our daughter to eat the camp’s food, her condition would disappear. Even when a food made her physically ill, she was forced to eat that same food again several days later in front of the entire camp. Our daughter adopted a dangerous strategy to eat little until a food appeared that she could tolerate and then she binged. Our daughter was not alone she said. Many girls who did not like the food also did a mild form of fasting and binging.
The director assumes that girls who do not like the camp’s unusual food need “weaning off their addiction to sugar and their expectation of a processed-food diet.” We suspect that most, if not all, parents who choose to send their girls to a remote wilderness camp are not feeding their children a processed food diet. Be sure to read “Food meets Philosophy” in the fall 2009 newsletter (http://www.chewonki.org/alumni/thechronicle.asp) to understand the policies. We were surprised that the girls receive letters at the end of the summer assessing whether they ate the food heartily. Our daughter’s letter read: “Sometimes you were a bit reluctant to try new things such as food. We hope that you realize and appreciate where our food comes from, and will be willing to try new adventures.” We were stunned that trying new foods was important enough to make it into a letter to our daughter about her camp experience—that was certainly not one of our goals in sending her to camp!
The camp had many spoken and unspoken rules that lead to a tightly controlled environment. It was not what we hoped for in a camp: It was not a place to spread your wings.
After the summer was over, we talked to Genell Vashro, who basically dismissed our concerns. We then wrote to the president and the Chairman of the Board about our concern about their rigid approach to food as well as other aspects of the camp. For months and months, we didn’t get a reply, despite several phone calls to follow up. Finally, we did have a lengthy phone conversation with the president, who listened and said he would follow up with us, which he never did. (This was more than 3 months ago.) So we don’t know if the camp has implemented any changes. We hope it has, particularly since it is dealing with girls at a vulnerable age when eating disorders emerge for so many.
It is my strong belief that the summer camp at Chewonki is a bedrock of environmental education. Providing solid information and hands-on learning about the environment and the impact you have on it begins at camp. My grandson spent his first sleepaway at Chewonki this past summer and is returning along with his younger brother because he thrived on this experience. Spending so much time outdoors and learning how important it is to be kind to the environment and the benefits for everyone as a result. When you live in the city you lose a sense of nature at work and the Chewonki experience was a springboard to understanding how vital it is to know your environment. Sharing this information with children at an early age is key to a successful experience for them. In my case, it was extraordinary. Most summer camps concentrate heavily on competitive sports and the refreshing program at Chewonki provides children of all ages an opportunity to learn and respect the earth. I might add, the staff at Chewonki is superb. After a Chewonki summer session the camper is undoubtedly a better educated and happier individual. With a Chewonki attitude the world will be a sweeter place.
Even two years after my semester ended, I cannot overestimate Chewonki's importance to me. I had never before been in a community that upheld and taught its values with such genuine enthusiasm, nor had I before been challenged so to support what I believe.
The months I spent living at Chewonki still rank as among the best of my life. I had no idea what to expect from the semester when I arrived. What I found was an entirely new way of thinking about the world and about my life. I was able to step outside the frantic, competitive world I was raised in, and I gained an immense new understanding of what really matters to me: community, meaningful work, natural beauty. Thanks to MCS, I've spent countless hours over the past two years working for the environment, and I plan to spend the rest of my life doing the same. But, more importantly, thanks to MCS, I've discovered how to live a better life. I'm happier, more confident, more open to new experiences. I couldn't have ever found that without MCS: without the walks in the woods, the community meals, the intense class discussions of philosophy and history alongside with lessons in gardening and woodstoves and sailing.
Chewonki changed my life starting at age 9. My first experience was as a camper and it left me with a profound appreciation for nature and a significant boost in self-confidence. It was the first place that I ever strapped on a backpack and hiked several sections of the Appalachian trail. They also took me to remote island off the coast of Maine with a naturalists who could identify just about everything we saw, from plants to birds, to species in tidal pools. I later returned with a school group and then worked there as a counselor. With each step I've taken deeper into the organization, I have been more and more impressed. The quality of education they provide, the sincerity and drive of the hard working staff and the vision that they both teach and live is inspiring and impact-full. Chewonki is a spectacular, top-notch organization, well deserving of every accolade it receives!
Right from the start, Chewonki worked towards fostering a close community of students and teachers. Together, we developed a sense of unity and comfort between all members of Chewonki, such that anyone could take a seat at any table at a mealtime and feel included. The relationships developed between students and teachers, advisers, and other faculty have proved to be long-lasting and meaningful, months after the semester ended. The knowledge I gained at Chewonki, from identifying bird calls to graphing sinusoidal curves, from learning how to milk a cow to the details of American economy during the Civil War, and from lighting a woodstoves to whitewater kayaking, all came from a great experience. Chewonki has taught me countless lessons that extend beyond sustainability, transforming me into a more valuable member of any new community.
I spent four months at the Chewonki Semester School and had the opportunity to learn and participate in a lot of what the Chewonki foundation does. It is truly a remarkable organization. During my time there, I identified countless trees, worked at the Outreach program feeding birds whose names I had recently learned, read
Chewonki was one of the most formative experiences of my life. As a Maine Coast Semester student, I learned 80 birds by their calls and plumage, gathered eggs from the hens in the morning, read and discussed one of my favourite books of all time (the Beak of the Finch), ate 'close to the earth' and participated in building a respectful and loving community. My time at Chewonki shapes my decisions until this day, in my academic and career path, my consumption choices, and my feeling of connection to the natural world.
The Maine Coast Semester succeeded in creating one more steward of the environment in our daughter, thanks to her wonderful experience as a student there during the fall of 1994. The dedication of the staff, the unique location, and the mission all conspire in a way that has been perfected to make this happy event a natural occurrence.