To get to the mid-coast, you travel by car for hours either up from New Hampshire or down from Canada, depending on where you enter Maine… navigate your sailboat around peninsulas as you make your way up the coast… fly by jet into Bangor or small plane into Trenton… or hike the Appalachian Trail as far as Monson, turn right, and walk a couple more days.
Once in Blue Hill, you head up Tenney Hill, taking a three quarter turn around the roundabout, and then go just a third of a mile down South Street. Arriving at school, you’ll find a 65-acre campus, most of it undeveloped with an abundance of wildlife including deer, bear, foxes, squirrels, rabbits, small rodents, and just as many birds and insects. The driveway is dirt and gravel, and sweeps you up to the heart of the school’s campus.
There are seven school buildings, one can hold over 300 people, another a handful of students, and still others offer teaching spaces for groups of 25. The school has a rugged soccer field, legendary outdoor basketball court, and pretty pathways between buildings, all of which are surrounded by extensive woods and fields. There are gardens and still more gardens; right now, you’ll find 88 saplings in the tree nursery, 95 rows of spinach in the greenhouse, 65 newly-planted native trees and shrubs, and six very happy chickens. The defining feature of our school’s landscape is children, 101 of them to be exact, who stand as a school, as a class, as friends, and as individuals.
Driving is a way of life in rural Maine, and this is how most Bay School students come and go. Those who live in Blue Hill can get to school in a few minutes. But many travel from quite far away, driving in the early hours of inky winter mornings and bright spring dawns to be at school by 8 a.m. This year we come from 14 towns and like most Mainers, travel for miles (as many as 40 miles one way) to get to school. More than 20 students of all ages ride the bus to and from Ellsworth every day. During sports season we launch well-planned carpools to practice and games.
Some of the children’s families have lived in this area for generations, while others are new to town. Parents bring a wealth of ideas and experience to the Bay School and are employed in a range of professions, such as administrator, arborist, architect, artist, builder, designer, doctor, engineer, entrepreneur, farmer, filmmaker, fisherman, homemaker, horticulturalist, hotelier, landscaper, lawyer, librarian, musician, nurse, pilot, psychologist, restaurateur, shopkeeper, teacher, waitress, web designer, writer, and many more. As Bay School parents, these vivid men and women engage in all kinds of activities on behalf of the school from baking, driving, digging, building, provisioning, chaperoning, hauling, planning, to sewing, knitting, and reading with students. They specialize in a few interesting things too, like milling apples to produce cider (almost 100 gals every year!) to benefit the school. Some contribute hours and hours of volunteer time serving on board committees.
A few more things about us...Our school mascot is a gryphon, the mythological creature, part lion, part eagle. We find it a good conversation starter. The Bay School doesn’t have a school song, but a bunch of songs that we sing around the year, every year, celebrating the seasons and important events such as graduation. We have a costume for just about anything. There is even a very large dragon, animated by students once a year, who otherwise leads a quiet life in the Emlen Hall basement.
What makes the Bay School, well, the Bay School, is the synergy between how the children play and learn and how we grow as a school. In other words, how a fairy house becomes a fort, which becomes a school project, which, after many more manifestations, becomes something very real like a new classroom. In the end, it’s those little, beautiful parts of our story, like a child’s name, or a teeny, tiny oak sapling in the tree nursery, or even a madcap rooster who cock-a-doodle-doos at the strangest times of day, that truly animate the Bay School.
And, by the way, our favorite color is purple.