Welcome our New Board Member

This article was originally published in CREA’s Spring 2019 newsletter.

Susan Rae-Reeves’ life and work have been motivated by community building, political action, and the spiritual connection afforded by people working for economic and racial justice and preservation of and access to the natural world. After earning a BA in religion at Bates College, Susan left Maine for NYC, pursuing a spiritual quest through study at Union Theological Seminary. Susan worked at Christianity & Crisis Magazine and the New World Foundation where social justice, civil rights and respect for the natural world were shared values and priorities. She earned an MSW at Hunter College School of Social Work and briefly managed a division of programs for homeless and street youth. Coming home to Maine in 2014, Susan is developing a new relationship with the Androscoggin River, small town life, and the outdoors. Joining the CREA board in 2019 offers an opportunity to bring all the threads together.

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What’s Special about CREA Summer Camp

This article was originally published in CREA’s Spring 2019 newsletter.

Did you know that CREA has been offering summer camp to youth in grades 1 – 8 since 2007?

This summer we’re excited to add new themes to our awesome science and art-based curriculum, engaging young minds to explore, invent, and discover the natural world that surrounds them.

We’ll be diving into Leave No Trace activities, seeing what it takes to hide in nature, and building recycled art, not to mention new games, activities, and camp songs!

Our camp programs have also grown for teens. CIT (Counselor-in-Training) sessions this summer will build leadership skills, confidence, and self-esteem. During these two-week sessions, CIT’s will work with the Camp Director to plan and lead hikes and outdoor adventures, design games and activities, and learn what it takes to be a CREA Counselor.

This summer, we also welcome Jenny Mueller, our new Camp Director, to CREA summer camp. Jenny comes to CREA with over 10 years of experience in youth and camp programming and operations. Jenny has been working with our Education Coordinators to learn about the history of CREAs summer programs and the operations of the Ecology Center.

Jenny has worked with CREA behind the scenes since last August and is thrilled to join the summer team!

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Welcome Our New Board Members

David Keffer and his wife, Jan, moved into The Highlands Retirement Community from Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 2016.  They have two children and five grandchildren split between Portland, Maine and Chicago.  His educational background includes degrees from Amherst College and the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School.  His career included time with Price Waterhouse (now PWC), CIGNA Healthcare, and work as Director of a mutual fund administrative services start-up enterprise on Wall Street, expanding to Portland, Maine.  He has always enjoyed sports, skiing, hiking, and the outdoor life, having spent a brief period in the Forest Service west of Missoula, Montana.  Dave says, “Hiking in new environments always gives us a better appreciation of the natural local geology and vegetation.” 



John Shattuck has been the Economic and Community Development Director for the Town of Topsham since 2008.  In this role, he works to retain and recruit high quality businesses and jobs to Topsham, as well as support the enhancement of community cultural and recreational amenities, including the preservation of natural areas and rural open space.  John also serves on the board and executive committee of the Midcoast Economic Development District (MCEDD), an organization he led for many years as president, advocating for regional cooperation to increase the efficiency and impact of municipal planning and economic development. John is a lifelong hiker and former Registered Maine Guide who values the restorative power of our natural environment.

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Place-Based Learning

This article was originally published in CREA’s Spring 2019 newsletter. 

Thanks to grant funding this spring from Davis Conservation Foundation, Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust, and Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust, our educators are working on a new initiative to help local teachers find ways to take their learning outdoors. We are working with teachers to develop programs that they can teach in their own school forests.

CREA’s Education Coordinators are working with all 2nd grade teachers at Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, and Williams-Cone schools to compare plant and animal diversity in habitats that are right at their own schools. We aim to support teachers toward the goals of providing more place-based, science exploration during the school day.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Valerie Chow

This article was originally published in CREA’s Spring 2019 newsletter.

If CREA is lucky enough to boast of its truly modest volunteers, who give for the sake of giving, one of them must be Valerie Chow. With a background in nursing in Aroostook County and Brunswick, her nurturing side comes through in the ways that she now interacts with children, individuals, and families as one of CREA’s stellar volunteers.

Chow muses that “CREA came into my life, and vice-versa, when I moved to Highland Green in 2014 with my husband, Alroy.” With 11 grandchildren between ages 13 and 29, she has little free time in her retirement.

But, like golfing and photography, a favorite retirement pastime of Valerie’s is, “walking the CREA trails, experiencing the change of seasons, seeing what’s new and exciting… like now, looking forward to the proliferation of wildflowers.” Valerie’s many beautiful photographs appear in CREA’s newsletters and multi-media galleries.

Chow’s favorite part of CREA is the amazing array of year-round programs for people of all ages: “CREA programming teaches children and adults, is free, and fosters diversity.” She adds that, “CREA Summer Camps for grades 1 through 8 are a wonderful opportunity for children to learn about nature.”

Chow is impressed with CREA’s educators, who are not only teaching in CREA’s unique, off grid Ecology Center, but are “going into the schools with their nature-based education” and even helping teachers. Then “CREA’s at the library, and elsewhere, for four-season public programs with amazing speakers over a diverse subject variety; I get so much from attending those programs – any area of nature that I want to learn about is provided for me by CREA. It’s right here and it’s free,” Chow says.

“What can I do?” she asks. “It makes me feel rewarded to hopefully make a little difference. I probably get more out of it than I give.”

Chow says that what’s most meaningful to her is “being at the Ecology Center on Sundays (10-12 pm, open to the public), to meet the new people coming in, and feel the excitement of the children who visit the Ecology Center and who love learning about the wildlife specimens there. I get the most satisfaction talking to the children. One time a girl, about 4, visited while I was sweeping the welcome mat and she left saying, ‘I love your house!’ It was so sweet. People who visit CREA’s ‘house’ (the building that teaches), and its surrounding riverside trails do love it, and they love coming back ‘home.'”

Chow says about volunteering for CREA, “it’s really my pleasure. “I enjoy taking pictures, painting, doing spring cleanup, chipping in wherever I can.”

The future for Chow? “I’m not going anywhere! I love CREA, the people, and the programs. It’s made me aware of the important role I can play; but it’s not that great an effort when you love what you’re doing.” She adds, “It’s so important to see that what CREA does – truly changes the future.”

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CREA Alum Baxter Worthing

This article was originally published in CREA’s Spring 2019 newsletter.

Baxter Worthing participated in CREA programs and year-long studies through high school; was an Environmental Youth Leader; helped guide our younger campers; then became a student Board member. We asked about the impact CREA has had in his life, and he responded:

“When people ask why I decided to become a biologist, I usually start the story with CREA.

When I was in high school, CREA gave me the first taste of applied ecology that got me hooked for life. Being a teenager is frustrating sometimes, and being a teenage environmentalist is even more frustrating. CREA helped quell this frustration by introducing me to people who shared my passion for the outdoors and by giving us opportunities to work together to enact real, positive change.

In hindsight, what made that change so positive was the fact that we were educating people from our own community and working to preserve an ecosystem mere miles from our own backyards. Through this experience, CREA taught me that, although the goals of conservation are often expressed in the context of positive change at the global scale, conservation is most effectively enacted at the local scale by people who have a genuine connection to the land they wish to preserve.

National Parks are great for people who have the means and ability to visit them, but smaller-scale, local protected areas allow a much wider range of people to fall in love with nature. What makes CREA extra special is its dedication to both conservation AND education, and CREA helped me understand that the former is impossible without the latter. That notion is what inspires me to continue to learn as much I can about the natural world.” 

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2019: Spring Field Trips

This article was originally published in CREA’s Spring 2019 newsletter.

Spring field trips to CREA have begun! 5th graders have been busy using soil corers to collect different types of soil around the preserve and compare their discoveries; 4th graders are using wind and light meters to measure renewable energy sources in nature; and 3rd graders scoop bugs from the pond to check out under a microscope and turn over logs to hunt for salamanders.

These classes are designed with teacher input to complement learning the students are doing in their classrooms.

“I wish we could stay here all day!” is a common parting phrase from our elementary student and teacher visitors.

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CREAtivity and ReCREAtion

This article was originally published in CREA’s Spring 2019 newsletter.

Connection with nature provides health benefits, and activity and movement enhance creativity and happiness. Research shows that people participating in nature-related activities as part of a social group have more meaningful, deeper experiences. By providing small-group opportunities for recreation, through the company of guides, friends, or schools, individuals will be empowered now and in the long term to make healthy choices for themselves and their communities.

Over the years, CREA has established strong partnerships with local schools, providing hands-on science learning through active exploration of our environment. Many students who come to the CREA Ecology Center on field trips also participate in summer day camp with us too. Teachers, families, and area residents of all ages find inspiration and joy through programs at CREA.

Our talented Board members, friends, advisors, and volunteers donate their time and expertise, facilitating programs and leading activities. Did winter slow you down, or have you felt less spark lately? Spending time in nature cannot solve everything, but CREA’s creative ideas and fun opportunities for outdoor activities will help. Come discover and develop your connections with nature!

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