This year, 76 students attended the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in Hinckley and they’re graduating class has doubled in size from last year.For the 18 students in this year’s graduating class, today is the big day.
“Based on the validation that we’re getting from parents, from students, from the community, from business owners we’re clearly on a path that’s working and successful,” said the school’s executive director Glen Cummings.
Officials at the school also tell us that interest here is also on the rise. This past year they had 56 applicant for just 26 seats. The school started out with a reputation as a landing spot for kids who felt like the traditional school setting didn’t exactly work for them. But now, many of their applicants are doing just fine in public school but find this sort of learning more appealing. Galen Lichterfeld spent two years at Waterville High School before deciding to go to the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences.
“The self-directed learning is really the most important part of this school. More than the agriculture. More than anything. It’s just being able to find out what you want to do and follow it,” he said. “”The way we structure our day is we have four classes before lunch. basically you’ll just come up here for a class period and you’ll go back down. or you’ll come up here for two class periods. so you get some standard education then you get to come up here and enjoy this.”
Lichterfeld will graduate Friday night and go on to study sustainable agriculture at KVCC next year and plans to work toward degree in wildlife conservation.
This year the school added this aquaponic greenhouse that uses fish to provide nutrients for the plants. The waste from the tilapia is filtered and fed to the plants. These greenhouses allow them to grow vegetables year round and allow students to meet their science requirements.
“So what they’re learning is they’re learning basic chemistry, they’re learning basic horticulture and biology and plant anatomy,” Cummings said.
They also have their an eye on the future with a $7.5 million dollar renovation of an old building that has been sitting on the campus vacant for 30 years. Construction begins next month to convert it to a classroom and lab. They’re hoping to grow to about 200 students in the near future.