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Remote learning from remote places

An outdoor wilderness program in the Greater Portland area is able to incorporate adventures on students' remote learning days while keeping them connected in class.

PORTLAND, Maine — As more schools drop back into remote learning following a spike of COVID-19 cases in Maine, one program is working with schools and principals in the Portland metro area to get kids reconnected during days away from the classroom.

Rippleffect is in its 20th year. The outdoor wilderness program runs through all four seasons introducing 800 children to sea kayaking, ropes courses, and hiking. 

Before coronavirus, the Adventure Academy helped more than 40 schools with community building and expeditionary programs, but this year, executive director Adam Shepherd says they had to pivot.

“It has been a different year,” Shepherd said. “We asked ourselves several questions: What is it that we still can do and be responsible for mitigating the pandemic in Maine? We realized heading into the fall there was a tremendous need for families to have more students support when they were entering this hybrid model."

Now, they are offering what Shepherd described as a wrap-around service, coordinating the curriculum with a student's class schedule, so they can spend the morning remote learning with their teachers, but can do so at the site of their afternoon adventure by utilizing mobile hotspots.

"[Students are] on their computers doing schoolwork while their classmates are rock climbing. Our focus there has really been to find a program to connect kids back with kids again, provide that academic support, and then connect kids back to nature and the outdoors," Shepherd said.

Rippleffect has Maine guides leading the Adventure Academy and currently, the program is offered in 10-12 week semesters while following all Maine CDC guidelines.

The winter semester is expected to open for enrollment in December. Families with children already involved will be able to re-enroll first before it opens for others in the Portland area.