Harpswell Heritage Land Trust’s Youth Education Initiatives


Harpswell Heritage Land Trust offers innovative, engaging, free and low-cost, nature-based learning opportunities for more than 300 local children every year. These opportunities include programming at Harpswell Community School, a popular Nature Day Camp, public programs, and our own Forest Playground.

Harpswell Community School (HCS)

children examine frozen vernal pool

HCS students examine a frozen vernal pool in the woods (Julia McLeod photo)

Since 2014, Harpswell Heritage Land Trust has partnered with Harpswell’s public K-5 elementary school to bring all Harpswell youth outdoors for place-based science learning and nature-based play. These educational programs are offered to all grade levels at no cost to the school and are in line with the school’s science standards. Harpswell Heritage Land Trust’s collaboration with Harpswell Community School was featured as a case study in the 2019 Census of Community-based Environmental Learning in Maine.

During the 2021-2022 school year, a Harpswell Heritage Land Trust educator led 82 outdoor sessions for HCS students.

  • Kindergarteners explored plant and animal needs and weather.
  • First graders learned about animal traits.
  • Second graders compared the habitats found around the school.
  • Third graders studied trees and how they changed as spring unfolded.
  • Fourth graders experimented with weathering and erosion and delved into animal traits.
  • Fifth graders learned about matter cycles and earth systems.
  • All grade levels participated in monthly nature-based play sessions. HHLT presented a prompt and materials and gave the students the freedom to experiment, explore, play, and connect with each other and with nature.

Public Programs & Collaborative Partnerships

HHLT offers a variety of free and low-cost educational programs and events open to the public each year. Some of the events most appealing to families are our Winter Solstice Lantern Walk, our Tide Pool Exploration, and our collaborative programs with the Southern Midcoast Forest Playgroup.

Click here for upcoming events.

Nature Day Camp

smiling girl holds up baby lobster

Nature Day Camp at Potts Point (Julia McLeod photo)

We believe in the power of outdoor experiences to enrich young lives. Harpswell Heritage Land Trust’s Nature Day Camp combines games, creativity, scientific inquiry, and hands-on exploration to create a memorable week of fun and discovery. We are incredibly fortunate to have Harpswell as our learning laboratory. Harpswell is a coastal town with fascinating habitats to explore. Campers explore tide pools, salt marshes, rocky shoreline, forest, and fields.

Nature Day Camp is celebrating its 25th year in 2023! The programs has grown from a volunteer-run, one-week experience to a robust program that serves more than 160 children from ages four to twelve each summer. This camp is much-loved and every year there are more families interested than spots available. We are dedicated to making Nature Day Camp accessible to all families by keeping our fees low and offering need-based scholarships.

Click here for more information about Nature Day Camp.

The Forest Playground

girl smiling on rope swing

Curt Chipman photo

Take a step into the Forest Playground and you will quickly discover that it is not a typical playground. It is much more. This is a place where all of our senses are invited to play. The elements and materials provide inspiration for fun, connection, creativity, movement, and discovery. Children experience imaginative play, artistic and musical creation, scientific discovery, and observation of the natural world. In its own small way, the Forest Playground revolutionizes how we look at play.

The Forest Playground is designed to be open-ended, nature-based, and engaging for young people of many interests and all ages. There are very few rules for how to use the space. Designed as a portable pop-up, the Forest Playground rotates to different sites. It is free and open to the public. In 2019 the Forest Playground spent time at Curtis Farm Preserve in Harpswell, Bowdoin Central School, and Harpswell Community School. In 2021 it spent the summer at Skolfield Shores Preserve. It did not emerge in 2022, but it will pop up again in 2023.

Click here for more information about the Forest Playground.