How can universities contribute to a healthy planet? One way is to partner with local organizations, as explored in a grant won by the University of Maine to become a Campus for Environmental Stewardship, with Still Water Co-director Joline Blais one of the team leaders. Last year the Davis Educational Foundation awarded The Maine Campus […]

At the 2016 ESTIA conference, Still Water co-director and New Media professor Joline Blais used her keynote address to acknowledge a number of the most important practitioners who have contributed to her creative projects over the past decade. From permaculture design teams to intermedia performances to transition-town meetings, Blais recounted what she has learned from […]

To coincide with Digital Humanities Week 2011, Joline Blais joins permaculture experts Julia and Charles Yelton, social media hackademic Craig Dietrich, Rural Maine Partners’ Claudia Lowd, and members of the Wabanaki community in hosting “Social Media and Sustainability” at LongGreenHouse, a clearinghouse for sustainable culture on the edge of the U-Me campus. The event starts […]

As the final speaker in the panel discussion “Re-Imagining Globalism: Maine in the World’s Economy” at Bates College on Jan. 25, 2008, Peter Riggs, Executive Director of the Forum on Democracy and Trade, concluded his talk on climate change and international relations with a call for a new kind of creativity: “Probably the most exciting […]

Bill Giordano hosted the Penobscot Valley Permaculture Meetup by giving a tour of the LongGreenHouse grounds. Visitors feasted on Young Me’s cheesecake, potato salad made with our own duck eggs, sample a variety of greens in the polyculture bed, and strategized solutions for the persistent university stormwater run-off that flows into the north corner of […]

Join facilitator Bill Giordano at LongGreenHouse Wed, May 27, 3:30 pm 5 Chapel Road, Orono Sheet-mulch gardening is a no-till method for making raised beds. Abundant organic materials such as grass cippings, animal bedding, leaves, manure, newspaper, cardboard, mulching hay, straw and more can be layered on top of earth rather than yearly tilling. All […]

Local plant supplier Fedco has donated over fifty fruit trees and other plants to help with LongGreenHouse’s planting marathon this weekend. Old and young permaculturalists, from both the Wassookeag home school and the university and Native communities, drew on this generous gift to populate the first catchment of food forest in the LongGreenHouse plot on […]

During the month of May, we’ll be planting a dozens of fruit trees, hundreds of berry plants, flowers and annuals at LongGreenHouse and sneaking onto university grounds, along the Food Corridor. Main gardeners will include Bill Giordano, Joline Blais, Isis Bell, and gkisedtanamoogk, with help from 3-yr old Ellie. If you help us plant, you […]

Snow has finally melted and LongGreenHouse has begun Spring Cleaning. We’re clearing constrcution debris from deck construction, preparing for sealing the cedarwood, raking aand pruning, and getting our garden beds ready. We’ll be planting spinach in the cold frame and lots of seedling in the greenhouse. Tony, Debbie and Joline will be leading the seedling workshop […]

Science teacher Tony Sohns will be teaching classes for homeschoolers at LongGreenHouse on Thursdays starting this week. Renowned for his work with Bangor s Discovery Museum, Tony s energy, knowledge, and interaction kids is outstanding, and we are lucky to have him involved with our community. Tony will be teaching two sessions. The second 8 week session […]
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Established in 1985, Wassookeag is a nondenominational, not-for-profit home school community educating students in grades 1 through 8. We are a community of home school students, families, and educators with a shared philosophy working to create a progressive and nurturing learning environment.

As of fall 2007, Wassookeag is pleased to announce an alliance with the LongGreenHouse project of the University of Maine, a unique collaboration among Native American elders, international permaculture experts, and New Media faculty.

Wassookeag believes that a non-competitive, nurturing environment will foster the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical growth of children.

Our community strives to provide an education for the whole child. Basic academic skills will be covered through a hands-on and experiential curriculum that incorporates artistic, environmental, social, and multicultural components. Our multi-age classes will enable children of different ages and abilities to find success both at an individual level and in cooperative learning groups.

We are a welcoming environment. We do not discriminate based on a child's or a family's race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or belief system, or national origin. We are non-profit and non-denominational. We strive to provide a quality, wholesome, and progressive education.

Working cooperatively has been shown to enhance learning, increase personal identity, encourage empathetic response and awareness of others, and to help create flexible, responsive, and invested learners. Cooperative learning, playing, and working helps to create a learning atmosphere characterized by trust, leadership, safety, inclusion, good communication and fun. At Wassookeag cooperation is a way of life.

For more information check out The Benefits of Cooperation by Alfie Kohn.

    Here are some of the great things that our students and our parents say about us:
  • "My kids are happy and motivated to come to school."
  • "There is global and cultural awareness."
  • "The student-teacher ratio is low, students get more individual attention."
  • "There's a strong sense of community for myself and my child."
  • "There's a strong sense of self when entering the school."
  • "Students learn thinking skills and how to make positive choices."
  • "There is respect and appreciation for differences."
  • "There is encouragement and open-mindedness."
  • "Individuality is encouraged and respected."
  • "There is freedom in this enriched environment."

We believe that it is essential that parents be intimately involved in the learning experience. Wassookeag parents strive to be attuned to their own strengths and weaknesses and consider teaching, and life, to be one of constant self-growth-- personally and professionally. We believe that parents, and all adults in our learning environment, should model interest, caring, positive involvement, authority, and friendship to each other and to students. Wassookeag parents teach to the whole child and consider the needs, styles, and situations of individuals as well as the needs of the group and the entire school.

While all Wassookeag parents are potential teachers, some bring special qualifications to the community.

Debby Bell-Smith graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst with degrees in English and Education. She has been teaching professionally for twenty years. She was trained at the Parkway School in Philadelphia, the first alternative school to be established within a public school system. She has since taken numerous courses and workshops and has attended conferences all over the country with other progressive educators.

Debby believes that teachers are facilitators in children's educational process and should be available to provide resources and tools for discovery. Elementary education should provide an environment for children to develop strong skills in literacy and mathematics and exposure to all other disciplines. The school environment must feel safe so that children can take risks and learn from their mistakes. She believes that students need to learn social as well as academic lessons. School should allow kids to experience and work through interpersonal experiences in a real and supportive environment.

Debby loves the ocean, gardening, hiking, canoeing, reading, singing, and spending time with her friends and family. She has two children, Isis and Michael, and a granddaughter, Chloe. She and her husband, Leo, reside in Orono.

Barcelona02 (Mic@B@I Thu@MJoline Blais and Jon Ippolito are New Media faculty at the University of Maine and co-directors of Still Water, a research arm devoted to studying and encouraging social and electronic networks. Their collaborative projects--including LongGreenHouse, the Variable Media Network, and their 2006 book At the Edge of Art--aim to expand creative research beyond the traditional confines of the art world. Their contribution to Wassookeag includes the creative exploration of digital media such as serious games and Web development as well as hands-on instruction in the sustainable gardening techniques of permaculture.

Visiting teachers offer periodic enrichment to Wassookeag students through the University of Maine faculty and the Still Water outreach program.

LongGreenHouse Vertical (MopLongGreenHouse is a collaborative project between the Wassookeag School and Still Water, the Anikwom Whole Life Center, and the ESTIA (International Eco-Peace Community). LongGreenHouse explores models of cultural sustainability that go beyond bandaid technologies to address the deep changes that may be required in humanity's future.

07orono Green Sep Large 10 Thu@MThe Wassookeag home school community is one of the centerpieces of the LongGreenHouse project. LongGreenHouse is a living/learning center with college student interns and a team of hands-on advisors based on the Wabanaki Longhouse model and permaculture design principles. Located in a wooded area on the edge of the UMaine campus, LongGreenHouse aims to produce its own food in sustainable gardens, food forests, aquaculture and a 4-season greenhouse, including recycling of all organic matter and zero waste. On-site engineering projects focus on passive solar heat and active solar hot water, rainwater collecting, grey water management, and stream revitalization. Peace initiatives focus on relations to all local living beings.

Related LongGreenHouse projects include:

  • Elders in Residence
    Miigam'agan and gkisedtanamoogk, Wabanaki elders, founders of the Anikwom Whole Life Center, and revivers of the Long House tradition, explore their aim of eldership development by inspiring gradeschool children with respect for the land and its beings.
  • Permaculture advisors
    Julia and Charles Yelton, Australian natives and internationally recognized permaculture advocates and activists, teach the philosophy and craft of sustainable design.
  • Related University of Maine courses
    An "Indigenous Media" course (taught out of the New Media Department) and "Permaculture Certification" course (taught out of Peace Studies) bring undergraduate and graduate students together for colloquia and fieldwork.
  • Visiting talks
    Still Water organizes talks by artists, scholars, and technologists active in permaculture, networked creativity, and indigenous culture. Our 2007-08 season includes community network developer John Bell (USA), new media curator Sarah Last (Australia), and Native artist and elder Charlene Francis (Penobscot). The 2008-09 season included talks by new media artists Craig Dietrich (USA) and Vanessa Vobis (Germany).
  • Parents are invited to be highly involved in the school and their child's education. At Wassookeag we are creating a community to educate our youngest members. We are grateful that you have entrusted us with this task and hope that together we will help each child to find his or her own spark. We are hopeful that children will emerge from Wassookeag embracing high academic standards, as students who show respect and responsibility for themselves, others, and their environment, and who are at ease with themselves and within the world community. Extended family and the greater local community are invited to be a part of our educational journey. We gratefully welcome volunteers who will enrich our educational, physical, and social environment. Call or stop by with your time, idea, gift, or special talent!

    Miigamagan Thu@MMiigam'agan is a member of the Mi'kmaq (Micmac) Nation, founder of the Elders and Youth Council, and cofounder of the Wabanaki Nations Cultural Resource Center, the Miingignoti-Keteaoag, the Esgenoôpetitj Mi'kmaqesk women's council, and Anikwom WholeLife Center. Apart from her activities as a Still Water Research Fellow at the University of Maine, she is also affiliated with the Wabanaki Confederacy, New Brunswick Native Women's Council, Elders and Youth Council (Burnt Church New Brunswick), Esgenoopetitj Mi'kmaqesk (Burnt Church New Brunswick), Wabanaki Language Immersion Program (St. Thomas University), Aboriginal Rights Coalition Atlantic (centered in New Brunswick, Canada), and Tatamagouche Center (Nova Scotia). Her life-work is dedicated to supporting empowerment for women, youth, families and communities and preserving and teaching Wabanaki culture and spirituality. By also volunteering and serving Clanmothers/Elders throughout Wabanaki and Turtle Island, Miigam'agan advocates the culture and values of physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.

    Gkised Thu@Mgkisedtanamook is always looking for creative ways to bridge the socio-political polarization of the Indigenous Nations of Turtle Island and the newcomer nation-states of North America. Wampanoag from the Federation of the Pokaunauket and member of Otter and Turtle Clans, he is married with three children. His professional background is in human and community development and his interests include law, history, and spirituality. As education and cultural specialist and co-founder of the Anikwom Wholelife Center in Maine, gkisedtanamoogk is also adjunct faculty and Still Water Research Fellow for the University of Maine at Orono.

    Miigam'agan and gkisedtanamoogk are very committed to good relations in their family life and the lives of others by role-modeling respect within themselves and for everyone. Participating in the rich experience of their People's traditional knowledge and practices plays a fundamental role in their work for community wellness.

    For a younger child, we keep busy using play, art, and hands-on exploration to learn more about our world. Our day is divided into two main parts, the block lesson and skill building lessons. In the block lesson, we'll take an in-depth look at a specific subject. We'll study and explore this subject for at least 90 minutes each day and keep at it for about 3 weeks. Our block lesson could be a cultural, environmental, historical, or scientific (etc) exploration of the stories, ideas, facts, and mysteries associated with our chosen subject. We'll integrate components of language arts, social studies, math, and art into our block. Aside from our daily block lesson, a big part of our day will also focus on concepts, skill building, and experiences in the following subject areas: language arts, math, practical living and social skills, and health. Additionally, movement, music, art, and science (through the Children's Discovery Museum) will be a regular part of the younger child's curriculum.

    For an older child we balance academic and artistic pursuits in a way that encourages natural curiosity, exploration, and risk taking. Our environment also focuses on self-expression through a comprehensive creative writing program. Older children should expect a strong focus on math skills, literature, science, and social studies as well as an emphasis on inter-personal skills and peace-making. We strive to cultivate the social, educational, and philosophical integrity children require to mature into healthy, responsible adults.

    06bangor Wasso Ill 05@MWhile many Wassookeag home-schoolers choose to a four-day-per-week model to pool their efforts and time, others join the Wassookeag group one or two days a week to add to their child's academic or social enrichment.

    05bangor Wasso Ill 12@MPart-time Wassookeag students may explore academic subjects they do not get in depth at home or enjoy field trips on the UMaine campus or to surrounding museums and countryside.

    Wassookeag uses a 'fair share' logistics structure that affirms our values of accessibility, social justice, and each member's responsibility to support the community. All families of enrolled students are asked to assess their dues based on a predetermined schedule.

    Activity fees are used for field trips and activities such as theater, skating, camping or other opportune adventures. Other educational programs like science at the Discovery Museum and subcontracted teachers are included in the dues.

    Other logistics:

    • Age range roughly 3-14.
    • Location rotates among parents' homes, most in the Orono vicinity.
    • Enrichment activities on the nearby UMaine campus (athletic fields, classroom visits, and tours of related laboratories)
    • Hours 8:30am-3:30pm, with additional enrichment possibilities based on the schedule of visitors.
    We are welcoming interested students for the current year. Because of our small class sizes, openings are limited. We look forward to hearing from families who are interested in exploring the benefits of a progressive education.

    Feel free to contact Jon Ippolito for more information.

    Jon Ippolito
    5 Chapel Street, Orono, ME 04473
    207 581-4477