By All Means: Doing Whatever Necessary To Support Maine High School

Happy New Year and welcome back!

Since the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences opened its doors to students in the fall of 2001 on the campus of Good Will-Hinckley in Fairfield, it has been our goal to offer high school students hands-on, project-based learning focusing on agriculture, sustainability, forestry, business, alternative energy and the environment.

For those goals to come to fruition each year, MeANS needs more than just funding from the state.

The By All MeANS campaign was launched in November 2020 with the goal to generate funds to be used against the deficit in our annual operating budget. Each year, the state of Maine provides around $2.3 million, and our budget is around $2.9 million—that means we must raise a considerable amount of money each year. While we seek grant funding in various ways, because MeANS doesn’t receive tax funds from local governments like traditional public schools, we must be creative in generating additional funding.

Maine Academy: By All MeANS

Our goal has always been to lead by example, and the By All MeANS campaign regularly gets 100 percent participation from school administration, faculty, staff and our board. We leverage relationships with the community of current and past families and with our community partners and stakeholders. It is not easy to ask people for money, especially our teachers and staff, but no matter the amount, any donation shows how important the school is to them, and it leads others to participate, too.

Erin Brown is the new development committee chairperson on our board, and she has extensive fundraising experience. She will be a big help as we continue to look for ways to bring more money—and an even better experience—to MeANS.

In addition to the annual By All MeANS campaign, the school plans to launch a more substantial capital campaign to raise money for two additional wings for our future barn.

Having Swagger

MeANS isn’t just looking to raise money for general school operations. For the past nine Decembers, Jeff Chase, one of our longest-tenured teachers and our agriculture specialist, has been helping students build swags—or balsam fans—that hang from a door and are sold to raise money for individual programs. This year, the money raised will be used to buy tilapia for the school’s new aquaponic system.

With the help of Phyllis Emery, our new agriculture assistant and a wonderful addition to our staff, students from ninth through 12th grades built and sold the fans throughout the last days of the year. Students worked hard making bows, assembling the fans and decorating them. Overall, the group made about 30 swags and raised around $450.

While it is an important fundraising opportunity, it’s also an activity that benefits our students. They gain valuable STEM experience as well as an appreciation for the outdoors as they search for balsam branches in the Good Will-Hinckley campus woods.

The students and staff always have a good time making swags. We always hear about how much fun the project is and how much the students love being creative and doing something important for MeANS.

Looking Back & Ahead

Before we look at what is coming in 2023, it’s important that we reminisce and reflect on the things that happened at MeANS in 2022.

One thing we’re proud of is the improved attendance and student engagement we saw last year. This has been driven by a renewed commitment from our advisors, family engagement and creative incentives—including cash. We’ve identified attendance as a community priority and activated a unifying effort.

We also had 100 percent participation in the ACCUPLACER testing program—that is the first time we’ve achieved that number!

In September, we took new students to Camden Hills State Park to hike Mt. Battie. It was a great experience and gave students the chance to make new connections and experience what MeANS is all about. Our second annual Harvest Festival happened in October and included student demonstrations, live music and food, and the Coffee House, which features student and staff performances, was brought back.

Lastly, MeANS was awarded a $100,000 grant from the state of Maine’s Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures program for outdoor learning. The funds will be used to support our barn and blacksmith program.

When students arrived on campus earlier this month, we dove directly into winter intensives, including survival, forestry, aquaculture and ice. These experiences will include field trips to places like the Thompson Ice House, Maine Local Living Center and Herring Gut Research Center.  

We’re excited about the things we accomplished at MeANS in 2022 and can’t wait to see what happens in 2023.

Happy New Year!