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UMaine Students Rolling Up Sleeves for Spring Break Volunteerism

Dozens of University of Maine students are headed to Honduras, Belize, Florida, the Grand Canyon and New Orleans and other places over spring break, March 4–15, to build houses and a sewage system, clean up parks, deliver health care services to the poor, and help out in rural schools and orphanages.

In the last few months, students from varied academic disciplines have been raising tens of thousands of dollars for travel and living expenses during their service-learning and volunteer projects in the U.S. and Central America. Some leaving Maine for the first time will immerse themselves in diverse cultural and philanthropic adventures while making a difference in the quality of life for the people they will serve.

“I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to be able to make an impact in the lives of people in need,” says Gwen Beacham, a molecular and cellular biology major from Farmington, Maine. She is heading March 2 to the outskirts of Dulce Nombre in western Honduras with the UMaine chapter of Engineers Without Borders. She and four other students, an interpreter, a faculty adviser and a private-sector engineering consultant will spend two weeks finishing a new sewer collection and sanitation system that UMaine student engineers designed and helped build. They’ll also teach the 120 villagers in Dulce Vivir how to operate it.

Beacham, who has never been outside the United States or Canada, isn’t sure what to expect on her first “real” travel experience, she says.

“I can imagine that I will return to Maine with such different eyes,” she says. “I am excited that I am actually able to do something to help, and I especially love that this project is so collaborative, as the community members have played a major role in the implementation of the system. Not only is this more sustainable, but it ensures that our effort is being put into a project that the community wants.”

UMaine’s Engineers Without Borders has won several honors, including a $25,000 award last year from the Newman’s Own Foundation for its work in Dulce Vivir, which started in 2008. The project will help villagers struggling with poor sanitation and overflowing latrines during the rainy season, which contaminates water supplies.

“This project provides valuable lessons in the field of engineering, while allowing me to participate in a humanitarian, life-changing experience,” says Logan Good, a mechanical engineering major from Presque Isle.

Meanwhile, 13 UMaine School of Nursing students in the UMaine Nursing International organization have partnered with International Service Learning to offer medical assistance in rural clinics in San Ignacio, Cayo District of Belize. Accompanied by Nilda Cravens, School of Nursing faculty member, they’ll work over the break with physicians providing health care to underprivileged families and children.

The UMaine Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism and UMaine Alternative Break also are organizing dozens of students planning spring break trips in the United States, says Andrea Gifford, assistant dean of students for Student Affairs and director of student and administrative support services. The students will partner with a variety of national organizations to help children victimized by domestic abuse in Virginia; improve housing conditions for low-income families in the coal-camp communities of West Virginia; assisting at a rescue camp for neglected and abused animals in Pennsylvania; provide respite in Florida for vacationing families of children with terminal illnesses; and help with disaster relief and rebuilding homes in New Orleans.

The Bodwell Center also is overseeing student volunteer trips to help with maintenance and trail restoration in the Grand Canyon in Arizona and in the Moody Forest Natural Area in Georgia.

Aaron Cyr, a Bangor native and senior nursing student making his second trip to Belize, says his trip last year was a startling introduction to poverty that many Americans can’t imagine unless they experience it firsthand.

“Things such as clean running water, the availability of limitless amounts of food and small things such as heat or air conditioning, that we take for granted every day,” he says. “I am being given the opportunity to positively affect countless lives for the better.”

Gwen Beacham agrees. “I believe that becoming aware of the different ways people live will lead to positive personal growth and development, and I’m sure I will realize how lucky I am to have some things I have always taken for granted,” she says.

Contact: George Manlove, 207.581.3756

4-H Turns 100 in Maine

Celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2013, University of Maine Cooperative Extension 4-H continues to offer a series of activities that enrich the lives of more than 30,000 Maine children ages 5–18 throughout Maine each year with hands-on indoor and outdoor experiences. Here is a list of some of the 4-H programs offered in 2013 that could make colorful, educational feature stories illustrating how 4-H broadens life skills and horizons for Maine’s youth.

Robotics Expos — March 16, Machias, and tentatively scheduled in October in southern Maine
Robotics expos include workshops and presentations by college students and professionals who work with robotics. Youths engage in hands-on learning as teams tackle an engineering challenge. Staff contacts: Jennifer Lobley, UMaine Extension educator, Washington County, 800.255.3345; Sarah Sparks, Extension 4-H youth development professional, Androscoggin-Sagadahoc counties, 207.353.5550.

Children, Youth & Families at Risk Grant Project: Sustainable Living Teen Volunteers
4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond and Cumberland County, mid-April-early June. Many of these schools also are Environmental Living & Learning for Maine Students Project schools. The Maine Sustainable Communities Project is an effort to provide Maine teens with knowledge, skills, attitudes and behavior necessary for fulfilling, contributing lives. Sustainable Living Teen Volunteer training for middle school students promotes ecological and sustainable living, and life skills. It also involves service-learning projects. Long-term outcomes of the program for high school students include developing positive relationships with adults in inclusive and safe environments; engaging in their own learning; and experience belonging, independence and generosity. High school and middle school students engage in positive learning experiences in classroom and outdoor settings; learn the value of living sustainably and the importance of community service. The program encourages individuals, families and schools to adopt sustainable living practices that will reduce their environmental impact. Contact Catherine Elliott, UMaine Extension wildlife and fisheries specialist, Orono, 207.581.2902.

Kids Can Grow Programs — April–September
Kids Can Grow is a gardening program for ages 7–12. Through a series of hands-on gardening classes, children learn how to choose, plant and grow vegetables, herbs and flowers; the basics of good nutrition and food safety; how to build and plant a raised-bed garden at home, with materials, seedlings and amended topsoil supplied by UMaine Extension. Children are matched with Master Gardener Program or 4-H volunteers who mentor, assist and inspire them to be home gardeners. Sessions are 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m., April 27, May 11, June 1, July 20, Aug. 17 and Sept. 21. Contact Frank Wertheim, UMaine Extension educator, York County, 207.324.2814.

Maine 4-H Days — July 19–21, Windsor Fairgrounds
In 2012, more than 480 youths, volunteers and parents traveled from across the state to attend the three-day Maine 4-H Days. The program offered more than 60 workshops for 4-H youth, including robotics, rocketry, archery, gardening, cooking, nutrition, forestry and physics, in addition to traditional 4-H livestock experiences. Maine 4-H Days activities are for all Maine youths and their families. This year’s event will include a 4-H 100-year celebration. Contact Sarah Sparks, Extension 4-H youth development professional, Androscoggin-Sagadahoc counties, 207.353.5550.

Tech Wizards — ongoing at the Bryant Pond Learning Center and in Kittery
Tech Wizards offers a variety of service-learning projects and ongoing school support. Two camps scheduled this summer on rockets and robots involve Operation Military Kids and Tech Wizards. Camps at Bryant Pond are scheduled July 21–26 and Aug. 4–9. Tech Wizard training in Kittery is scheduled April 29–May 1. The mission of 4-H Tech Wizards, held both in classrooms and after school, is to engage ages 8–17 in small-group mentoring programs focused on technology. In a previous project, students used submersible robots and tarps to assist with invasive milfoil identification and eradication with a western Maine community lake association. The program is funded by the National 4-H Council and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Based at Bryant Pond, other groups also participate in Tech Wizards in other counties. Contact Susan Jennings, UMaine Extension educator, Oxford County, 207.743.6329.

National 4-H Science Day — October
In Maine, 4-H celebrates National 4-H Science Day throughout October with a designated science project each year in many counties. This year’s experiment will relate to geospatial technologies. 4-H staff members will conduct a specific experiment with 4-H clubs, after-school programs and public libraries. Contact Sarah Sparks, 207.353.5550, for details.

4-H Afterschool Academy — ongoing
The academy focused on 4-H science and youth development has trained 380 after-school providers and reached 15,000 youths. Contact Kristy Ouellette, assistant UMaine Extension educator in 4-H youth and family development, Androscoggin-Sagadahoc counties, 207.353.5550; and Jennifer Lobley, Washington County, 800.255.3345.

4-H and the Lewiston Housing Authority — ongoing
4-H opportunities in Lewiston with the Housing Authority reach underrepresented and underserved youth. This year, the project has expanded to include 4-H science activities. Contact Kristy Ouellette, assistant Extension educator in 4-H youth and family development, Androscoggin-Sagadahoc counties, 207.353.5550.

SciGirls Training — ongoing
“SciGirls” is a PBS Kids television series designed to change how tweens think about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). SciGirls Training, offered in Maine by UMaine Extension and UMaine’s College of Engineering, integrates inquiry-based STEM instruction with a commitment to gender equity. Educators attending SciGirls Training learn about the latest research for engaging girls and boys in STEM, as well as activities that can put a creative twist on teaching STEM. Contact Laura Wilson, UMaine Extension 4-H science and youth development professional, Orono, 207.581.2971.

Expanded Learning Opportunities — 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond
Throughout the year, Expanded Learning Opportunities STEM programs are offered every Friday at Bryant Pond and every Tuesday and Wednesday at either Bryant Pond or Molly Ockett Middle School in Fryeburg. Supported by local superintendents, principals and teachers, the program involves middle school students partnering with local at-risk youths to engage in experiential learning programs. The program has resulted in decreased school absenteeism, improved grades and more engaged students. Contact Susan Jennings, UMaine Extension educator, Oxford County, 207.743.6329.

UMaine Marketing Professor on ‘Quality Labels’ for Tourism

As the Maine Office of Tourism looks for new strategies to strengthen the tourism economy in the state, University of Maine Associate Professor of Marketing Harold Daniel in the Maine Business School is available to discuss a “quality labels” concept that UMaine market research suggests would be help.

Daniel says a UMaine student survey in late 2011 indicated that four out of 10 visitors interviewed said they would pay higher prices for a “certified” vacation destination. Quality labels assigned to certain Maine woods and outdoors vacation establishments that put a premium on environmental stewardship, for example, would acknowledge qualifying businesses that share a commitment to quality lodging, dining, recreational opportunities, positive environmental practices and community contributions.

At the first in a series of Governor’s Conference on Tourism statewide hearings recently, speakers suggested ways to heighten tourists’ awareness of and interest in high-quality vacation experiences through consistent brand marketing and advocacy.

David Vail, Bowdoin College professor of economics and director emeritus of environmental studies at the college, and Daniel explained their research in an article, “Consumer Support for a Maine Woods Tourism Quality Label,” in the 2012 Volume 21, Issue 2 edition of the Maine Policy Review, published by the University of Maine Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center.

The next two state tourism conferences are March 19 in the Portland area and April 17 in the Bangor area.

Contact: Harold Daniel, 207.581.1933, or George Manlove, 207.581.3756

Conference to Focus on Small Grain Production

Commercial production for new small grain markets will be the focus of the annual Maine Grain Conference March 1 in Bangor, sponsored by University of Maine Cooperative Extension. The conference will be held 8:30 a.m.–4:15 p.m., at the Spectacular Events Center, 395 Griffin Road. Speakers from Maine and Canada will discuss producing food-quality grains, with particular attention to crop rotation, fertility and disease; managing problem weeds in organic small grain crops; local markets and informational resources for small grain-producers; and seed laws and the seed certification process. Preregistration is required by Thursday, Feb. 21. Information on registration and conference fees is available on the conference website. To register by phone, or to request disability accommodations, call Meghan Dill, 207.581.3878.

National Geographic Magazine Lauds UMaine’s ‘Ice Water Diver’

University of Maine marine scientist Rhian Waller is heralded as a risk taker in “New Age of Exploration” in the March edition of National Geographic Magazine.

The National Geographic Society, one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world, is celebrating its 125th birthday in 2013 with a yearlong series that highlights 21st-century explorers who “press the limits.”

Waller, a University of Maine assistant research professor in the School of Marine Sciences who works at the Darling Marine Center in Walpole, Maine, has pressed the limits of diving during more than 40 expeditions around the planet. In a submersible, she once plunged to a depth of 3,600 meters for corals on the New England Seamount chain in 2005. She frequently scuba dives in temperatures of 35 degrees F and below in the name of science.

Her research focuses on how environmental factors such as climate change, fishing and oil exploration affect deep-sea coral ecology and reproduction, as well as what effect that altered life cycle could have on the rest of the marine ecosystem.

“You can imagine all it takes is one trawler or one piece of garbage to land on the coral and suffocate it, and that’s 4,000 years of growth and 4,000 years before that colony will grow back to support 1,000 different invertebrates, which in turn support maybe tens or hundreds of different species of fish,” she says.

The question-and-answer piece with Pat Walters on page 121 of National Geographic Magazine is titled “Ice Water Diver” and includes a portrait by Emmy Award-winning photographer Marco Grob.

In January 2013, Waller conducted research along fjords near Juneau, Alaska, where red tree coral forms essential habitat for rockfish and crustacean species. She is examining how healthy the coral is, when and how much it reproduces, and if there is a specific time of year when it should be protected because it’s reproducing.

Last summer, Waller traveled to Chile to study reproductive ecology of deep-sea corals. National Geographic and the National Science Foundation funded the study, which allowed her to establish three long-term sites that she’ll monitor and from which she’ll take coral samples.

Waller says her goal with each research project is to demonstrate the importance of deep-sea coral systems to the rest of the ocean ecosystem. “If we continue to damage these coral habitats, we’re going to damage the fish and invertebrate populations that live around them,” she says. “Even though they’re out-of-sight, out-of-mind, and many people don’t know they’re there, we have to explore and research why these ecosystems are important.”

Waller’s fascination with the beautiful, mysterious, slow-growing marine animals called corals was sparked when she snorkeled in the Red and Arabian seas as a youth.

While overlooking Tracy Arm fjord near Juneau, Alaska a month ago, Waller, 34, blogged for National Geographic: “This is one of those rare places, where fewer divers than you can count on one hand have dove and seen. Where even the marine radio won’t reach and you’re completely out of touch with the rest of humanity. Where when the sun shines on the top of the mountains and glistens off the aquamarine ocean, the scale of this glacial cut fjord becomes instantly apparent, and you feel so small. I think it’s important we take ourselves places where we can feel small occasionally, to remind us that we are protectors of our lands and our oceans, and to understand it we need to explore it.”

The online edition of National Geographic Magazine was available Feb. 15; the magazine is scheduled to hit newsstands Feb. 26.

The winter issue of UMaine Today magazine features an in-depth look at Waller’s research.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

UMaine Extension’s 4-H Program Marks 100 Years in Maine

Gov. Paul LePage has proclaimed Feb. 26, 2013 as University of Maine Cooperative Extension 4-H Day in Maine.

Maine 4-H, which turns 100 years old this year, has a lot to celebrate — deep roots, a large, supportive family and a lot of successes.

Today, 4-H youth programs enrich children’s lives through technology and hands-on programming. 4-H — which stands for head, hands, heart and health — is the youth development branch of University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Extension leaders and volunteers utilize university resources to develop the life skills and broaden horizons of 30,000 Maine children each year.

If youth ages 5–18 are interested in raising steers, making cheese, shearing goats, learning about tractor safety, sewing, growing vegetables and being a member of a Dairy Quiz Bowl Team, UMaine Extension has opportunities for them.

And if they’re fascinated with rocketry, adventure camps, new media photography, Junior Maine Guiding, public speaking, climate change, website development and LEGO robotics, 4-H has programs for them as well.

While 4-H has grown in size and scope since its inception in Maine in 1913, its core belief is the same — children are the promise for the future.

As 4-H history goes, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, farmers were reluctant to use new agricultural techniques developed by public university researchers, so universities established rural youth programs to introduce the concepts to children, which they eagerly shared with their parents.

Alumni praise 4-H for the positive and lasting impact it’s had in their lives.

Maine Assistant Attorney General Patrick Larson, a 1985 UMaine graduate, enjoyed hunter safety, outdoor programming, photography, cooking and electricity demonstrations as a member of Union River Valley 4-H in Aurora, Maine.

“The strong sense of public service and volunteerism I learned through 4-H helped me give back to the community later in life,” he says. “You learned that that was what you do; you offer your time to help others.”

Jodi Harnden of Wilton, Maine, says community service was also a vital component of the Dandy Crafter 4-H Club. Harnden, a third-year secondary education and mathematics double major at UMaine, says her group gave homemade quilts and crafts to residents and hospital patients, and raffled other crafts to support community service projects, including buying animal oxygen masks for area fire departments.

She says participating in 4-H trips and activities helped her develop skills and confidence. The peer tutor and snare drummer in the UMaine pep band wants to be a high school teacher.

Lisa Phelps, UMaine Extension’s 4-H program administrator, says the key is to empower children and raise aspirations. “I have had parents tell me that because of their child’s involvement in 4-H, he or she will graduate from high school and go on to college,” Phelps says. “And if they were not in 4-H, they would have most likely dropped out of school.”

John Rebar, executive director of UMaine Extension, says the self-directed, hands-on 4-H programs encourage children to learn about the world and all that they can achieve in it. “4-H provides the kinds of experiences that build skills and excitement that are remembered for a lifetime,” he says.

The glowing testimonials are backed by research. In 2008, initial results of Tufts University professor Richard Lerner’s longitudinal study indicated fifth-grade 4-H members across the country earned better grades, were more engaged in school and were more likely to envision themselves attending college than nonmembers.

That research supports UMaine Extension’s most recent efforts to increase UMaine recruitment, enrollment and retention through 4-H Science. The new statewide initiative was awarded a three-year Presidential Request for Visions of University Excellence (PRE-VUE) Program grant last summer as part of the university’s five-year strategic plan, the Blue Sky Project.

Contact: Jennifer O’Leary, 207.299.7751

UMaine Extension Brings Popular Small Business Series to Campus

This spring in Orono, University of Maine Cooperative Extension will offer its Recipe to Market series for anyone considering starting a food business.

The four-session program, with two optional sessions, is scheduled March 21 through April 25 at UMaine’s Foster Center for Student Innovation. It is a step-by-step course for converting a personal recipe into a business.

Leading the program are Beth Calder, a UMaine Extension food science specialist and associate professor of food science, and Jim McConnon, UMaine Extension business and economics specialist, professor of economics and authority on small and family businesses in Maine. Also participating in the series are UMaine Extension Professor Louis Bassano, Jason Bolton, UMaine Extension assistant professor for food safety, and program planning team member Jesse Moriarity, director of the Foster Center for Student Innovation. A panel discussion will include representatives from the Maine Department of Agriculture, in addition to an insurance expert, banker, attorney and food business owner.

Recipe to Market is an extensive workshop series focusing on such topics as licensing, regulations, food safety, testing and business management skills. The program also delves into regulations on labeling and special considerations for producing acidified canned foods.

In addition, program participants learn about some of the sources available to support them in business development, and how to add value to an existing business.

Recipe to Market is offered twice a year throughout the state, and has generated success stories about how specialty food producers have succeeded in marketing a product that began with a great idea, according to McConnon and Calder. The spring 2013 sessions are the first to be offered at UMaine. In the fall, the program will be offered in Cumberland County. Since the program’s inception in 2007, more than 100 people have participated.

Magic Dilly Beans company founder Brian McCarthy of Belfast, who intends to begin marketing specialty pickled dilly beans this spring, says the Recipe to Market classes he took at UMaine Extension’s Waldo County office saved him time and probably money by introducing him to the many complexities of market research, product pricing, packaging and distribution. Most important, he says, was learning to better understand his target market, his competition and pricing for a successful business start-up.

“I think it was very important, for multiple reasons,” he says. “This course helps you know what it takes. You can have a great recipe, but there’s much more to it. That’s why a lot of people fail in this industry.”

Orono sessions now scheduled:
March 21, 5:30–8 p.m., “Are You an Entrepreneur? What Is Involved?”
March 28, 5:30–9 p.m., “Developing Your Product and Process”
April 4, 5:30–9 p.m., “Business Realities”
April 11, 5:30–9 p.m., “Resource Panel”
April 18, 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m., individual business counseling
April 25: food pilot plant tours on campus

Recipe to Market program fees are $50 per person; $25 for students. Additional information is available on the UMaine Extension website. Registration deadline is March 14. For reservations or to request disability accommodations, contact Theresa Tilton, 207.942.7396 or

Contact: Jim McConnon, 207.581.3165 / Beth Calder, 207.581.2791

Phi Kappa Sigma Holding Orono Classic Pond Hockey Fundraiser

Phi Kappa Sigma will hold an Orono Classic pond hockey tournament at Orono High School, 10 a.m.–3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16, to raise funds for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and Phi Kappa Sigma member Jon Cairns, who is going through treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The cost is $35 per team; games will be three-on-three with teams of five members (including two alternates), double elimination. Food and hot chocolate will be available. There is no cost to watch the games. For information, email

Beta Theta Pi Holding 20th Annual Beta Sleep-Out Feb. 15–16

Members of Beta Theta Pi will hold their 20th Annual Beta Sleep-Out, a fundraiser for Rape Response Services in Bangor, from 6 p.m., Friday, Feb. 15–6 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 16 at the organization’s home on Munson Road. Members will remain outside their house and gather around a bonfire throughout the night. This year’s fundraising goal is $10,000. For information, email

New Exhibits Opening at Lord Hall

The University of Maine Department of Art is inviting the public to a free artists’ reception from 5:30–7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 8 at the Lord Hall Gallery to mark the opening of two new exhibits that include works by Maine artists. “Surface Tension: Prints by Scott Minzy” features work by Minzy of Pittston, Maine. “Print Portfolios: Selected Images” includes paintings and drawings from artists across the country and from Maine, including UMaine art faculty members Susan Groce and Susan Camp, and former adjunct art instructor Kristisu Sader. The exhibits will be up through March 15. Lord Hall Gallery is open to the public weekdays from 9 a.m.–4 p.m. For information or to request disability accommodations, call 207.581.3245.


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