Watershed Students Find Success in Independent Study Programs

Back row: Alex Facq, Jacob Faunce, Bea Buckley. Front row: Hallie MacDougal, Nick Ryan

17-year-old Hallie Macdougal is passionate about plankton.

A senior at Watershed School in Camden, Hallie has been studying the effects of climate change on the ocean since she started high school. Watershed School allows students to pursue their desired field of study during elective periods, and Hallie has chosen to put her time and energy into marine science and climate change. Her research has opened up many exciting opportunities for someone her age; she presented a poster on changing temperatures in the Somes Sound at the the Regional Association for Research on the Gulf of Maine (RARGOM) Conference in 2016, her project on the oxygen production of phytoplankton received second place in the Plant Sciences division at the 2017 Maine State Science Fair, and also earned her a full scholarship to the University of Maine Honors College, as well as a $4,000 Presidential Scholarship to the University of Southern Maine. She’s had internships with Bigelow Laboratory of Ocean Sciences and the Darling Marine Center, and she works with the Department of Marine Resources monitoring harmful algae blooms in the Gulf of Maine. Last March, she was awarded the “Girls Rock STEM-gineer award” from Hardy Girls, Healthy Women, a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and well-being of girls and women.

“Watershed has allowed me to take this unique path,” Hallie says. “That’s one of the reasons I came to school here. I’m grateful that my high school is as excited as I am about encouraging me to put my time and energy into something so meaningful to me.”

Watershed School’s small size provides students with the support and flexibility to create electives and develop independent studies or field experiences that challenge them and assists them in advancing their interests.

“We believe students should pursue their passions,” says Will Galloway, Head of School. “The Independent Study program allows young people to delve deeply into a field that they’re interested in, and to develop meaningful connections with mentors who are experts in those fields. This work serves them well not only during their high school years, but in college and beyond.”

Many other students also take advantage of this opportunity.

Senior Jacob Faunce and Junior Alex Facq spend their elective time working at The Steel House, an art, design, and technology collective in Rockland. With mentoring from the Steel House’s Nathan Davis, Jacob is designing an app that indicates whether or not people with dietary restrictions could eat specific products. He’s also designed and built a mini robotics submersible to be used in marine education courses. Alex is currently taking an online MIT course on the Python programming language, and he had the opportunity to build and program a self serve karaoke machine for CIFF this year.

Senior Nick Ryan is assisting published author and Watershed faculty member Ronni Arno Blaisdell in teaching a writing workshop to middle-school students. He is also working on his own novel, which he hopes to complete by the end of the year. Junior Bea Buckley is learning dressage with Certified ARICP Dressage Instructor Alexandra Doan, owner of Moose Ridge Farm in Lincolnville.