HARPSWELL COASTAL ACADEMY students Hank Derr (left) and Dalton Monteith (right) and teacher Kelly Orr (center) conduct interviews as part of a program studying working waterfronts.

HARPSWELL COASTAL ACADEMY students Hank Derr (left) and Dalton Monteith (right) and teacher Kelly Orr (center) conduct interviews as part of a program studying working waterfronts.


Harpswell Coastal Academy students are becoming more engaged with working waterfronts and what it takes to sustain them through a unique series of interviews.

Students Hank Derr, Dalton Monteith and their humanities teacher Kelly Orr arrived at Coastal Enterprises Incorporated to interview Hugh Cowperthwaite. CEI has been involved in the protection of commercial waterfronts, helping them attain a protected status and taxation based on the land’s commercial use and not it’s potential real estate value.

Notable for Orr’s students, CEI’s involvement in protecting Holbrook Wharf in Cundy’s Harbor. The Holbrook Community Foundation formed in 2005 when the wharf area went on the market. The group worked quickly, establishing themselves as a nonprofit with the goal of protecting and rebuilding the wharf into a usable commercial area.

Currently, the wharf includes a seasonal snack bar, seasonal store and a historic property with two rental units used to offset operating costs of the wharf.

“We want to collect different perspectives on the endangered status of our working waterfront, specifically in Cundy’s Harbor and so we’ve been trying to get the 360 degree view of what it means to be reliant on the water for your livelihood,” Orr said.

Orr said her students have been talking to activists, fishermen and their families — essentially, anyone connected with working the sea. The work was commissioned by the Holbrook Community Foundation.

“They’re really committed to preserving the working waterfront at Cundy’s and we’re hoping to bring awareness to the issue by putting these stories together,” Orr said.

In the third trimester Orr said a different group of kids will take up the cause and produce a short documentary film. Audio interviews, such as the one with Cowperthwaite, will be taken as one large audio file, edited, woven together with work from another interviewer, and produced as a three to five minute clip focusing on one aspect of the interview.

“It’s really academically rich and also great for kids to be talking to members of the community, practicing speaking and listening skills and also learning about the issue,” Orr said.

As for core standards, this is where their interdisciplinary work pays off. From a single project, students will be meeting English and language arts, social studies and some media and technology standards.

Among other interviewees, the Maine Coastal Fisherman’s Association which is an advocacy group that represents some ground fishermen in Harpswell that fish out of Cundy’s. Orr said they talked to many lobstermen and fishermen connected to Cundy’s Harbor.

Derr kept the interview going, delving into funding, state bond monies used help projects like Holbrook and if the Holbrook model can be duplicated. Derr listened and built on Cowperthwaite’s answers. Orr watched, listened and barely broke in on the process. The students plan on putting together their final project in March.

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