Passing On The Passion

Fall leaves wet with dew crinkle as students make their way into the IMG_0455 (2)forest. The sun has just risen for their 8am walk. They are quiet with anticipation as they spot their trap. Mutters and gasps come as they approach their first successful catch. Everyone stops walking and not even the leaves are crinkling anymore. Silence casts over the group and their eyes never leave the little squirrel in their trap. The best part about all of this? This is their classroom.

Josh Delcourt teaches Honors Physical Science and Maine Fish and Wildlife. His true passion is of the outdoors and wildlife of Maine. He has lived and traveled all around Maine his whole life and loves teaching students about what they can find in their backyards.

The Thornton Academy Program of Studies describes class content as, “Wildlife including Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, Mammals and Birds. Along the way we will uncover the challenges Maine wildlife face, the adaptations that allow them to survive here, and some of the strategies used by humans to manage populations. An emphasis will be placed on getting ‘out there’ to see wildlife in our backyard.”

 The launch year for Maine Fish and Wildlife was in 2014. The class had about 130 students enrolled. This was a huge success since most electives take awhile to catch on.

Delcourt told me most of his classes are half and half. Some come in loving wildlife and the outdoors. The other half take it because it’s an easy science credit.

IMG_0480“Those kids are my real goal, I want them, by them time they leave to be passionate about wildlife. That’s the challenge,” Delcourt said.

Most recently, students have been working on a mark and recapture project with squirrels. This is used for wildlife population estimates. Instead of learning in a classroom how experts do it, they actually get to go out and experience a population study.

Delcourt’s devotion and interest came from his family. His dad always offered to take him out fishing and hunting, and encouraged him to read the woods and look at wildlife differently. Delcourt said that he always had a natural love for the outdoors and his dad never pushed him, he guided him

A lot of the class is doing nature walks on the eastern trail, finding cool stuff and talking about it. That’s the way Delcourt’s dad taught him, and that’s the way kids learn the best.

Senior Forest Parenteau initially joined the class because wild life had always interested him. Although as the class went on, Parenteau’s respect for nature’s creatures and wildlife grew deeper.

“I began to understand what the forest really does for us… I now feel the full impact of how important nature is beyond the aesthetic view,” Parenteau stated.

Victoria Renell who spends every summer hiking in Baxter State Park said, “Mr Delcourt is always excited about what we are talking about. It makes it so much more enjoyable.”

IMG_0454 (1)Delcourt hopes all his students develop a deeper appreciation for wildlife. Something as common as seeing a squirrel, is now intriguing to these students. Hearing birds sing and frogs croak isn’t just noise.

“If you look at wild life differently you look at the world differently, you treat the world differently. It’s not just noise in the background anymore…and that’s the goal,” Delcourt says.

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Educating students for more than 200 years.