Eliot students raise funds for Burnt Island Light, treated to a weekend on the island

Sat, 06/15/2019 - 8:45am

On Saturday, June 8, 10 wide-eyed and enthusiastic students from Eliot Elementary School in Eliot, Maine arrived in Boothbay and were welcomed by Elaine Jones, Burnt Island Lighthouse Keeper. Students climbed aboard the ship, Resourceful, and were finally on their way to Burnt Island. All students at Eliot Elementary School spent the winter months engaged in a service learning project, raising money to help with the restoration of one of Maine’s treasures, Burnt Island Light.

Fundraisers included: students, families and staff purchasing T-shirts and sweatshirts with the Burnt Island Lighthouse/EES logo (students names included); students donated a penny for each book or chapter read during the month of March for Read Across America; and families purchased Square 1 art products with their child’s artwork on it.

The students at Eliot Elementary School had some creative ideas about how they could raise money for Burnt Island, their 2019 community service project recipient. In October 2018, EES was treated to a wonderful presentation given by Elaine Jones and Debbi Hale. Jones is the current lighthouse keeper and educational director. The presentation was a wonderful way to kick off the year-long project. Hale lived on Burnt Island when she was a child while her father was the lighthouse keeper. Everyone learned so much and wished there was more time to hear even more stories. The 10 students were sent to the island as representatives of their student body (selected in a raffle of 90 students who wanted to go) to see what the money they had raised would be used for.

Each student and his/her one family member was greeted on the dock at Burnt Island by a living history acting team; 1950’s U.S. Coast Guard Lighthouse Keeper and his wife, who welcomed these excited guests into the keepers dwelling. Here they learned what life was like being stationed at Burnt Island Light. Students toured the home, and even climbed to the top of the lighthouse itself.

In small groups, students boarded the Sea Swallow, a Boothbay Harbor lobster boat, to learn about lobsters and lobstering. While anxiously awaiting a turn on the lobster boat, students created model buoys to take home and share with their classmates. Students and parents spent all day Saturday and Sunday learning about the island, lighthouse history, and about the waters surrounding this magnificent island.

Using hand-held GPS devices students found points of interest on the island in a scavenger hunt activity. They looked closely at nautical charts learning about where Burnt Island and many surrounding points of interest were located. At low tide students were taken to the shore to dig for clams and sea worms, and later climbed onto the rocky outcroppings to discover life between the tides. Students found sea stars, urchins, crabs, and more as they moved from pool to pool lifting seaweed and rocks. Later students used some of their beachcombing finds to create their own creative adaptation of a sailor’s valentine.

In the evening students returned to the lighthouse keepers dwelling to examine historical artifacts, and to examine and discuss some fascinating historical photographs. Students looked over the photographic display of past keepers and discovered that one of Eliot’s second grade teachers had an uncle who had once been the keeper at Burnt Island Light.

Before our young learners climbed into their sleeping bags for a much needed night’s sleep at the Burnt Island Education Center, they experimented with sea fireflies and learned even more, this time about bio-luminescence. They slept soundly already realizing the importance and impact of their project.

Students returned to Eliot Elementary School tired but eager to finish their school-year sharing photos and stories about Burnt Island, encouraging fellow students and teachers to travel to Boothbay this summer and witness for themselves how their efforts had helped support the restoration of such an important landmark in our state.

Note from Elaine Jones: The entire school raised $1,902.78 for the restoration of the Burnt Island Lighthouse. In thanks, I offered them a weekend overnight so 10 students (represented by each grade level K-3), 10 parents, and 2 teachers had a fabulous learning experience. EES first grader Hannah Walden, in a reflective note, said the visit was “Amazing, I got to see Burnt Island and everything on it .... I liked that they used the stones from the island to build the lighthouse ... I feel great that we raised the money for this place and I’m happy I got to see it. Thank you!” In another reflective letter, parent Shauna Travaglini wrote: “This has been an unforgettable adventure! Not only did I enjoy being unplugged and spending one on one time with my daughter, but I learned amazing things about the importance and history of Burnt Island. It truly is a magical place!”