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SAD 27 seventh-graders enjoy overnight field trip to Deboullie Mountain

FORT KENT, Maine — More than 60 seventh-graders enjoyed learning and having fun in the great outdoors Wednesday and Thursday when they participated in the 25th annual Deboullie Field Trip that School Administrative District 27 has sponsored.

The Valley Rivers Middle School students hopped on buses headed for Perch Pond in the North Maine Woods on Wednesday morning to take part in the annual outing. Soon after they arrived, the students and their chaperones put together tents, many of which were made available due to the efforts of a Fort Kent Community High School sophomore who previously participated in the Deboullie outing.

Shaylee Jandreau, who volunteered on this trip, so enjoyed her own Deboullie experience when she was a seventh-grader three years ago that she took it upon herself to write to the LL Bean corporation requesting a donation of new tents for the annual outing.

Valley Rivers Middle School students participate in an orienteering session in the North Maine Woods during the school’s 25th annual Deboullie field trip on Wednesday, Sept. 19. (Jessica Potila)

“I love this trip and I love that kids that don’t usually get this experience are able to come out and enjoy it,” Jandreau said of her request to the famed outdoors retailer two years ago. “(LL Bean) gave us a very generous donation of 10 new tents.”

Jandreau’s father, Shon Jandreau is a longtime volunteer of the Deboullie Field Trip. Like many of the volunteers, he first participated with his own children, Colby, 23, Caleb, 20, Camden, 17,and then Shaylee, before deciding to continue volunteering out of respect for what the annual endeavor offers area children.

“He just likes cooking and being out here,” Shaylee Jandreau said on Wednesday as her father attentively manned a giant deep fryer filled with french fries. It was Shon Jandreau’s idea to add burgers and fries this year to the usual lunch menu of hot dogs and potato chips, in celebration of the Deboullie Field Trip’s 25th year.

Aside from tasty picnic food, the trip to Deboullie Mountain also offers students an opportunity to learn in an outdoor classroom. Student groups rotated to stations which included lessons in classification of plants and trees, orienteering, forestry, and wildlife. Organizers also had an ambulance on hand in case of any emergencies and the volunteer EMTs showed the youngsters how to take vital signs and explained the inner workings of the ambulance.

Forest ranger Randy Lagasse educated the students about trees indigenous to the North Maine Woods.

“We want to inform people about their forest,” Lagasse said. “It’s very important, especially with the forest based economy we have, to educate kids about forestry, not only to respect the industry but to get them involved in their natural world.”

Retired Fort Kent Elementary School principal Gary Stevens and retired FKES assistant principal Larry Murphy were two of the founding members of the Deboullie trip 25 years ago. They still volunteer to help set up and work in the tarp-covered wilderness kitchen at Perch Pond.

“I believe in this with every ounce of my being because I think it’s a great thing for kids; it’s a great way for them to learn about their environment,” Stevens said.

Murphy said that the students are receptive to new knowledge in the outdoor atmosphere.

“The students are attentive because it’s a new and different experience for them,” Murphy said. “If nothing else, it helps a student and maybe a set of parents appreciate the great outdoors a little more, and we have this right here in our own backyard.”

Science educator Kevin Anderson, the coordinator on this trip, said, “It’s an amazing thing to see kids come out here. Some of them may not have been in the wilderness ever. They learn, but they don’t even realize they are learning.”

Anderson said that the trip also adds a social component to the students’ education.

“Some in the classroom are hard to get out of their shell, but when they get out here, they build these relationships with one another and it makes them more confident when they return to the classroom.”

For student Holly Guimond, 12, the Deboullie trip was her first outing in the North Maine Woods.

“It’s fun,” she said. “I like that it’s hands on, unlike a lot of field trips where we just listen to someone talk.”

Student Trystan Rioux, also 12, said his favorite part of the trip as of Wednesday was learning from a Maine game warden about local wildlife, especially viewing animal skins.

“I like it here because there is a lot of stuff to do,” Rioux said on Wednesday. “Tomorrow we’re hopefully gonna climb Deboullie.”

Indeed, according to Anderson, all students successfully made their way to the top of Deboullie on Thursday before the buses returned them to the school that evening, and he deemed the 25th annual Deboullie Field Trip a “great success.”

“Seeing the kids interact and learn even with less than perfect weather is always amazing,” he said Friday. “The huge amount of collaborative support between the school, staff and community make this trip such a great success. We are looking forward to the next 25 years.”


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