When I picked our younger daughter up from her Summer Field Institute Program at the College of the Atlantic, there were presentations (above), lunch and a bit of a tour (photos below).
Our daughter had a phenomenal time, or to use her words, “It was beyond awesome.” She saw 12 whales, and some seals and puffins. She held baby gulls, and worked on two island research stations far our in the Atlantic. She dissected fish, which she thought was fascinating. She was responsible for the 6 am watch in a lighthouse on the farthest island offshore in Maine. Most miraculously, she wrote five papers in two weeks, which she had to get up regularly at 4 in the morning to do.
The professors were wonderful. There were fifteen students, with five professors and 4 TA’s. She really liked the interdisciplinary approach, and how everything was made relevant to everything else. She even got two piano lessons; she was taught how to compose music– and she had a lightbulb go off– finally understanding inversions on the piano, which is exciting for her.
She liked having the ocean out the back door of her dorm and walking down to the dock barefoot in the early morning. The food was delicious, but she ate tons of salad and doesn’t want to see that for a while. Participants came from all over, as far as California, Colorado, England, and even a blonde kid from China who had been in the recent Karate Kid movie. The only down sides were: she missed cold drinking water, didn’t get enough sleep because she was working so hard, and too many of her peers swore.
Does she want to go to college here? Maybe. She will definitely apply, and seriously consider it. She was enthused to find out that if she came here she could do a semester at Olin College of Engineering. That possibility mitigates a bit her sense of the drawback to this college choice, which is not enough engineering emphasis. (There are plenty of Physics offerings, but they are all taught by the same teacher.) On the other hand, when she looks through the course offering book for the College of Atlantic, there is lots of stuff there she practically drools over taking. That is not her response to an engineering school’s course grind.
The important thing for right now is that she’s done her first college course; although it was hard, she did well and enjoyed it. This is huge for her sense of confidence and self-image as she hits her 11th grade year with all its high stakes tests. She has really shown up for herself with no parent around, so now she knows she can do it again.
In the coming year we will be doing other college visits, but she will be comparing them now to this place. She loves Maine, loves that the College of Atlantic has only one tiny underused lecture hall because of all its small hands-on or seminar style classes, loves the non-institutional dining room next to the dock and the bay. I don’t think she’ll be seeing that combination anywhere else.