Summer, summer, summer! For me, the word brings up the taste of grandma’s southern fried fish, buttermilk biscuits, and divine chocolate cake; the fun of setting up my mattress on the screened-in porch; the joy of getting lost in a novel until 2am; the feel of pine needles under my bare feet while picking blueberries. Cliches for sure, but the memories are there.

Summer is also when I feel, finally, free.

My school life before COA included lots of academic pressure, stress, and sleepless nights; summers were treasured life savers.

While COA isn’t quite like my prior schooling, I’m still wondering: What if the freedom that summer brings (not necessarily the weather, but the appreciation, spontaneity, inspiration, and adventures) continued ALL YEAR?

And for the love of everything that is LIFE: why doesn’t it???

What if children didn’t go to school to sit in classrooms, but learned in groups beginning with our parents and trusted community members? And as we grew, we sought out more experienced, wiser teachers in fields of interest? We could also begin contributing to the community’s basic needs at a young age, and then “work” continuously through life, with a better balance of savoring and serving.

I’m sure if we put our heads together, we could come up with something that doesn’t lead to a society with as many problems. Yes, that’s vague, but I wasn’t sure where to start: the collapse of the world’s natural systems? The widespread use and abuse of alcohol and drugs? (College students who get so wasted you can’t remember what you did each weekend - I’m looking at you). The extreme poverty?

The NY Times recently published “The Busy Trap” about how it has become cool to be busy. The author believes that four or five hours of work is enough to earn his stay on the planet for one more day. I agree.

Okay, okay. I know. COA gives more freedom than most. But as a COA “professor” recently asked, “why do we even have classes? I want to do away with classes,” his thoughts echoing mine.

I want to be free to go where I will learn what I need to learn at that moment in time. As a student, I definitely got frustrated with the structures that kept me from spending ample time with the librarians, cooks, and other staff from whom I thought I could learn a great deal. Is it time to revisit the structure of our curriculum?

- - -

Well, for most, for now, school exists from September to June. COA is no different. When we get back to school each September, whether we return to elementary school or college, the first few weeks will be spent repeating the question: how was your summer? What did you do?

The photos below are collected from COA community members around the world to give you a glimpse of what everyone is up to. From Brazil and Korea to the mountains of Acadia, students and faculty are doing-being-bringing-becoming-spreading-learning-living human ecology. Enjoy!

The National Library in Rio de Janeiro by Ana Puhač
Ana Puhač in Rio de Janeiro
“The water was very shallow” — Image by Katja Flukiger, Switzerland
Exploring Otter Cliffs with Christian Wagner, Image by Erickson Smith

“Christian Wagner took Lisa and me for some early morning climbing instruction in preparation for his instructor exam. He passed a few days later, and we had an incredible time (it was my first time climbing outside of a gym before).

This summer I am trying to balance a lot of work with a lot of fun. I’m working at the Dorr Museum of Natural History, gardening for a trustee in Bar Harbor, and housesitting for faculty in Southwest Harbor. In the museum I’m doing everything with Carrie Graham, from preparing informational displays to maintaining the touch tank to providing small educational programs throughout the week. It’s been really great so far: days range from 50 visitors to 200, and we haven’t even hit midsummer yet…

On the fun side, I’ve been discovering a lot more of Acadia than I had during the year: I’ve hiked 22 mountains so far (all in one day), I’ve rock-climbed in Otter Cliffs, and I’ve swam in Seal Harbor…

Food is also becoming a theme this summer. It’s one of my goals to learn to bake bread. I’m also sharing three plots in the community garden with Lisa Bjerke, and I’m just starting to get back into the foraging mindset. The wild strawberries are out, and the rosa rugosa are already bearing little green hips. Things are about to explode on MDI. I’m very excited!” — Erickson Smith

Phinn Onens in Montreal, Image by Sarah Gribbin
Healing Spirit Herb Farm, New York, Image by Sarah McCrackenov
Healing Spirit Herb Farm, New York, Image by Sarah McCrackenov
Students explore Acadia, Image by Marketa Malinova
Blue Lakes, CO, Image by Soleil Pacetti
Colorado, Image by Soleil Pacetti

“Personally, I am training to go on the Tour de Mont Blanc,  one of the most popular long distance walks in Europe. It circles the Mont Blanc Massif covering a distance of roughly 105 miles  with 30,000 feet of ascent/descent and passes through parts of Switzerland, Italy and France. It is considered one of the classic long distance walking trails. The circular route is normally walked in about 11 days.  So far this summer, my husband and I have hiked 22 of the islands peaks, and we’re going to do The Travellers and Katahdin sometime this summer, also to train for our trek.” - Lynn Boulger

Image by Zuri de Souza, India


Story by Julia De Santis