Islands Through Time

2024 Dates TBD

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live on an island? To study seabirds and whales in their own environment? To explore different ways of communicating your experiences, results, data—through writing, painting, drawing, statistics? To be part of a team of adventurers who travel in small boats to distant places, landing on strange beaches not as a tourist, but as a student of human ecology?

Whales don’t fit into classrooms, birds don’t fly in classrooms, and while we value all the things that classrooms CAN do, we also want to immerse you in a wider, wilder world. In Islands Through Time, rising high school juniors and seniors gain college credit while learning the ecology, culture, and history of Downeast Maine, along with a hearty taste of drawing and painting.

College of the Atlantic is located literally next door to Acadia National Park. During this course, you will have the opportunity to work with faculty in art, biology, and law as well as with National Park Service professionals to expose you to various aspects of park management and day-to-day challenges of implementing the “national park idea.”

Over the course of twelve days you will:

  • Study and explore marine biology, field ecology, history, literature, writing, painting and sketching, and public policy.
  • Spend several nights at the college’s island field station.
  • Visit whale feeding grounds, seal haul-outs, seabird colonies, and small island villages.
  • Gain firsthand experience in data collection and research with natural historians at offshore island research stations.
  • Explore writing and literature with college professors while visiting the places you are reading about and honing your own writing skills.
  • Develop skills and potential in creative expression through painting and other media.
  • Work hard and challenge yourself, both intellectually and personally, through hands-on educational experiences, study, and reflection.
  • Examine the broader themes of:
    • preservation
    • attitudes toward nature, both past, and present
    • history of conservation
    • appreciation of our natural environment

aerial view of Great Duck Island

This is a college course taken for credit*, compressed into two weeks. The program begins with an introduction to the ecology and culture of downeast Maine at College of the Atlantic’s seaside campus. Groups of students will rotate through a variety of activities and learning experiences, while individuals or smaller groups will participate in intensive tutorials.


The first few days of the course will focus on the marine ecology, literature, and cultural history of the Maine coastline. Next, we will journey to the college’s field station on Great Duck Island where we will base ourselves while venturing to other outer islands, learning from human and non-human inhabitants alike.

Returning to shore, we will explore the traditional livelihoods practiced by some of those who have made this coast their home and consider how the changing environment has shaped their experiences. Students will work on thought-provoking and rigorous academic assignments in multiple disciplines, expressing themselves through writing, drawing, and photography.

Throughout the course, students will work directly with College of the Atlantic faculty members, writing extensively about their experiences, and working as part of a team to develop a final presentation to share with their professors, peers, and the public at the end of the session. 

Successful completion of the program will make students who apply and are accepted to the College of the Atlantic eligible for a $10,000/year scholarship should they ultimately choose to matriculate as a degree candidate.

*students will earn two semester hour credits = 0.6 of a full COA credit (2 term hours)


Group boat and map