Kauffmann Program at North Yarmouth Academy

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KAUFFMANN PROGRAM in Environmental Writing & Wilderness Exploration

KAUFFMANN PROGRAM IN ENVIRONMENTAL WRITING AND WILDERNESS EXPLORATION North Yarmouth Academy’s Kauffmann Program in Environmental Writing and Wilderness Exploration seeks to educate students in the larger community about the importance of wilderness and nature. With a focus on environmental thinking, writing, conservation, and wilderness travel, the program is intended to create opportunities for NYA students, high school students across Maine, and the larger community to acknowledge the importance of wilderness conservation and environmental issues. The Kauffmann Program fulfills and supports NYA’s mission to develop a “concern for the larger community and appreciation for the natural environment.”

Glacier Bay, Alaska Photo: Brian Beard, Creative Images Photography


The program seeks to preserve and extend the legacy of former NYA trustee John M. Kauffmann, a neighbor and friend of NYA who had a lifelong passion for public lands and wilderness conservation. Kauffmann served for many years as a park planner with the National Park Service, playing an instrumental role in the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and in the establishment the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. He served on a number of conservation-related boards including Friends of Acadia, the Wilderness Society, and the National Parks and Conservation Association.

COMPONENTS OF THE PROGRAM The Kauffmann Program has these main components: • Environmental Writing • The John M. Kauffmann Prize for Environmental Writing • The Kauffmann Summer Program • The Kauffmann Lecture • Outdoor Experiential Learning Opportunities

ENVIRONMENTAL WRITING The environmental writing course is for NYA students that culminates in a backcountry journey in Alaska. This interdisciplinary course, which focuses on Alaska’s Glacier Bay, includes extensive reading and writing on environmental topics, backcountry protocols and trip planning, kayak safety and technique, geology, biology, and climate science. At the center of the course are three books: Alaskan author Kim Heacox’s book, The Only Kayak; John Kauffmann’s Alaska’s Brooks Range: The Ultimate Mountains; and Alaskan writer Hank Lentfer’s The Faith of Cranes. In addition to reading, students work with faculty from The Telling Room on personal environmental essays, which they share at a public reading in May. In June, after school has ended, students from class travel to Glacier Bay, Alaska, where they have opportunities to meet some of the writers they have read as part of class, work with scientists, and spend a week kayaking in wilderness backcountry of Glacier Bay. During the backcountry kayak trip, students practice leadership, leave-no-trace skills, navigation, various safety protocols, mindfulness, journaling; and they revisit some of the writing they studied during the semester.

KAUFFMANN PRIZE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL WRITING The John Kauffmann Prize for Environmental Writing is an annual prize open to all high school students in the state. Submissions of nonfiction should be fewer than 1,500 words about any environmentally-related topic. The essay may be nature writing, environmental or political activism, personal memoir, scholarship, science-based, or simply good storytelling on an environmental theme. Students in ninth through twelfth grades during the academic year are invited to submit one entry by November 15 each year. A $300 cash prize and $5,000 merit scholarship to NYA is awarded to the first place essay at a ceremony and public reading that includes the winner and finalists. Second and third place winner will receive $200 and $100 respectively. All winning essays will be published on the NYA website. Visit www.nya.org/academics/beyond-the-classroom for further details.


The Kauffmann Summer Program is a subsidized two-day experience in the summer which is open, by application, to all high school students in Maine. Students who are selected will bring a piece of their own environmental writing to NYA’s campus, participate in a writing workshop, attend a talk by a writer, adventurer, or scientist, and then kayak out to an island in Casco Bay for an overnight. Afterward, they are expected to submit their writing for the Kauffmann Prize.

KAUFFMANN LECTURE North Yarmouth Academy hosts an annual Kauffmann Lecture featuring an environmental writer, with an emphasis on Alaska, public lands, and climate change.

OUTDOOR EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES As part of the Kauffmann program, North Yarmouth Academy is committed to build upon on its current experiential education offerings, bringing back the Middle School Leadership Academy (a backpacking program in New Hampshire’s White Mountains) and adding an Upper School Leadership Academy, as well as a variety of student outings across the grade levels. Moving forward, there are many possibilities for NYA students to develop backcountry leadership skills and to use experiential education as a way to serve the local community.

FOUNDER & DIRECTOR Ian Ramsey is the founder and director of the Kauffmann Program, as well as the Chair of Visual and Performing Arts at NYA. A native of Maine and long-time faculty member at NYA, he holds an MFA in creative writing from the Rainier Writing Workshop and has published poems and essays in a variety of national publications. A licensed Maine Guide and aspirant BCU Five Star Sea Kayak Leader, he has led backcountry trips in Alaska, New England, and throughout the American West. He has also taken students to Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, China, Costa Rica, and Ireland. In 2003 Ian was a featured artist in Maine Governor Baldacci’s conference on “The Creative Economy,” and in 2007, he was chosen to participate in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund. In 2012, he took the NYA bluegrass ensemble to China to participate in the “International Youth Peace and Culture Festival” with students from eleven different countries. In 2014, Ian was awarded North Yarmouth Academy’s Howard Small Chair for Excellence in Teaching, and in 2016 he was announced as a national quarterfinalist for the Grammy Music Educator of the Year. He has been an artist-in-residence, teacher, and performer throughout much of America and several foreign countries. He is a cofounder of the Maine Acoustic Festival, a region wide roots music festival for middle school and high school students. In addition to his work at NYA, Ian is the director of Pan Fried Steel, a not-for-profit community steel band. In his spare time, Ian loves sea kayaking, trail-running, yoga, music, literature, and international and backcountry travel. He is devoted to place-based education, using the arts, spirituality, science, and service to bridge cultural divides, and inhabiting the rich and challenging terrain between diverse disciplines and ideas.

THE FUTURE This program may expand to include other possibilities such as: •

Aligning NYA’s “Wild Soul Words” environmental film series more closely with the program;

broadening the backcountry/wilderness trips with sea kayak journeys on the Maine coast and/or other parts of Alaska that John helped preserve;

collaborating with environmental organizations with which John was involved; and

the creation of community and NYA alumni adult backcountry trips to Alaska with a focus on mindfulness and creativity, including writing and visual art.

For more information or to support The Kauffmann Program in Environmental Writing & Wilderness Exploration please contact Ben Jackson at 207.846.9051 | bjackson@nya.org or Ian Ramsey at 207.847.5482 | iramsey@nya.org

NYA MISSION STATEMENT North Yarmouth Academy is an independent, college preparatory, coeducational school. The Academy offers a structured program that establishes clear standards and high expectations in an environment that emphasizes values of mutual respect, trust, and community. North Yarmouth Academy is dedicated to fostering integrity, character, and intellect in its students. The North Yarmouth Academy program encourages students to develop: • • • • • •

Problem-solving skills based on sound analytical and creative thought; Sophistication in writing, speaking and artistic expression; Appreciation for the importance of athletic activity, teamwork and cooperation; Self-confidence and self-respect through a breadth of experiences that extend beyond the classroom; Concern for the larger community and an appreciation for the natural environment; Desire to continue the process of lifelong learning.

148 Main Street, Yarmouth, ME 04096