August 13, 2004
More than 20 seniors from around the country enjoyed learning about the St. John Valley's environment, culture and the sky above during an Elderhostel program hosted by the University of Maine at Fort Kent last week.
The first topic of the week-long Elderhostel program, Moose, Partridge and Bear; Oh My!- Ecology of the Maine Woods gave participants the opportunity to learn about some of Maine's famous animals, including the endangered spotted salamander, moose, bear, partridge (grouse) and the chickadee (our state bird) and the habitats in which they live. Studies took place in the classroom and in the field.
A second course focusing on the region's French Acadian Culture offered participants the opportunity to study the history of the Acadians from their deportation from Nova Scotia in 1755 through the present day where these northern Cajuns have thrived in the St. John Valley. Session participants experienced the culinary treat of a plate of ployes (traditional buckwheat pancakes), learned some local dialect and studied a fascinating history.
Astronomy for Beginners, using descriptive techniques, offered the opportunity to explore basic questions and unique phenomena while learning about black holes, star and galaxy formation, the Milky Way and quasars. The St. John Valley is a great place for star gazing during cool evenings.
During the one-week session, participants attended morning seminars and after lunch went on field trips, including to the Acadian Village in Van Buren and a tour of the Maine Winter Sports Center's 10th Mountain Lodge facilities. The program was enhanced by evening extracurricular activities and entertainment.
Elderhostel is the nation's first and the world's largest educational and travel organization for adults 55 and over. Couples participating in the program together must include one person of that age. Since their founding as a not-for-profit organization in 1975, they have offered exceptional learning opportunities at remarkable values in every corner of the globe, from New Hampshire to New Zealand, South Africa to South Dakota.
Last year, a quarter of a million enrollees took more than 10,000 Elderhostel programs in over 90 countries. Elderhostel believes learning is a lifelong process and that sharing new ideas, challenges, and experiences is rewarding in every season of life.
The program is successful because older adults care about education. They are intense, self-motivated learners, and they define their own educational experiences and enthusiasms.
Elderhostel fosters and capitalizes on these strengths, empowering older people to continue learning, to expand their horizons, and to enhance their personal development. It also ensures that older learners will be part of well-run learning environments full of diversity, insight, wisdom, and intellectual and cultural stimulation, and that they get to share in the joys of learning and friendship.