Last June, William Robinson, currently a fifth grader at the Chebeague Island School in Casco Bay, could be found near the bowsprit of the schooner Timberwind, gazing off at the horizon opposite Rockport.

Or you would find him sitting next to the captain at the helm or taking the huge wheel himself and guiding the 110-foot wooden vessel through the gentle chop, his eight classmates, along with teachers and parents, enjoying the cool sea breeze.

For a kid who grew up on an island, and whose father is a fisherman, going out on a boat for a couple of nights might not be a big deal. But watching William take the wheel and daydream on the bow told a different story. Maybe he’d write about his adventures when he returned to class the following week-and that is the whole idea.

Field trips at the Chebeague Island School can take many different forms. On or off island, the students are immersed in the world around them, from witnessing the Casco Bay watershed from the top of the golf course on Chebeague Island to collecting and observing sea creatures in their massive saltwater “touch tank,” to visiting an area of Maine they researched for a writing project.

This year, the Chebeague Island School has nine students in the third- through fifth-grade class and 13 students in the kindergarten though second-grade class.

Both classes have been studying the Casco Bay watershed aided by Josh Atwood’s book The Watershed Journey of Linus Loon. After learning potentially complicated concepts such as “biomagnification,” the students went out in the field to see it. “[Island resident] Beth Howe showed them a map of the watershed and then they went to the golf course to see where the water goes,” said Kristin Westra, upper class teacher. “We saw watersheds, we walked on them, and we saw creatures who lived in them.”

Another resident took them into the woods to explain occurrences like seasonal vernal pools. “We try to do as much hands on and relating it back to the island as possible,” said Westra. “Being a smaller school allows us to do this sort of thing.”

The intimate class size also allows the older students to roam further afield. Each June the upper level class ends its school year with a field trip. This school year the older class learned about the different parts of Maine. One of the projects was a persuasive essay in the form of an oversized postcard with kid-painted watercolors of places like Monhegan or Bar Harbor or Bethel pasted on the back.

When the time came around to choose a fieldtrip destination, upper level teacher Kristin Westra let the kids pick. Destinations went up on the board, were described to refresh students’ minds, and then voted upon. Rangeley was the winning choice. “You could go gold panning and fishing and mountain biking and a lot of fun stuff,” said fourth-grader Stephen Rich about his destination choice. In addition to the persuasiveness of his essay, he’s convinced he clinched the vote among his fellow students with his description of the area’s potential for gold panning.

Westra did not find anything in Rangeley suitable to accommodate nine students and their teachers and parents for only a couple of nights, so the fieldtrip destination was moved 24 miles to the northeast to Flagstaff Lake.

Any initial disappointment over the change in venue soon evaporated when it was discovered that island resident Roy Jackson grew up in Flagstaff Village, one of the several townships that were abandoned and submerged after the Long Falls Dam was built on the Dead River in the early 1950s for hydroelectricity. Jackson plans to visit the class before their fieldtrip to describe what it was like to grow up in that area.

After dropping off their duffel bags in one of the newly built huts of the Maine Huts and Trails Association, the students will spend the first day assisting the organization with trail maintenance. The goal of the service project is for the students to “give back to Maine.” The second day will be open to enjoy all that the lake area may have to offer-swimming, hiking, fishing, canoeing, or exploring the shoreline.

When asked what he likes best about the Chebeague Island School, Stephen Rich replied without hesitation, “It’s small. There aren’t a lot of people. You get to know everybody better.” And thanks to his persuasive essay, the students and teachers will get to know each other even better in a hut in western Maine this June.

And hopefully discover something else about Maine to write home about.