Teens throughout Maine are spending their summer in a variety of ways – including work and relaxation. But dozens of teens currently enrolled at Maine youth camps are investing hours of study and practice in their quest to achieve certification as Junior Maine Guides (JMGs).
The JMG program is an outdoor living skills program, established in 1937 and a collaboration today between the nonprofit organization Maine Summer Camps and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. JMG candidates study a broad range of skills and their effort culminates in a five-day testing camp deep in the Maine woods. JMG certification often leads to acquiring Maine trip leader’s certification and possibly acquiring a Maine Guide license. In addition to gaining valuable skills, JMGs develop confidence and self-reliance as well as a commitment to environmental stewardship. Since the program’s inception, almost 2700 teens have achieved JMG certification.
More than 50 JMG candidates gathered last Saturday at the fifth annual JMG Rendezvous, held at the University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond. Enrolled at eight different youth camps across the state, these teens are preparing for JMG Testing Camp, slated for July 22-26 at the Stephen Phillips Memorial Preserve on the shores of the Kennebago River in Oquossoc, outside Rangeley.
The Rendezvous, spearheaded by JMG Program Director Moose Curtis and Bryant Pond Director Ron Fournier, was established as a means of introducing JMG candidates to JMG examiners and familiarizing them with the testing process. Curtis says the program also “showcases a few skills areas for the candidates and gives the JMG counselors an opportunity to meet with the JMG Director to discuss their role at JMG Camp and hear about any updates to the program.”
Camps from across Maine sent their JMG candidates. Bryant Pond, Camp Kawanhee, Camp O-AT-KA, Birch Rock Camp, Camp Arcadia, Camp Runoia, Wyonegonic Camps, and Camp Natarswi, all of which have long-standing and thriving JMG programs, were represented at the event.
Ten of the 13 JMG examiners ran sessions at Saturday’s program. The 55 candidates were divided into four groups for four separate skills sessions: canoeing, axe and knife, map work, and a tree walk/individual shelter station. The full group also heard program updates, plus a review of campsite setup and use at JMG Testing Camp.
“The focus of the day is to help answer any questions and to showcase the various skills in a hands-on practical way,” says Fournier. This enables candidates “to see the skills standards first-hand.”
“Participants can take notes and will gain more confidence in their own skills as they continue to prepare for testing encampment,” he says.
Candidates and JMG examiners also enjoyed a cookout, prepared by Bryant Pond staff and funded by an ongoing grant to the JMG program from Enterprise Holdings.
“The JMG staff was impressed with the focus that the candidates showed during all the sessions,” says Curtis. “The candidates seemed to want to learn all they could about the skills they were being evaluated on at JMG Camp.”
JMG counselors were also attentive to learning about their roles in teaching candidates and providing supervision at testing camp, he says.
Curtis also expressed thanks to the Bryant Pond staff for their role in putting on the event.
Candidates had a full day, with a thorough exposure to testing camp demands. They used compasses and topographic maps with the guidance of longtime examiner K Bolduc. They listened to examiner Carrie Curtis describe the precise elements of a proper chopping block. They watched examiners Ginny Geyer and Katie Curtis demonstrate effective canoe strokes. Through observation and questions these youngsters came closer to developing the skills they will need to succeed at testing camp. Moreover, they met candidates from other camps, examiners who will assess their abilities, and spent a day at a Maine camp whose staff, like the staff of their camps, is dedicated to fulfilling the JMG program mission.
The day concluded early, thanks to an incoming thunderstorm. Candidates and their counselors returned to their camps, where they will continue to hone their skills in preparation for testing camp.
To learn more about the Junior Maine Guide Program, visit the JMG website at www.juniormaineguides.org.