Founding Stories: FOAM Challenge

The campaign to raise funding for our River Bend Farm project brings forth the opportunity for special people to be honored by family and friends through gifts in their name. Founding Stories is a series that spotlights the heartfelt stories of people and businesses whose life’s mission or business promise is to preserve our natural resources and promote conservation through educational programming. In several instances, our supporters have been inspired to raise funds from friends and family in honor of someone they hold dear. We look forward to this opportunity to share the intimate and inspired purpose of many gifts with our community!

Since January, FOAMers (alumni Educators) from across the country have been sharing stories, re-connecting, and coming together to support the Capital Campaign to build The Ecology School’s new home at River Bend Farm. The FOAM Challenge is a challenge for 70% of all FOAMers to make a donation (any amount!) towards building our new home. When that 70% participation goal is reached, an anonymous FOAMer will donate $75,000 to the Capital Campaign. $5? $25?$200? Any amount truly makes a difference. Click here to visit our FOAM Challenge fundraising page—join your Term’s team or create your own!

 “It isn’t the individual or the size of the gift that maters—it’s about the unity of the network and the understanding that simple actions add up. It really does take a village and WE are the village,” said the anonymous donor behind the FOAM Challenge.  “That’s also why I wanted a participation goal. I just happen to come from a family with a philanthropic history, but most people don’t. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to have the means or be taught to give back at an early age.  I’m excited about getting FOAMers to give. Our approach is consistent with The Ecology School’s whole approach—reaching out to the entire community.”

For this particular FOAMer, The Ecology School seemed to be her destiny. During the Spring semester of her senior year in college, she drove up for an interview with Drew Dumsch and Kim Schutsky (a former program director) and immediately knew that this was the place for her. “I still remember perfectly that feeling of first getting out of the car and knowing that this was home.”

“The school integrated science, conservation, and play—this influences how I run my own Teacher’s Program today.” Right after the interview she called the other summer job she had just accepted (in her original field of marine education) and asked for an extension. “During my very first lesson, one kid punched another directly in the face,” she says laughingly, “this was my sink or swim moment. But the team helped me figure it out—the support and community I felt from people like Drew, hooked me in.”

During my very first lesson, one kid punched another directly in the face. This was my sink or swim moment. But the team helped me figure it out—the support and community I felt from people like Drew, hooked me in.

If her first experience teaching was unusual, then her last was even more so. During one Marine Lab lesson, a student found a mermaid’s purse on the beach. After they cut it open, they found a living baby skate inside and with the help of her students and other Educators, they raised it together. “I have this image in my mind of me ten years ago, on the last day, seat belting a jar of sea water with the skate inside. Two hours later I was in Boston donating him to the New England Aquarium!”

For over 10 years now, she’s made contributions each year. “Because the school impacted me so much, I continued to increase the size of my gift. As I watched The Ecology School grow I’ve been impressed with the intentionality and strategy of the growth—it continues to remain true to its core values.” For these reasons, she’s pledged $75,000 to the Campaign plus $75,000 when 70% of all FOAMers have made a contribution. As of this publication, 46% of all former Educators have made a contribution to the Capital Campaign. We need less than 100 people to reach our goal! 

Are you a FOAMer and want to take the FOAM Challenge? Click here!

If you would like to learn more about naming opportunities at River Bend Farm please contact Development Director, Bryan Matluk, at (207) 283-9951 or

FOAM Challenge Update: Over 185 FOAMers from around the country participated in the FOAM Challenge sharing stories & memories of teaching, learning, and growth. Our Alumni Educators donated to name the Outdoor Theater In Honor of Alumni Educators where The Ecology School will continue to use skits, songs, and storytelling to encourage laughter and joy while teaching about the natural world. Thank you FOAMers!