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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Mapping Our Reach

Posted by Wells Reserve Contributor | December 14, 2015

In recent years, we've been excited to see a rise in the number of students visiting the Wells Reserve to participate in guided and self-guided programs. Last year, I wrote about how remarkable the increase was between 2013 and 2014, and this year the trend continued steadily. In 2015, our skilled team of volunteer docents led a total of 1,291 students on guided program on our estuarine trails, up slightly from last year's 1,219. Additionally, 533 students visited the Reserve with their teachers to explore the estuary on self-guided trips, up from 435 in 2014.

While the increases are not the giant leaps they were from the previous year, 2015 saw a significant shift in the ratio of docent leaders to students thanks to a cohort of new docents who attended our successful Volunteer Fair back in February. With more leaders, we were able to lead students in smaller groups, allowing for more individualized discovery and time to explore all of their curious questions!

The numbers are great to see, but until this year we were missing an opportunity to tell another story about our reach: where in the world are all of these students coming from (literally!)? Here's part of the answer:

school reach

This interactive GIS map, created by intern Andrea Dest this past May, enables our education staff to take a look back at eight years of school program data to see just how far our geographic reach extends. You'll notice that each dot is color coded to tell the viewer what program it represents, and in our live web version we are also able to click on each dot to bring up the program details: what school it represents, which grade, with what teacher, during which month, and how to get in touch with them. What a wealth of information! (Note: No need to be alarmed that above there appears to be only one Wild Friends in Wild Places program in eight years, there are others that are just covered up by the sheer volume of programs crammed into our coastline!)

Here's what it looks like when we zoom in:

sea road

Look familiar? That's Kennebunk's Sea Road Elementary School! This shows us how much they love our Exploring Estuaries program, coming back many, many years in a row. Among other important questions our map can help answer are:

  • Who comes for which programs? Answer: Exploring Estuaries tends to attract elementary schools along the coast, from Portland to Portsmouth. High school groups outside of this radius and outside of the state as far as Massachusetts and Vermont come for Microscopic Marvels, self-guided options, or custom field trips.
  • Who are our "repeat customers"? Answer: Our closest neighbors and our furthest travellers! Unsurprisingly, schools in the Kennebunks and Wells school districts and those within a half-hour bus ride from us tend to come each year, but so do the Cabot School in Vermont, and the White Mountain School in New Hampshire. We also have great continuity within the Portland schools.
  • Who are our contacts in schools and educational facilities across New England? Answer: We have a lot! This database will help us keep track of the hundreds of educators who have visited us over the years so we can maintain our partnerships and reach out to new teachers.

And this is just the beginning! There are endless ways to look at a set of data, especially one that includes so many variables. In the future, I'm excited to see the colored dots accumulate as we reach more students and educators with our educational offerings here at the Reserve.

If you would like to schedule a program, or if you'd like more information on how to become a docent leading programs at the Reserve, please contact Kate at or (207) 646-1555 ext. 110.


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