Pathfinders @ BEMS

Pathfinders Program Overview

Pathfinders is an outdoor adventure program.

Groups of students are carefully selected for participation in Pathfinders by teachers, guidance counselors, and school administrators. Students are selected for a number of reasons which may include leadership abilities, a need for academic support, socialization skills, a positive school connection, and /or a love for the outdoors. These students join a group of experienced teachers from our school to begin training sessions after regular school hours. Their parents attend a meeting to understand our program goals and foster a greater home/school connection. Training may include adventure activities such as ropes course challenges, winter camping, white-water canoeing, or mountain climbing. This training continues for 8 – 10 weeks, depending on the group goals. All program students must carefully follow our Pathfinder goals and expectations in order to continue as members of the program.

Academic progress, school attendance, and all other Pathfinder goals are monitored weekly. The 7th and 8th graders who successfully accomplish all goals and expectations can then participate in a five-day expedition into Maine’s beautiful wilderness. Our 6th grade program is similar with 2-3 daytime excursions. BEMS currently offers six programs to on-average fourteen students per program. It is the long- term goal of Pathfinders to offer outdoor adventure opportunities to all students at BEMS.

Our Slogan: "Get Outside!"

Please contact Ethel Atkinson, Pathfinders Program Director, with any questions.


Pathfinders Program Goals

1. School attendance will improve and/or continue to be regular.

2. Appropriate student behavior as outlined by the student handbook will contribute to a positive school environment.

3. School academic performance will improve and/or show maintained success for continued membership to Pathfinders.

4. Students will learn about and practice their role as stewards of the land.

5. Students will learn outdoor living skills, good-sense rules of safety, and an appreciation for the outdoors.

6. Students will learn important skills for working together as a team, and understand the pivotal role of dedication in being part of a team.

7. Students will set personal goals and assess their progress.

Pathfinders Program Expectations

  1. Since safety is the #1 priority of Pathfinders, any student who refuses to listen or performs unsafe acts while in school or on Pathfinder sponsored activities will be dismissed from Pathfinders so as not to endanger others.
  2. Pathfinder students will, on a weekly basis, submit performance appraisal forms to their teachers. These will be monitored by Pathfinder staff and discussed at Pathfinder meetings.
  3. All Pathfinder II students must maintain a written log of all training, classroom, and expedition activities.
  4. All Pathfinder II students must have a valid physical examination.
  5. Pathfinder students must attend all training sessions unless excused in advance by Pathfinder instructors. Dedication is important. Our meetings involve safety training. Furthermore, our waiting list is long. Once you have been selected, you have taken the spot of another potential candidate.
  6. All Pathfinder II students must earn a minimum test score of 85% on all aspects of Pathfinder training.

The Pathfinder Program offers a great deal to any person (student or adult). It is an exciting opportunity because it offers all students who participate an extended expedition away from our school to practice all the new skills that have been learned. It is a great way to help you learn about yourself and what you are capable of achieving. Pathfinder is very difficult; it could probably be the most difficult and exciting opportunity that you have ever had as a BEMS student. Your attitude will or will not let this happen. Students can be dismissed from the Pathfinder Program for doing poorly in any of the above listed goals/expectations.

Our History

Last year (2016-17) the Pathfinders Program celebrated 30 Years of getting kids outside. In that time, by our calculations, the Pathfinders Program has serviced over 1,800 students. And it all began with one man...

Richard Pelletier was a beloved science teacher at BEMS for 16 years, retiring in 2003. He started teaching at BEMS in 1987, and he began the Pathfinder II program as soon as it was approved in that same year. Prior to coming to BEMS, he taught at the Maine Youth Center in South Portland for 20 years where he started Pathfinder I. That program started as a Boy Scout Troop. He would speak to community groups hoping for contributions to fund the program, and it didn't take too long to get the needed canoes, trailers, tents, etc. necessary to get started.

Once the program began at BEMS, Richard - Dick - wrote many grants and was able to fund much of the program without a burden to the school budget. He loved to speak to groups concerning Pathfinders, and they could tell he was passionate about the work. Through Pathfinders and his ‘Mainer ways’ in the classroom, Dick strived to reach a demographic that might not have otherwise found success in school. He understood the power of a positive connection to a significant adult. He also knew that getting kids outside could be pivotal to success in school and life-long healthy choices.

The Department of Education asked Dick several times to leave teaching to start Pathfinders in other schools. Dick loved the classroom too much, and he also knew that a successful program needed to have dedicated leaders. To that end, before he left Bonny Eagle Middle School he worked diligently to build a dedicated Pathfinder staff inspired by the positive, and sometimes transforming, growth in students who experience the program.

Richard Pelletier was recognized by the Maine State Legislature for his work in Pathfinders II on March 30, 1990. For his outstanding and unique approach in the classroom, he was also chosen as Southern Maine Science Teacher of the Year.

This year we will dedicate the Pathfinder barn to Richard Pelletier. (Sept. 30, 2017)

And now...?

The program now has seven teams going out on expedition per year: 6th Grade Pathfinders, Girls Fall, Boys Fall, Winter Co-ed, Girls Spring, Boys Spring, and this year we hope to reintroduce Summer Pathfinders. We are 20+ staff strong with almost all certified in Wilderness First Aid. We even have a Maine Guide among us! The Pathfinder Staff are a special crew of people all dedicated to our simple slogan,"Get Outside", because they know, and they've seen first-hand the positive life-changing effect it has on students. Many thanks to our staff!