Student Brayden Jewell lifts the base of a podium as he works recently on a StoryWalk trail along Lake George in Canaan. Photo courtesy of Kristie Leblanc, Somerset Public Health

A third StoryWalk trail is coming to Somerset County in the spring, thanks to a collaboration between public health advocates and a group of Skowhegan-area high school students. Participants previously built StoryWalk trails in Madison and along Lake George in Canaan.

The third and final StoryWalk is expected to be placed in the spring at the community center in Skowhegan at 39 Poulin Drive, where a new athletic complex is being constructed in the next year.

StoryWalks were developed by a Vermont woman as a way for families to read a book together while enjoying the outdoors, and are now installed in 50 states and 13 countries, according to the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier, Vermont, that helped conceptualize the project.

“This is a different way to get families active,” said Brady Coutreau, a community educator with Somerset Public Health. “There’s a lot of families, a lot of youth, who don’t particularly enjoy traditional exercise of physical activities like hiking and mountain biking.”

Over the last few years, Somerset Public Health, a nonprofit that works to improve health outcomes in Somerset County, has established StoryWalks that schools can use for field days or after-school events. There are a number of these trails already in central Maine communities, including Augusta and Waterville.

To create a StoryWalk, the pages of a children’s story are laminated and divided between a number of podiums erected along an outdoor trail.


“They became really, really popular and so we thought it could be a cool idea to have something a little more permanent around the area, that way community members can use them,” Coutreau said.

Funded by grant money from the New Balance Foundation, Somerset Public Health coordinated with the Somerset Career and Technical Center and Jobs for Maine Graduates to construct three StoryWalk trails.

An instructor at SCTC, Mike Jones, who has taught woodworking there and at Skowhegan Area High School for the last 13 years, took on the project as a service learning opportunity for high school students. A core group of around 20 to 30 students signed up, excited to help kids while spending time outdoors and giving back to the community through their schoolwork.

Student Meadow Swanson digs a hole recently to place a podium along a StoryWalk trail by Lake George in Canaan. Photo courtesy of Kristie Leblanc, Somerset Public Health

The first StoryWalk, displaying a Dr. Seuss book, went up in 2022 at the sports complex on Preble Avenue in Madison.

Figuring out how to build and install the podiums was a steep learning curve for the students. They had to learn to cut lumber and Plexiglas, drill holes, and it took a while to paint all the podiums, too, said junior Mackenzie Jones. Students spared an hour or so every day for two to three months, some giving up their study hall time to get the project finished.

“It was a lot of work, but we kind of figured it out,” Jones said. “(The next time) we knew what we needed to do and we got right on with it. We got it almost all done in one day.”


The second StoryWalk went up this summer along Lake George, which straddles the Canaan and Skowhegan town line. The students and their instructor are most proud of the work they did there.

“The Lake George trail and StoryWalk represents our best work,” Mike Jones said in an email. “We will be going back to Madison to update the StoryWalk there.”

At a selectmen’s meeting last week, Denise LeBlanc, Skowhegan’s director of parks and recreation, said the project is “right on schedule,” though engineers have not yet gone out for bid.

The students will construct the last podiums this winter, Jones said. He’ll soon meet with Somerset Public Health to plot out where exactly the trail will be at the community center.

Some students said the project, and their involvement with SCTC and the JMG programs more broadly, have inspired their postgraduate plans.

Senior Meadow Swanson said she wants to keep doing service work, either by joining the military or becoming a JMG specialist herself. Both Mackenzie Jones and fellow junior Dominique Arbo said they plan to go into early childhood education, and want to take children through the trails they blazed for StoryWalks in the coming years.

Service learning is a key tenet of the Skowhegan-area education system, Mike Jones said.

“Our principal (Jason Bellerose) is very supportive of what we choose to do in the community,” he said. “I’ve always felt fortunate to be in a position to work in the woodworking trades, which lends itself well to that community work, and to be able to offer real-world examples of how that work can be used.”

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