Maine Senior College Network news & updates
April | 2021
Welcome to the April 2021 Issue!

Happy Earth Day!

April's newsletter takes a look at recent classes with an environmental focus. You will find many similar course and lecture offerings all year round across the network. But this month presents an opportunity to showcase some fascinating talks that will encourage you out of doors.

Regarding any return to indoor face-to-face classes, the network will take guidance from the University of Maine System. We do not expect a return until the end of 2021. In the meantime, we will continue to deliver online Zoom classes and social get-togethers. Some colleges are taking a very cautious look into outdoor offerings over the summer. These will allow social distancing in the fresh air while still wearing masks. 

Our new buzzwords are "hybrid classes." What are they? On the whole, this is how we picture a senior college hybrid class:

  • A small face-to-face group with a limited number of socially distanced participants in the same room with their instructor.
  • The other class participants will join via Zoom from remote locations. 

Rest assured that the aim is to make hybrid classes simple and easy to manage! Lewiston-Auburn SC was experimenting with this approach before the pandemic hit us last year. I had the opportunity to experience several of their hybrid presentations via Zoom. My favorite event was "Zoomed" from the West Auburn School House Museum during a heavy snowstorm. I joined virtually with nine others on Zoom. Five more people sat at school desks in front of presenter Penny Jessop (dressed in period costume as the teacher). Penny made time travel look easy. She managed the pot-belly stove in the chilly room and walked to and fro between the five students (huddled in their coats) and the rest of us (warm at home) but visible on the laptop screen. Hybrid learning with Penny was fun, even though the remote students could not drink her hot apple cider warmed on the stove. Lewiston-Auburn Senior College will be delivering another class with Penny via Zoom on May 19. The event is titled "Back, WAY Back, to School." If you would like to experience a hybrid class there may be some seats left!

Program Director

A performance inside Starship - Artistic render of a musician and space acrobat performing in the microgravity of Earth orbit on board the SpaceX Starship.

Recent MSCN Earth Friendly Classes
“Like music and art, love of nature is a common language that can transcend political or social boundaries.”
—Jimmy Carter

To celebrate Earth Day, here is a look across the network at recent and, in some cases, current classes that focus on the environment.

This review will give ideas for future classes and help readers to identify some of our excellent instructors. You never know, some of these instructors might be encouraged to teach these classes again.

The class titles link to more information on the respective senior college websites.

  • Ann Caswell
Online via Zoom, with field trips into Acadia National Park
Are you ready to get out safely and observe the transformation of Acadia from winter to spring? Learn how seminal nature writers like Thoreau and Emerson regarded elemental features of the landscape – mountain, lake, ocean, forest. Then, work your own observations and reflections into short personal essays to share in class. No experience with creative writing is required! This will be a hybrid class: an hour on Zoom plus an hour in the field (with travel time in between).
  • April 21 - May 26, 2021 (Registration Closed.) (Fee: $60)

  • Chuck Acker
How to Talk About Climate Change and Keep Your Friends will address the ideological divide in this country, particularly regarding climate change, and more generally, political issues. We will utilize the insights of cognitive psychology to understand how we develop and maintain our belief structures or World View (Weltanschauung) and why it is difficult to change what we believe. The class also offers some suggestions on how to respond to climate change skepticism or denial when we encounter it. We are encouraged to look at ourselves and recognize our own biases. Some of the ideas presented will seem counter-intuitive and will require considerable work to appreciate their effectiveness. Hopefully, by delving into these psychological and social processes, our course will help us to more empathetically deal with the position of the “other guy.”
  • March 18- May 6, 2021 (Free)

  • Cyrene Slegona
Monarch butterflies are recognized as an indicator species whose status provides information on the condition of the ecosystem. We will explore the biology, ecology, and current scientific research concerning Danaus plexippus and how this knowledge applies throughout Nature. Milkweed’s many varieties, uses, and species dependent on it will be reviewed. There will be observations skills offered for nature drawing explorations.
  • May 6, 13, 20 with optional 27th. (Fee $15:00)

  • Cheryl Ring, Susan Cottle, Jan Collins, Serena Sanborn, Terry Porter, Bonnie Sammons, Leigh Ann Fish, Deb Stahler. (All presenters are Maine Master Naturalists.)
This course will present a short overview of the Maine Master Naturalist Program along with informational presentations on Maine birds, bats, trees, vernal pools, geology and ferns. There will also be a virtual tour of the state’s Viles Arboretum in Augusta, and a self-guided tour of Merrymeeting Bay where water from the Sandy River meets the ocean.
  • March 18, April 15, May 20, June 17 (Fee $12:00)

  • Ray (Bucky) Owen & Jerry R. Longcore
Weeks 1-4: Restoration Ecology: An In-Depth Study of three Restoration Projects in Maine, the American Bald Eagle, the Penobscot River, and the American Chestnut
Weeks 5-6:American Beaver: Effects on landscapes and North American History and Avian Architecture and Camouflage: Birds Nests and Eggs.
  • March 24 - April 28 (Fee $30)

  • Dr. Robin Pinto, Jon Southern, And Cathy Lookabaugh
The Downeast Coastal Conservancy (DCC) is a land trust that cares for more than 7,000 acres of wetlands, mountains, beaches, lakes, rivers and islands in the coastal regions of Washington County. These lands and waters host stunning scenery and natural and cultural resources important to our Maine heritage. They support a diversity of wildlife; they hold the records of the many peoples who have lived in them for thousands of years. Many of these properties are in your backyard! And all of them are open to you. In this series of six sessions, we will delve into those elements (historical, scenic, ecological and recreational) that make these places significant for our communities. Explore with us what these lands and waters mean for you and your family! 
March 17 - April 21st, 2021 (Fee $15)

OLLI Presents:
SAGE 2021 Spring Lecture Series

Three sessions remain in this eight-week lecture series.

Sage lectures are held each fall and spring, exploring new dimensions in the arts, sciences, history, culture, business, recreation, and current events. Lectures are presented by experts in their fields.

April 20
The Benefits of Music Education

Dr. Jean Murachanian, Executive Director, Portland Conservatory of Music
Jean will talk about how Portland Conservatory of Music, now in its 24th season, engages 300+ students of
all ages and abilities.

April 27
The Science of Vaccines: Learning from the Past to Protect our Future

Stephen Pelsue, Science Director, BBI Solutions
Stephen will examine the history of vaccines and the advances that have built the foundation for those currently being used to fight COVID-19.

May 4
New Challenges and New Opportunities at the Portland Symphony Orchestra

Carolyn Nishon, Executive Director and
Eckart Preu, Artistic Director, Portland Symphony Orchestra
This presentation will focus on the work that the PSO has done to adapt to COVID-19 challenges and what lies in store for the organization as it looks to its 100th season and beyond.

The cost for each individual lecture is $10.
OLLI Membership is not required for individual lectures; however, you must register four days in advance to receive an access link.

How to sign up for OLLI SAGE lectures:
If you are interested in joining a lecture please send an email message to OLLI.

Links to MSCN 2021 Classes!

Acadia SC 

Augusta SC

Belfast SC

Coastal SC

Gold LEAF Institute 

Lewiston-Auburn SC 

Midcoast SC 

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute 

Penobscot Valley SC 


South Coast SC

St. John Valley SC

Sunrise SC

York County SC 

Keep Sharp,Build a Better Brain at Any Age
by Dr. Sanjay Gupta M.D.
Published by Simon and Schuster
Pages 318 Price $28.00

Reviewed by Pat Davidson Reef

Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s philosophy of life is upbeat and happy in his new book titled ”Keep Sharp, Build a Better Brain at Any Age.” His primary advice is to eat healthy foods and exercise. He recommends selecting food from a plant-based diet of fruits, berries, nuts, green leafy vegetables, eggs, and fish with fatty omega acids like salmon. Those positive ideas are not new but reassuring to see in print. Employing the word “Sharp” as a mnemonic, Gupta helps guide your mealtime decisions.

S = Slash the sugar
H = Hydrate smartly
A = Add more Omega 3 fats from wild cold water fish
R = Reduce portions
P = Plan meals ahead

Other considerations in the healthy building of your brain are to connect with other people and interact with neighbors or friends. Have at least two meals a week of fish like salmon or trout. Try to eliminate soft drinks and drink water or an occasional glass of wine.

Keep socially active. Do a twenty-minute walk with a friend. Call a neighbor you haven’t spoken to for a while.

Instead of pastries, doughnuts, or bagels for breakfast, try whole-grain waffles, berries, and nuts. Oatmeal with cinnamon, blueberries, raw walnuts, and a drizzle of maple syrup are other suggestions. Gupta also recommends Greek yogurt for breakfast because of its protein.

For lunch, try a green salad with chicken, salmon, or tofu topped with seeds, nuts, extra virgin oil, and balsamic vinegar.

For a touch of sweets, try a serving of fruit or two squares of dark chocolate.
Try turkey chili with a salad or grilled chicken or fish with veggies of your choice for dinner.

Tips for Lifting the Spirits
Another stimulant to lift one’s spirits and to create a healthy brain beyond food is to exercise and walk daily. Explore Strength and Resistance training exercises and include those in your exercise routine. Have at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. In addition, creating a gratitude journal and listing all the things you are grateful for is another approach. Lifting your spirits during the pandemic is an activity we can all do in our homes. Gupta suggests making a list of at least five people that you are grateful to have in your life.

Learn something new every day. It challenges your mind and demands different skills to develop. It is part of building a healthy brain in simple ways.
Sanjay Gupta originally wanted to be a writer in his youth but changed his mind because he became interested in medicine after his grandfather had a stroke. Gupta said, ”Writing this book about brain health has been no different from writing about my experiences out on the battlefield or in an area devastated by a disaster. When it comes to dementia, we are at war.” This book is for the general public and does not focus on specific ailments though Gupta does discuss Alzheimer's in the last third of the book.

He reminds the reader that this field is frustrating because of the general lack of research in this area. But he mentions that Bill Gates has funded research on Alzheimer's. There is hope in the care and diagnosis of this disease in the future. At this time, there is no way to cure Alzheimer's. Still, there are many recommendations to slow down the process by eating certain fish and berries, exercising, and some experimental drugs.

Gupta does mention the top 10 early stages of Alzheimer’s as 1.) memory loss, forgetting things that just happened 2.) Changes in mood and personality 3.) Social withdrawal 4.) Misplacing important things, 5.) Difficulty in completing familiar tasks 6.) Confusion of time and place 7.)Poor judgment and decision making 8.) Struggling to communicate 9.) Change in vision 10.) Inability to plan or solve problems.

"Keep Sharp" provides a list of nationwide programs to find help and resources for people with Alzheimer's. He includes a list of tests, while several treatments and drugs are lightly summarized, but the best advice is to see your doctor for advice. Every patient is different. 

Gupta ends the book on an optimistic note and advises all people to have a will and trust prepared. There are some valuable reminders of what you might like to ask your attorney. This book is excellent for all older citizens. I recommend it to all readers.

Earth Day Events with other organizations
Join David Goodrich, retired climate scientist and avid bicyclist.

350 Downeast and Porter Memorial Library

April 22 at 7:30 PM to 8:30 PM

For a discussion on climate change and the impact of fossil fuel extraction by David Goodrich, retired climate scientist and avid bicyclist.

David Goodrich is making a virtual return visit to Machias to talk about his recent bicycle trip across the Northern Plains from Alberta Canada to North Dakota. David spoke with us in 2018 about his trans-continental bicycle trip. An avid cyclist and retired climate scientist, he provides a fascinating insight into the impact of climate change. This recent bicycle trip takes a look at the environmental destruction done by extracting fossil fuels. His book about this trip, A Voyage Across an Ancient Ocean: A Bicycle Journey Through the Northern Dominion of Oil, is, “A detail-rich chronicle. The miles fly by,” according to The Washington Post.

To register for this Zoom event or for more information, email Mark Brown

Earth Day - Virtual Events

On April 22, NASA and the world will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. NASA’s Earth science, technology and space exploration are essential to the future of our planet.

Parks across the country will host a variety of special programs, events, and digital experiences.

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
List of Zoom events with Academy scientists and educators (many have free registration.

The Maine Senior College Network is a program of the