LA students Gavin Achorn and Zack Bailey with Jason Anthony and the 10 tree swallow houses he built and donated to Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust.

Students in Lincoln Academy’s IDEAL (Innovatively Designed Education for All Learners) Program partnered with Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust and local environmental writer Jason Anthony to install 10 new tree swallow houses earlier this month around the freshwater marsh at Coastal Rivers Salt Bay Farm in Damariscotta. Students worked alongside their LA teachers Janna Civittolo and Tim Gladu, as well as Anthony and Coastal Rivers educator Sarah Gladu to set up the houses.

Tree swallow houses need to be located at least 100 feet apart in an open meadow with their doors facing south and access to fresh water, according to Anthony. “That makes Coastal Rivers a perfect location to attract tree swallows, since there is plenty of open space and southern exposure near fresh water.”

Anthony built and donated the 10 swallow bird houses to Coastal Rivers. He has built and installed two dozen houses in other locations around Damariscotta and Bristol in an effort to help support the tree swallow population in the area. “Tree swallows eat thousands of mosquitoes, blackflies, and other flying insects every day, especially in the nesting season when they’re supporting a brood of four to seven nestlings.”

“We think the houses will be very successful, as evidenced by the fact that we have already seen tree swallows perched on them,” said Sarah Gladu. “The boxes were designed to protect the birds from predators and allow room for nestling growth. They also have good airflow to prevent overheating and reduce parasite problems.”

Lincoln Academy’s IDEAL program uses service learning as an important part of their work with students. All ninth and tenth grade students in IDEAL have been studying ecosystems and their own impact on the environment around them, according to IDEAL teacher Janna Civittolo. “Students enrolled in the program spend over half of their day outside, experiencing nature and deepening their understanding of self and community. Giving back to the community is tied into students’ learning, which helps them become more aware of community issues and gain a greater sense of responsibility.”

The tree swallow houses “were not easy to put into the ground,” said LA ninth grader Zach Bailey, who helped with the installation, “but I look forward to seeing if the birds have settled into them.”

“If you are walking at Salt Bay Farm this spring,” said Gladu, “We encourage you to keep an eye on the bird houses and see who is using them!”

Coastal Rivers is a non-profit, member-supported, nationally accredited land trust caring for the lands and waters of the Damariscotta-Pemaquid Region by conserving special places, protecting water quality, creating trails and public access, and deepening connections to nature through education programs. For more information, email or visit coastal 

Jason Anthony writes about the changing environment in his Substack newsletter, “Field Guide to the Anthropocene.” Follow his weekly updates at

Below: Environmental writer Jason Anthony (left) with Lincoln Academy IDEAL students Kaiden Abott, (in the background), Zack Bailey, Gavin Achorn, Steven Baldwin, and Eric Fraughton

Environmental writer Jason Anthony (left) with Lincoln Academy IDEAL students Kaiden Abott, (in the background), Zack Bailey, Gavin Achorn, Steven Baldwin, and Eric Fraughton