Great view, plush pillows and a lean toward green

Visit The Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport and there’s a chance you’ll stay in an eco-designed, environment-friendly “green” guest room.

It will be a comfy and colorful room bursting with natural woods, materials, fabrics and artwork.

And it will be a room designed on a shoestring budget by a team of eighth-grade students from the Middle School of the Kennebunks.

Now in its sixth year, the Green Room Project tackles guest room ecodesign at The Nonantum from the ground up.  Using the principles of project-based learning and the MacBook technology tools offered by the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), mission-critical work groups are formed in each of three eighth-grade art classes.

“The work groups manage everything from furniture to fixtures to bedding to accessories,” explained Mary McCarthy, a Middle School of the Kennebunks art teacher and the Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine (ACTEM) “2012 Technology Teacher of Year.”

Yet another work group is charged with publicity, McCarthy said, creating brochures, podcasts and invitations to the “unveiling” event.

Working with just a modest budget, students research color palettes, fabrics, materials and artwork, all with an eye on environment-friendly and cost-friendly techniques. All purchasing is done online, with sources such as IKEA, JCPenney and even consignment shops.

McCarthy works with health teacher Claudia Dalton, who assists students with fabric and fixture choices. “It’s art imitating life,” Dalton said.  “The teachers act as facilitators and the students run the business.”

Throughout the process, the students depend on technology.  They use their MacBook computers for art and design research, to aid in price comparisons and purchasing decisions, for poster design and podcast creation.

As a part of MLTI’s charter, learning with technology is designed around the student, and is responsive to a range of different needs and learning styles. In all cases, the goal is to foster an environment where the students become self-directed and in control of their own learning.

“It’s second-nature for us to open our technology tools before we work,” McCarthy said.

The students are rewarded not with compensation as “professional” designers, but with invaluable experience and public acclaim. Each May, The Nonantum holds a reception for students and their families as the completed rooms are showcased. Each green room features a granite plaque that identifies its personal designers.

“The compensation for us is that our kids have real-life work experience,” McCarthy said. “The resort is providing our students with a tremendous opportunity. It is a gift.”

The plan at The Nonantum is to continue the Green Project until all 111 guest rooms have been eco-redesigned.

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