Students advocate for learning…the marine studies way

Advocating for changing the age limit from 18 to 23 for obtaining a fishing license was the topic of discussion last month when five students from Deer Isle-Stonington High School  (DISHS) provided testimony in support of LD 1503 to the legislature Committee on Marine Resources. Each student’s testimony articulated the positive impact the bill’s proposed changes would have on their learning and their future careers. Many of the student testimonies pointed to the difficulty of meeting the 1000 hours and 200 days of fishing required for earning a license in the student apprentice program while simultaneously attending to their studies and earning a high school diploma.

All five students are enrolled in the Marine Studies Pathway at Deer Isle-Stonington High School. Designed by Deer Isle-Stonington staff and community members, the Marine Studies Pathway offers relevant learning experiences for students to apply understandings in English language arts, science, math, economics, history and civics to complex issues and challenging problems facing coastal communities and ecosystems.

There are six critical components for teaching and learning in the pathway:

  • Prepares all students for college and career, it is not an either/or
  • Provides opportunity to earn a proficiency-based (standards-based) diploma aligned to state and national standards
  • Delivers an integrated, interdisciplinary, marine-themed curricula via community and project-based learning activities and lessons
  • Engages students in authentic and meaningful work through personalized learning opportunities
  • Provides opportunities for students to work side-by-side with teachers and community experts
  • Utilizes a wide range of community experts to partner with teachers to deliver high quality, authentic learning experiences

The Maine Department of Education’s Chief Academic Officer Rachelle Tome says the opportunity these students have today might never have been possible had it not been for the shift in instructional practices at DISHS and a subsequent shift in the culture of the school and community. “Their approach to proficiency-based education has been to focus on pathways that are of high interest to students. This school struggled for years to keep students, many of whom are also active in marine industries, engaged in the educational process and college preparation. By shifting the instructional delivery to a marine pathway, students found reasons to stay engaged, prepare for college. The level of impact has been incredible.”

For more information about the Marine Studies Pathway, contact Deer-Isle-Stonington High School principal Todd West at

For more information about proficiency-based diplomas, contact Proficiency-based Education Specialist Diana Doiron at