Saco School Department’s Young School Adapts to Distance Learning to Follow Through on Planned Whole School Thematic Unit

Last September, Brad Coupe and the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse invited Principal of Young School in Saco, Dr. Peter Harrison and staff, to visit the island off Vine’s Landing in Biddeford, and tour the lighthouse.

From that visit, a whole-school, Lighthouse Themed study was planned to correspond with Maine’s Bicentennial and it’s Maritime history. A May field trip to Portland Head Light by all students was to set the stage for this integrated project. In Art classes, students were going to design and build a lighthouse.

Classroom teachers planned lighthouse themed activities in all subject areas and technology would be used to virtually visit and learn about lighthouses. Guest
speakers would share their experiences working and living at lighthouses in Maine.
Teachers planned to connect Young School’s OBOYS (One Book, One Young School) project to the lighthouse theme by having all students receive and read a copy of
the book Keep the Lights Burning Abbie, by Peter and Connie Roop.

student lighthouses

Then in March, a Global Pandemic changed all those plans! 

Teachers’ focus turned to “Distance Learning.” Just connecting with students and families became the immediate necessity. Slowly with time, teachers began to be more comfortable with this new way of school and their thoughts drifted back to the abandoned Lighthouse project.

In an effort to help students stay engaged over April vacation, Young School teachers shared a few resources for students to explore if they chose to. Over vacation, Students were challenged to build or create a lighthouse.

Distance Learning Lighthouse Week

Ms. Julia Gordon, K-2 Art teacher, compiled photos staff took while visiting Wood Island into a video for students!

After April Vacation, the original committee members decided to bring the Lighthouse Unit back to life digitally!

Click to see video

Three Lighthouse Experts Right Here in Saco!

Mrs. AnnMarie Hann, from CK Burns School, (former first grade teacher at Young School), shares her experience on the US Coast Guard Cutter, Abbie Burgess! See Video
When Mr. Mike Garrity, Director of Transportation and Facilities for Saco School Department, was in the Coast Guard, he tended lighthouses. Mike shared his experiences with students through video! See video
Mrs. Julie Petrin, School Secretary at Young School (now at Saco PreK), created and narrated a slideshow to share her family’s experience at Wood Island Light when Julie’s father was its Lighthouse Keeper! See video

Distance Learning Choice Board Menus

In order to extend learning, teachers created Lighthouse themed Choice Board/Learning Menus that included all subjects and unified arts.

Teachers also used Seesaw to create learning activities for students to complete in conjunction with the choice boards/menus.

See Student Questions and Responses from our Lighthouse Experts

Links that go along with the student responses in the image below:

Student Responses

This story was submitted by Wendy Cannon, Technology Coach, Saco PreK-2 Schools as mart of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea email Rachel at