Augusta – The Maine Department of Education (DOE) today announced over $2 million in pilot implementation funding for Maine schools that have created innovative pilot programs as part of the Rethinking Remote Education Ventures (RREV) project. Imagined and designed by teams of educators right here in Maine, the pilots offer responsive and systemic approaches to engaging students in their education.
“I am so proud of these innovative educators who are piloting new, whole child approaches to learning,” said Commissioner of Education Pender Makin. “They are courageous leaders who are paving the way to even better opportunities for Maine’s students, and we look forward to supporting additional education visionaries with training and support during this rare opportunity to re-imagine our centuries old system of education.”
Once fully developed, the pilots have the potential to impact over 13,000 students statewide in the first of several rounds of funding for RREV Innovation Awards through July 2023.
Last year, the Maine DOE was awarded $16.9 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s Rethink K-12 Education Models Funding. As one of 11 States to receive funding, Maine embarked on a project called Rethinking Remote Education Ventures (RREV) which offers a multi-pronged solution with a primary goal of generating innovative remote and responsive learning models to provide equitable access to high quality learning opportunities for all students.
“The RREV program forges a powerful partnership between Maine’s institutions of higher education and the state’s PreK-12 educators, allowing us to share tools and systems that empower teachers and administrators to transform the student experience,” said Renee Kelly, Vice President of Innovation and Economic Development at the University of Maine, and an RREV innovation course instructor. “This collaboration is all about facilitating connections – between Maine schools, the state’s colleges and universities, members of the business community, and beyond. The University of Maine is proud to partner in Maine’s bold effort to create innovative learning opportunities for all students.”
The awardees will use the funds to further develop an innovative pilot program that they created through a design thinking process, in collaboration with a Maine higher education partner and adaptable for use in any school setting across the state.
“As we continue to flood the state with innovative prototypes we hope that all educators and educational leaders will join us in creating new opportunities for students throughout Maine,” said Maine DOE RREV Director Martin Mackey. “RREV offers higher education partnerships, on-site professional development and a collaborative web portal called EnGiNE to any school interested in learning more about innovative educational practices in non-traditional settings. These services are available at no cost to districts.”
Teaching Outside: The Box
Contact: Beth Clarke and Sarah Timm
Research unequivocally shows that learning outdoors benefits children in a number of ways, both academically and socially. However, teaching outdoors can be a logistical nightmare. Balancing curriculum, behaviors, and materials all while providing an enriching, fulfilling experience for students is nearly impossible to do without extensive planning and preparation. Providing teachers with the support they need, through co-teaching, modeling, coaching, instructional resources, professional development, and curriculum will make outdoor learning productive and meaningful. Our innovation would provide a two-year, full-time Outdoor Learning Coordinator who will support student learning by modeling instruction and co-teaching in outdoor learning settings. The Outdoor Learning Coordinator will work together with classroom teachers to enrich the curriculum and provide students with a learning environment that boosts engagement and fosters self-esteem and motivation. Standards in all subject areas will be covered using online unit plans and Unit Resource Boxes created by the coordinator. A fully furnished yurt classroom will provide storage for outdoor learning materials as well as an alternative space for classroom activities in inclement weather. Most importantly, the Outdoor Learning Coordinator will work regularly with students and teachers to provide meaningful outdoor learning experiences.
Remote Learning Pathway
Brewer School Department
Contact: Renita Ward-Downer, Director of Instruction and Technology
Brewer School Department’s RREV project is offering a remote learning pathway to its 7-12th grade students. This pathway ensures that students who didn’t thrive in person, the easily distracted, those with incompatible home responsibilities, and more–will still have access to a high quality education while now engaging with curriculum in a modality that fits their needs. If families feel that a home learning environment is best for their students, they will now have that option. Students that choose to be a part of the Remote Learning Pathway will have access to a full time multi-age teacher for instruction. This will be a brand new position, filled by a Remote Learning Specialist. If families like having their students at school for instruction, they will also have that option. Both Pathways will provide engaging and high academic instruction to meet student and family needs. Both Pathways will offer students enrichment and extracurricular activities. Both Pathways offer core subject instruction along with enrichment and personalized instruction. Because the Remote Learning Specialist will collaborate with teachers in the buildings, there will also be opportunities where remote students can come to the school to be with friends and participate in the activities and/or sports, as well as have access to other programs that Brewer offers. This schedule adaptation not only increases interactions and builds relationships among peers, it is also supporting the social and emotional learning of all students.
Nature-based Outdoor Learning for PreK – 4
Contact: Debra McIntyre
The MSAD #28 RREV proposal focuses on increasing outdoor learning experiences for our youngest learners, specifically 380 learners in grades PreK – 4. Our schools are built among the mountains, lakes, rivers, harbors, and shorelines of Midcoast Maine. As a result, our students are surrounded by an array of accessible ecosystems. We want to create outdoor learning spaces and offer programming for students and teachers that will enhance their educational experience. Due to research (Greater Good Magazine, Cultivating Outdoor Classrooms, Lens on Outdoor Learning) on the positive impacts outdoor learning can have, we began looking more closely at outdoor learning opportunities in 2017.
With the onset of the pandemic, outdoor experiences became a daily necessity. In 2021 we will introduce our first Pre-K program and it will be grounded in nature-based learning experiences for young children. We believe that through partnering with local and regional outdoor organizations and experts in the field we can create outdoor learning spaces, training opportunities for staff, and innovative programming that will benefit all PreK-4 students.
Connect, Reach & Teach Each Child with Outdoor Learning
RSU 89 Katahdin Schools
Contact: Marie Robinson, Superintendent
Connect, Reach & Teach Each Child with Outdoor Learning is an innovation designed to provide a PK-12 outdoor learning pathway for approximately two hundred students at Katahdin Schools. This innovation will meet the cognitive, social-emotional and physical development of students – a whole child approach to learning. All students in grades PreK-5 will benefit as they will spend an increased amount of time outdoors engaged in authentic learning experiences. Middle and high school students who are interested in continuing an outdoor learning pathway will be supported through an outdoor education program that has the potential to lead to college credits in an outdoor recreation major. This innovation will also meet the professional learning needs of teachers providing time, space and support for teachers to build their outdoor learning knowledge and expertise.
In approximately one hour per week and 20 sessions with a curriculum expert, our aim is that with a whole child approach to learning, children will be happier and more successful at school potentially decreasing the instance of childhood obesity and symptoms of attention deficit disorder while increasing the physical stamina, coping skills, self-regulation and overall wellbeing of children. The creativity and novelty of incorporating the outdoors into everyday lessons will lead to an increase in teacher job satisfaction and teacher retention.
The Oxbow Outdoor Pilot
Mt Blue HS/ Foster Technology School
Contacts: Jacob Bogar and Travis Tierney
The Oxbow Outdoor Pilot will predominantly seek to serve 9-12 grade students on the MBC Campus. However, it will also seek to impact all students in the district by partnering with, collaborating with, and creating mentoring and educational opportunities with younger students in the district to provide outdoor learning experiences.
The Oxbow Outdoor Pilot came about as a pushback toward the abundance and reliance on digital screens. Research in the building, and other nationwide studies showed a need for outdoor and experiential learning to promote social and emotional well being. This need, coupled with our uniquely situated geography/landscape of woods, waters, and mountains will seek to positively influence student and community outcomes.
Participation in the RREV Innovation Class and Pilot Program Process allowed for collaboration with others across the state of Maine to share ideas through their Outdoor Pathway offering in Remote Education.
HCA – Change Your World!
Harpswell Coastal Academy
Contact: Scott Barksdale, Head of School
HCA’s pilot, the Community-Based Learning Program, continues our commitment to anchoring student learning in real-world experiences and academic rigor. The program will connect many of our 70 juniors and seniors with internships, service learning, and work/study opportunities in their local communities. Some of the intended outcomes of this program are resilient post-secondary plans for students, and strong and productive connections to local communities for graduates. Our Community-Based Learning Program supports HCA’s mission of creating life-long learners who are creative thinkers, compassionate leaders and effective problem solvers. With campuses in Brunswick and Harpswell, HCA is a public charter school serving students in grades 5 – 12 and has a focus on social change, entrepreneurship and the environment.
Be Well Connected — Addressing the Well-being of Virtual Learners
Noble High School, MSAD 60
Contacts: Erin Dickson, School Health Coordinator and Miranda Wakefield, Health Teacher
When students are healthier and well connected to their peers and teachers, they are absent less often and perform better in school. Healthy students, both mentally and physically, are better able to focus and learn. Be Well Connected will provide the tools and structure to eliminate barriers to learning and achieve better results for our students who are enrolled in the new Noble Virtual Middle School. The opportunity to apply to this program is available to approximately 900 students in grades 5-8 with hopes to expand to the entire student population (nearly 3,000) in the coming years. We anticipate a cap of 60 students within the pilot year. Components of the Be Well Connected program include hiring a wellness counselor, constructing a space for some in-person learning, field trips and enrichment opportunities, team building activities and training for staff. Our belief is that fostering deeper connections and maximizing students’ social/emotional learning while nurturing both physical and mental health through the increased resources provided by this program will allow students to access their learning on a deeper and more meaningful level.
The St. George Maker Space Collaboration with Mid Coast School of Technology
St. George Municipal School Unit
Contact: Mike Felton, Superintendent
St. George Municipal School Unit is partnering with Mid-Coast School of Technology to create a K-12 Career Technical Education (CTE) Program and build a K-8 CTE/Makerspace Building at St. George School. Through the K-12 CTE program, St. George School will continue a long tradition of place-based education that grounds student learning in the history, traditions, and natural environment of St. George. The program will provide a model for preparing students, from the day they enter kindergarten through high school graduation, to develop the technical, creative thinking, and social-emotional skills to thrive in an innovation economy and strengthen our local and regional economies by meeting existing labor force needs and creating new businesses and industries.
Classrooms in the Community
School Union #76
Contacts: Lynne Witham, Coordinator of Grants & Professional Development and Director of Adult & Community Education and Mickie Flores, DISES Science Teacher
Classrooms in the Community, School Union #76’s RREV pilot project is designed to create and expand place-based education experiences across our district in order to:
- significantly boost student learning proficiencies across all subgroups of students;
- create a global, integrated base of knowledge for our staff, students, and parents;
- expand aspirations and awareness of continuous learning opportunities for our students and communities.
- better prepare our students for a world rapidly changing through technology and innovation by teaching and nurturing the practices of auto-didactical learning, research & exploration, and teamwork.
In order to achieve these goals, we will be utilizing RREV’s new ENGINE database as well as creating and expanding outdoor learning areas on our campuses, including greenhouses, nature trails, and an outdoor classroom. We are hiring a Place-Based Education Integration Specialist who will work with students and with key community partners to create and immediately implement place-based learning activities that may occur on-campus, off-campus utilizing community partners, and around the globe by connecting with others in distant places and leveraging virtual learning experiences. We will embed these new integrated place-based experiences into our curriculum. Teachers themselves will be able to identify practices and structures that remain obstacles to integrated place-based learning and work with administrators to make the changes necessary to move the pilot forward.
For more information on how to get involved in RREV visit: https://www.maine.gov/doe/rrev