A Year of Success and Innovation: Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures at MSAD 60

students on a bridge

The first round of RREV (Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures) Awardees were announced in August of 2021. RREV is an initiative of the Maine Department of Education, funded by the Education Stabilization Funds through the US Department of Education’s Rethink K-12 Education Models, that bolsters Maine educators’ innovative efforts to support their students with agile, effective, and resilient learning experiences that improve learning outcomes for all students. Now, after a year of experience and development, the Department of Education would like to thank the awardees for their dedication to innovative education and highlight their achievements that have resulted from the RREV contracts over the past year. Continue reading to learn more about the ways in which MSAD 60 has used their RREV funding this past year.

After being forced online at the start of the pandemic, MSAD 60 has chosen to embrace remote learning as a pathway for some students rather than await its end. Last year, they created Noble Virtual Middle School (NVMS) as an option for students looking to continue remote education as the district moved back to in person learning. Since receiving their RREV funding in August 2021, they have been able to transform the learning experience for students in NVMS through their pilot project “Be Well Connected,” which is helping to create mentally and physically healthier students with stronger connections and relationships with their peers. The program focuses on building social emotional learning and a whole person wellness outlook through field trips, enrichment, and teambuilding.

Over the last year, educators have seen amazing progress and growth in their students. Brigette Dumont, NVMS Director, says this year has been “phenomenal.” One student who historically has been academically capable, but quiet, has come out of his shell. In NVMS, he laughs and makes comments in class, feeling connected to his classmates, whereas before, he always kept to himself. This student is just one example, but the growth can be seen in every student. “Students came together as a community. The intentional investment of time paired with risk taking really helped break down walls and helped them all have a voice,” Dumont says.

A big part of this growth came from the enrichment activities the students had, which greatly increased student engagement and involvement. For one hour each Friday, students would meet in enrichment clusters that were geared toward their interests. The theater enrichment cluster worked on creating a play, while the computer science cluster spent time coding. One student-favorite group was a student created and led Dungeons and Dragons cluster. These students spent their time creating characters and playing through campaigns led by a student Dungeon Master using tools from the D&D Beyond website. As a final project, students created their own campaign including maps, characters, a plot, and more, which they then presented to the class and posted to D&D Beyond for others to use. They enjoyed the freedom they had to explore their creativity and were able to have fun while learning. While many people may just think they were just kids having fun playing a game, the enrichment cluster was much more than that. The communication skills these students developed, Dumont says, were beyond the skills that are typically developed in the classroom, and they gained more self-confidence because they were so engaged in their collaborative work.

In the coming year, the school plans to build on this work. They have hired a wellness counselor who will start at the beginning of the new school year in September to provide much needed mental health support to help students manage trauma and anxiety. Dumont says they are “looking forward to having someone help in acute moments with students.” The district looks forward to providing students with strategies to manage mental wellness and developing a more solid approach to bring mental health resources to their students.

students at desksThe school also hopes to offer the students of NVMS two in-person days a week. This will allow the school to increase field trips and enrichment opportunities as well as encourage growth throughout the community. By building stronger connections with community partners and local businesses, the district plans to provide students with more real-world applications for their learning and better utilize nearby resources.

Martin Mackey, the former RREV Project Director who tragically passed away in April of this year, embodied the RREV spirit: to think and act boldly to meet the needs of students. His passion was to “change lives.” As such, he challenged each and every RREV participant to do just that as they designed pilot ideas that would ultimately have a lasting systemic impact on students.  After 18 months of leading RREV, Martin’s passion had been passed on to almost 200 educators who had participated in innovation professional development. From those educators, 27 Pilot ideas were brought to fruition and have received over $5.7 million in RREV awards. Through their pilot ideas, these educators have pledged to commit themselves to innovation.

The Maine DOE encourages all schools and districts across the State of Maine to learn more about these innovative educators and their RREV pilots through the RREV website and the online RREV collaborative platform known as EnGiNE. It is through EnGiNE that we all hope to continue the Martin Momentum to change students’ lives through innovative and responsive educational programs.