Mount Blue Campus Instructors Jake Bogar and Travis Tierney were awarded funding for a RREV Pilot in August 2021 for an outdoor education project that aims to get students off screens and outside of traditional school building walls for a revolutionary new way of learning.
RREV stands for Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures and is an ongoing initiative of the Maine Department of Education (DOE) to fund innovative and responsive education pilots that allow educators to think outside the box, and outside Maine’s traditional education systems to respond to the unique needs of their students.
It was through this partnership with RREV, that the Oxbow Outdoor Pilot was born. It came about as a pushback toward the abundance and reliance on digital screens. “Research and other nationwide studies showed a need for outdoor and experiential learning to promote social and emotional wellbeing. This need, coupled with our uniquely situated geography/landscape of woods, waters, and mountains will seek to positively influence student and community outcomes,” as explained in the pilot’s description.
Serving students in grades 9-12 on the Mount Blue Campus, which houses Mount Blue High School and Foster Career and Technical Education Center, part of Regional School Unit (RSU) 9, the pilot will provide an interdisciplinary outdoor education program that supports student wellness and achievement. The goals of the program are to expand student-centered learning opportunities in a variety of outdoor settings; increase student engagement, motivation, and voice; provide flexible time frames based on students’ needs; collaborate with students to develop and monitor learning plans; and implement a challenging, meaningful, proficiency-based education system that transcends from the classroom into the community and the world.
“There are so many socio-economic barriers for students when it comes to participating in and accessing outdoor learning, leadership, and experiences. Our current system of traditional learning, traditional assessment, reliance on digital technology, has left many students wanting outdoor and experiential learning,” the pilot description explains.
Although the project aims to mainly serve students on the Mount Blue Campus, Bogar and Tierney expect it will reach further across their district by creating mentoring, educational, and outdoor learning experiences for younger students in the 6 other schools that RSU 9 serves.
One year into their project the team is well out of the planning stages and are beginning implementation with the help of their students. Seen in these pictures, Pre-Engineering students and Outdoor Leadership students collaborate on building and setting beams for the new yurt on the campus.
“New skills and ownership in the project have been a joy to watch,” said Tierney.
Like with any plan that bucks the traditional system and sets a new course (especially for a future generation of leaders), it’s not all smooth and seamless success for the Oxbow Outdoor Pilot team. Bogar and Tierney have jumped their fair share of hurdles and taken on a lot of extra work to see this project through. They report, however, that in the end it will all be worth it when they’ve set up a sustainable program that gets students learning outside and experiencing the dimensional and rich outdoor landscape of their region.
Once they are fully operational, the program will allow for two cohorts to move through the program each school year with the opportunity to earn certification in Industry Safety, Wilderness First Aid, Canoeing, and working toward their Maine Guide certification.
Bogar and Tierney tell us that there will be more to come and that things are moving fast, so stay tuned!
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.
Martin Mackey, the former RREV Project Director who tragically passed away in April of 2022, 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 over 200 educators who had participated in innovation professional development. From those educators, over 40 Pilot ideas were brought to fruition and have received over $8 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.