Deer Isle Stonington High School Students Pitch in to Improve Elementary Outdoor Classroom

School Union 76 was awarded funding for a Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures (RREV) pilot project last year to create outdoor learning spaces for students across the district. With those funds, the district has created an ADA-accessible boardwalk with an adjacent ADA Outdoor Classroom that is part of a nature trail, both are designed to be inclusive for all students to be able to engage, connect, and explore and significantly boost their student learning proficiencies across all subjects – and even the students are pitching in to make improvements to the new spaces.

As part of regular maintenance to the district grounds, many saplings were taken down this past summer in the process of maintaining the campus driveway and the well. One of the teachers wisely set them aside, rather than sending them to the local dump. After agreeing to build the railing, Deer Isle Stonington High School students taking a course named Construction I class measured and planned their project. Then, they stripped the bark from the aspen, maple, and beech trees and cut the pieces to the correct length to assemble a beautiful railing for the new Outdoor Classroom. Visitors can see by their handiwork that they considered spacing and the shape of the branches as they installed the branches.

In addition to this upgrade, 7th graders have also stepped in to help. After hearing of the desire from the kindergarten classes for immediate seating, they rolled stumps leftover from prom into the space.

“The end result is stunning!” Remarked Science Teacher Mickie Flores. “Students and staff at both the elementary and high school are enjoying the space as a place to be outdoors and a place to learn,” she added.

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.