The Maine Department of Education (DOE) today awarded an additional $900,000 in Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures (RREV) funding to support education innovation at Rose M Gaffney Elementary School in Machias, Upper Kennebec Valley Jr/Sr High School, North Haven Community School, RSU 10 schools, Union 103 schools, and Trenton Elementary School. These federal funds will be used to invest in strategies to engage students through outdoor learning, extended learning opportunities, and creating multiple education pathways.
RREV investments now total $8.5 million to 45 awardees. 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 created RREV to support the work of visionary educators to develop innovative pilot programs around remote and outside of the classroom learning, including professional development and pilot design classes. Courses in innovative design process are available through several of Maine’s public and private universities at no cost to Maine educators who wish to participate. In addition to the innovative pilot development classes, the Department is also offering asynchronous, innovative principles webinars which are available to all educators in self-paced, independent modules.
“We are going to be creating kits that teachers can grab and go and take to their outdoor learning space. The kits provide engaging activities to supplement classroom learning. Our goal is to increase the amount of outdoor learning happening at school so that we will see happier kids, kids who are more focused and engaged, and kids who appreciate and respect the environment around us. We’re eager to build a large collection of kits that will be fun and engaging,” said Rose M Gaffney Elementary School 5th Grade Teacher Kelly Woodward.
“Caring for honeybees has the potential to deepen our students’ connection with nature and drive their passion for making positive changes for their future and the future of our planet. It also has the potential to build a unique partnership with the community that will help build engagement. We believe that this pilot program, using an apiary and partnering with the Western Maine Beekeepers Association, will have a positive impact on attendance, engagement, and wellbeing for our 4th and 5th graders,” said RSU 10 teacher Maggie Corlett.
“We are using our RREV pilot to step up our programming on outdoor education, wildlife studies, and agricultural studies. We will use these funds to heat our greenhouse so that our egg studies can continue in the greenhouse year-round, we’re establishing a property use agreement with a local nonprofit ski mountain so that our outdoor studies class will have access to a satellite campus and 50 acres of wilderness to explore, and we will purchase boats and equipment for our wildlife studies program,” said Upper Kennebec Valley Jr/Sr High School Principal James Tyler.
“Our purpose was to spark innovation with our students and provide engaging and inspirational opportunities where they can take ownership of their learning. We built off a lot of programs we already have going and wanted to make them even more engaging and available to all of our students. Students will get to see a new greenhouse where they can watch their projects literally grow from seed to product and be able to work them into recipes in a kitchen and sell to their own community members. We will also have a trail built around the school where students can create products and have opportunities for community members to come and participate as part of the school,” said Jonesport-Beals High School Co-Teacher Leader & English Teacher Becky Coffin.
“We have a makerspace building on our school’s campus and we want to transform that into a lifelong learning hub for our k-12 students to use during the day and bring in adults from our community for classes at night. We have an hour and fifteen-minute ferry ride to get here so we have to do a lot for ourselves. We have to train and uplift from within at the grassroots level. Our RREV grant is going to support this lifelong learning hub to work with our town administration to diversify our workforce and help prepare young people and adults for the different kinds of work and professions that we need,” said North Haven Community School Principal Shaun Johnson.
“We named our initiative TREE—Trenton Rethinking Experiential Education—and it’s a k-8 initiative to get our kids outside learning in the community, not just on our school property. We want to think about how all of our students get their needs met want to increase independence, peer relationships, self-awareness, and kids overall mental health,” said Trenton Elementary School teacher Snow Ross.
Schools will use this funding in a variety of innovative ways, including:
- Rose M Gaffney Elementary School in Machias will create and implement pre-k through 8th grade outdoor education lessons. These lessons will provide learners with the opportunity to use the trail system behind the school and materials to continue their classroom learning in an outdoor setting. The school’s team observed that academic work in an outdoor setting helped learners to be more engaged, happy and focused. By increasing the amount of outdoor learning, students will be supported in their social and emotional growth. RREV funding will be used to create kits with engaging activities for educators to use in an outdoor learning environment and the school will work alongside community partners such as Downeast Coastal Conservancy to implement the lessons.
- Upper Kennebec Valley Jr/Sr High School will grow their innovative outdoor-based education program to increase student engagement and better prepare students for their lives after high school. By participating in the program, students will develop and exercise a host of skills including problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, marketing, salesmanship, and financial management. Valley Outdoors will partner with Baker Mountain, a community non-profit, to ensure all students in grades 5-12 have access to nature-based learning opportunities. Under the guidance of teaching staff, students will be able to use the base lodge and over 50 acres of trails and wooded land at Baker Mountain to engage in project-based learning activities. In addition, the school will scale up current greenhouse operations, expand hands-on project offerings, and develop water exploration and research activities for our wildlife studies program. The SAU anticipates 100% of the student body will be able to engage in at least one integrated unit of study.
- North Haven Community School will partner with their town administration to support their efforts of economic diversification and workforce development, chiefly in response to the impending impacts of climate change and sea level rise on the long-term viability of the fishing and lobstering industry. In coordination with the community, North Haven Community School will develop programming to support lifelong learning outcomes for both K-12 and adult learners, housed in their auxiliary classroom space dubbed the “Projects Building.”
- RSU 10 will pilot a program to support students struggling with adverse childhood experiences. The work will provide strategies to enhance engagement, improve attendance, foster resilience skills, and promote positive behaviors. Meroby Elementary and Mountain Valley Middle School will team up to develop and expand The MV Bee Academy in the RSU#10 School District. A bee apiary and storage facility will be built to provide the infrastructure needed for beekeeping experiences. 4th and 5th-grade students will work closely with a local bee club. As their knowledge base grows, these children will mentor other grade levels and share their knowledge with community members. To maintain the sustainability of this program, students will develop a small business. In it, they will sell queen bees, honey, wax products, and other bee-related items.
- Union 103 schools will support creative opportunities and innovative practices for students and teachers at all of their schools. All students and staff will have access to a new greenhouse which will foster creativity and learning through aquaponics and aquaculture. With an outdoor lab, students will also take part in a space dedicated to learning in ways not yet offered inside the four walls of a classroom, such as a native pollinator garden, raised beds, and fruit trees. A new learning lab with access to a multipurpose classroom will provide a much-needed creative and innovative space for students. This space will provide students and teachers with flexibility to help spark creativity and experiential learning as they continue to foster initiatives throughout the year with involvement in marine science activities with Downeast Institute and author visits each year. All students will also have the opportunity to explore a new walking path and outdoor learning trail around Beals Elementary School.
- Trenton Elementary School’s TREE-Trenton’s Rethinking Experiential Education is a K-8 initiative that embeds outdoor learning into a child’s school experience that increases independence, peer relationships, self-awareness, and overall mental health. The school will integrate therapeutic services, STEM based learning, and outdoor collaborative experiential learning into the student experiences. They will use field work and place-based learning in the living world in each child’s school day. Students will participate in engaging, outdoor experiences that will help them to build social connections and increase their self-esteem while reconnecting with our natural world. The aim is to increase student attendance, engagement, and self-regulatory skills.
The RREV initiative was also granted a no-cost-extension year, meaning that all 45 pilots will have an extra year to utilize their available funding for their innovative pilots.
For more information on RREV and the pilots, visit https://www.maine.gov/doe/rrev.
Interviews are available with RREV grant recipients upon request as well as the recording of the announcement featuring RREV grant recipients discussing their projects.