Media Release: Maine Department of Education Awards $900,000 in RREV Funding to Support Education Innovation

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 

Interviews are available with RREV grant recipients upon request as well as the recording of the announcement featuring RREV grant recipients discussing their projects. 

Sacopee Valley High School ELO Coordinator Making a Big Impact on Students’ Career Paths

“The best part of my day is working directly with my students,” said Elizabeth Sanborn, Sacopee Valley High School’s Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) Coordinator. “It is a lot of fun helping them discover their interests and then create opportunities for them to explore careers.”

Sanborn is invigorated by the students’ excitement and commitment to their experiences with extended learning opportunities. The new initiative also helps reinvigorate schooling and reconnect the students, the school, and the community, especially following the health restrictions that felt like they separated schools and communities during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of Sanborn’s recent successes include helping a student make a connection with a local tattoo artist to learn more about the career, including how to run a successful business. Another one of her students got the opportunity to interview several registered Maine guides and is currently studying for his own test in the spring. “He attended a three-day training class back in January and sent in for his Maine guide license just last week,” said Sanborn.

Here are some more student success stories, directly from students:

“I decided to do an ELO to make connections in the law field before going to college for law next year,” explains Abigail Sanborn, a Sacopee Valley senior. “This past semester I was partnered with a local civil law firm, where I went twice a week for an hour. I got to participate in simple drafting of documents, acting as a witness for estate planning, and got to interview several clerks, judges, and lawyers. During this second part of the year I am doing day trips to the Cumberland County District Attorney’s where I’m job shadowing different prosecutors. I am also exploring other avenues of law by doing ride-alongs; I wasn’t expecting to like police work, but that is what ELO’s are for. It’s an experimental opportunity for students to determine what they like and don’t like. Mrs. Sanborn has been a huge part in helping me find these opportunities and is always willing to find you experiences that you may not think of!”

“My ELO journey has been sort of complicated, but Mrs. Sanborn has been the best at getting me where I want to be,” said Elise Hermance, an 11th grader at Sacopee Valley High School. “I started off knowing I wanted to be a dog trainer and breeder. I sat in on a few classes up in Conway, NH. I came back to Mrs. Sanborn after going around three times and told her that this wasn’t for me. I know I want to do something with animals, but I am not sure that dog training is for me. I then did a job shadow at the Sacopee Valley Veterinary Clinic with a vet tech and it was so fun. They were all so nice to me. Now I am applying for a volunteer position at the Animal Rescue League of Greater Portland. I am so excited to have this opportunity in my life. Not just the job shadowing and knowing what I want and don’t want to do but the fact that I have learned so many different skills. I know how to reach out to people that I don’t know. None of this could be possible without Mrs. Sanborn!”

“It is amazing to be able to help a student fulfill a lifelong dream that they weren’t sure how to navigate before Sacopee Valley High School had this program at our school,” said Sanborn.

Sanborn has started to make some great connections with area businesses and hopes to continue that work throughout the year. “We have a lot of industry professionals who are excited to work with our students, and it really will be a win-win situation for all involved,” she added.

Sanborn would like to extend a huge thank you to Dr. Chris Parent at Sacopee Valley Family Dentistry, Bonnie Gould of Heritage Law, Tasha Berouty at Hallow Point Tattoo, and Wendy McGary and Ashley Blanchard at Sacopee Valley Elementary School, just to name a few!

Student Opportunity: Data Science Exploration Night

Educate Maine’s Maine Career Catalyst  and Project Login are excited to partner with IDEXX on Tuesday, March 28th, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, to host a Data Science Exploration Night at their Westbrook campus!

This FREE networking event is open to current high school or college students, interns, and young professionals who are interested in learning more about a career in data science in a variety of sectors. The evening includes appetizers, networking opportunities, and a short panel with data science professionals.

Register here by Thursday, March 23rd.

Maine Regional Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) Workshops

Jobs for Maine Grads (JMG) is hosting three upcoming opportunities to learn about Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) in Maine. JMG Coaches will be available and presenting to participants during the workshop along with Maine Department of Education ELO Specialist, Rick Wilson.

“I am proud to be a part of their work and respect their team approach,” said Wilson. “This collaboration is transformative for Maine schools, teachers, students, and communities. Empowering learners and changing lives!”

  • March 27th, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm – UMaine Orono
  • March 28th, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm – Augusta Civic Center
  • April 3rd, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm – Holiday Inn by the Bay, Portland

Register here

Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) are hands-on, credit-bearing courses outside of the traditional classroom with an emphasis on community-based career exploration. These opportunities are personalized for students and help them explore options for their professional lives. They help students engage in learning through instruction, assignments, and experiential learning. The Maine Department of Education (DOE), along with state-wide partner Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG), have made a concerted effort to provide working models, support, and funding opportunities for Maine schools to set up ELO programs within their school communities. To learn more about Maine’s initiatives with extended learning opportunities, visit: or reach out to Maine DOE ELO Coordinator Rick Wilson at

How East Grand School is Helping to Prepare the Next Generation of Maine’s Workforce

As the Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) Coordinator for East Grand School (RSU 84), Angela Cowger works with students to create meaningful experiences for students that build a long-lasting framework for the school’s ELO program.

“We are bringing awareness to students, parents, teachers, businesses, and community leaders about what ELOs are as well as working with them to provide varied, high-quality ELOs to students,” said Cowger. “Our goal is to develop an integrated, sustainable, and effective ELO program with a focus on career exploration, meaningful paid work experience, and work readiness skills that prepare students to be the next generation of innovators and small business leaders.”

Cowger says the best part of her day-to-day work is definitely the time she spends with the students. “It is rewarding to see students’ sense of pride and accomplishment when contributing to a community project, work placement, or other hands-on learning,” she said. “The growth and learning students gain from these ELO experiences are exceptional.”

Some recent successes include the experience of East Grand senior Phoebe Foss who is working on an ELO with the local town office on the Danforth Livable Community Program project. She is helping get the program off the ground, by coordinating and providing technology, social, nutrition, and other services. Phoebe is helping to facilitate these services as well as bring awareness about the program to social media and other local communication sources so the community can benefit from the much-needed opportunities and resources for its aging population.

Another student, Alan Emery is gaining hands-on experience and a more in-depth understanding of what it means to become a registered Maine guide, which he aspires to become after high school graduation. Alan recently participated in a week-long trip at a remote northern Maine wall tent moose hunting camp where his chores included working with two camp cooks with meal preparation, serving, and cleanup, fetching water daily from a stream for washing dishes and for hot showers, collecting and cutting firewood to use in the camp wood stoves in the dining and sleeping tents. He also assisted with breaking down camp and packing it away.

“Having Alan involved with our remote Maine moose camp not only provided great exposure and training but also opened the door to future possible employment for him,” said local businessman and registered Maine Guide Dave Conley of Canoe The Wild, who mentored Alan during the experience. “This training was invaluable and something that can’t be learned in a classroom.”

East Grand School is currently in the process of designing and implementing a k-12 Small Business Pathway, connecting Career and Life Readiness, Economics, and Guiding Principle standards at each grade level. The ELO program helps them launch the grades 9-12 work readiness portion of the Small Business Pathway.

“We are looking forward to working with local businesses to further students’ work readiness and entrepreneurial skills, as well as helping students collaborate with community leaders to solve community challenges,” said Cowger.

Cowger also says they already have several business leaders and community partners to thank, including Kiley Henderson at County Physical Therapy, Dave Conley at Canoe The Wild Maine Guide Service, Ardis Brown at the Danforth town office, David Apgar at the Snow Farm, and Sam Henderson and Greg Miller at Northern Maine Realty.

“These businesses and their leaders have been fantastic to work with and we are so thankful for them,” added Cowger. “We have received several optimistic responses as well as offers to connect with students in the future from local businesses. The support has been very positive! We are looking forward to many successful partnerships in the future.”

Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) are hands-on, credit-bearing courses outside of the traditional classroom with an emphasis on community-based career exploration. These opportunities are personalized for students and help them explore options for their professional lives. They help students engage in learning through instruction, assignments, and experiential learning. The Maine Department of Education (DOE), along with state-wide partner Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG), have made a concerted effort to provide working models, support, and funding opportunities for Maine schools to set up ELO programs within their school communities. To learn more about Maine’s initiatives with extended learning opportunities, visit: or reach out to Maine DOE ELO Coordinator Rick Wilson at