Mainers take on the Read to ME Challenge

After First Lady Ann LePage launched the Read to ME Challenge with second graders at Gilbert Elementary School in Augusta on February 1, it didn’t take long for others across the state to join in the campaign to promote awareness of the importance of reading regularly to and with children.  The Saco School Department hosted Maine children’s author, Chris Van Dusen, who accepted the challenge and read to students at Fairfield Elementary School that same day.  Van Dusen quickly challenged the Saco School Department’s superintendent and Fairfield Elementary School’s principal and their efforts have even reached Maine State Senator Chenette.

A bit further north, Lewiston Public Schools’ superintendent, Bill Webster, posted the challenge encouraging educators, parents, and community members read to children throughout the month. Very quickly, students at Lewiston’s McMahon School stepped up to get busy reading followed by students at Montello Elementary.

Each year the Maine Department of Education (DOE) promotes the challenge as an opportunity to help communities throughout Maine contribute to children’s literacy growth by reading aloud to one or more children for at least 15 minutes. Part of the challenge is capturing the moment via a photo or video and then posting it on social media (with the hashags #ReadtoME or #ReadaloudME) with a challenge to others to do the same.  Since the kick-off, parents, educators and community members have been stepping up to accept the challenge and issue challenges of their own.  With more than 60 partner organizations helping to support the effort, many minutes of reading have been logged across the state.

Some of the partners in the campaign have included institutions of higher education and community literacy teams.  In northern Maine, a number of staff and administration from the University of Maine at Fort Kent have read to students in three St. John Valley elementary schools – Fort Kent Elementary, Madawaska Elementary, and Dr. Levesque Elementary in Frenchville.  They targeted 1st and 2nd grade classrooms and read Mahalia Mouse Goes to College by John Lithgow to emphasize the importance of literary with the dual purpose of promoting college and post-secondary aspirations.

At the University of Maine at Farmington, Beaver Pride is strong for the challenge.  UMF has partnered with Mallett Elementary School.  UMF students have signed up to read to kindergarten and first grade students.  UMF students can also be Super Beaver Readers by signing up to read to second graders every week for 4 weeks.

Southern Maine Community College President Cantor read to 4th and 5th grade students at Skillin Elementary School in South Portland.

In Houlton, the Rotary Club’s community literacy team has plans to sponsor Read to ME Challenge events every Saturday in February.  They have combined reading with other fun activities at a variety of locations around Houlton.  Additionally, they invited First Lady LePage to read to students at Houlton Elementary School and to speak with their Rotary Club about the importance of reading to children.

Maine Department of Education employees are also taking on the challenge by visiting schools and day care centers to read to children.  During the February vacation week, the Maine DOE will be hosting a “read-in” during which employees can bring their children in listen to stories throughout the day.

For more information about the Read to ME Challenge, contact leeann.larsen@maine.gov.

Family Code Night Comes to Maine

Next week, children and their parents will come together to learn how to code. It’s Computer Science Education Week (December 4-8), and 75 sites across Maine will host Family Code Nights. Specially designed for elementary-aged students, these events use Hour of Code puzzles that introduce programming principles through fun games.

While many schools do Hour of Code, Scratch, and other web-based computer science activities, Family Code Night is unique. It was started in the San Francisco Bay area by a parent of an elementary student. He saw the importance of involving parents in the activities because they can advocate for their children to continue learning to code after the event is done. Maine has many opportunities for youth to explore coding, including summer camps, app challenges and family events. You can find them on the STEM Resource Bank at steminme.org.

Volunteers at Family Code Nights include teachers, librarians, parents and other community members. Many sites are enlisting the help of teens who have experience with coding. Family Code Night provides an event kit that includes everything needed to plan and host the event, so leaders do not need to be experts at coding to run a successful evening!

Family Code Night is a national movement supported in Maine by The Reach Center, a program of Maine Mathematics & Science Alliance. Visit mmsa.org/familycodenight to see a list of sites hosting events, which includes schools, libraries or community organizations representing each county.

For more information contact Maine Department of Education Science and Technology Content Specialist, Shari Templeton at Shari.Templeton@maine.gov or (207) 624-6880.

Over 800 Maine students complete Read to Ride Summer Reading Challenge

Bike Winners
Makayla Harding (state level winner)
Charlie Bernard (school level winner).

Preventing summer reading slide is a goal of many Maine educators. Students can lose months of learning gains if their brains do not remain active. During the summer of 2017, the Maine Department of Education partnered with the Freemasons of Maine to sponsor the Read to Ride Summer Reading Challenge.  Over 800 students in over 60 schools across Maine completed the challenge of reading at least 500 minutes during summer vacation—that is 400,000 minutes of reading!  The Freemasons graciously donated 48 bikes and helmets which were awarded to state level contest winners.

Bike Winner
Read to Ride
Principal, Kyle Rhoads
Bike Winner, Chase Gagnon

School principals noted that the Read to Ride Challenge was motivating and helped accomplish the goal of keeping students actively engaged in learning throughout the summer months.  Schools were also able to coordinate this opportunity with other summer literacy initiatives going on in their schools and in public libraries.  For additional information, contact Lee Anne Larsen, Literacy Specialist at leeann.larsen@maine.gov.

Fostering Artful Early Childhood Classrooms

The Maine Department of Education invites you to be part of an exciting professional development opportunity, “Fostering Artful Early Childhood Classrooms”. Early Childhood Specialist, Sue Reed and Visual and Performing Arts Specialist, Beth Lambert are looking for teachers who want to energize their teaching and learning through focusing on art in the public preschool classroom.  Applicants must apply in teams of two: one Public Preschool teacher and one Visual Art teacher from the same district. The Visual Arts teacher must currently teach at the elementary level.

Under the expertise of Early Childhood facilitator, Terri Petnov, and Early Childhood Arts facilitator, Judy Fricke, teams will work on building a collaborative partnership to ensure that preschool students receive an artful learning experience. Public preschool teachers will learn the research as to why art is important in a preschool classroom and how it encompasses Maine’s Early Learning and Development Standards and how to include art into their daily routines. Visual Art teachers will learn developmentally appropriate pedagogical approaches to teaching art to our youngest learners. As a culmination of their work, participants will create a presentation to share with their school community.

The training is free and each team selected will receive $500 worth of equipment and supplies for their classroom. These training will be offer in three regions of the state on the following dates:

  • Northern cohort at the University of Maine, Presque Isle campus (Nov. 17th, Feb. 15th, April 12th)
  • Central cohort at Educare in Waterville (Nov. 7th, Feb. 6th, April 3rd)
  • Southern cohort at Southern Maine Community College ( 3rd, February 9th, April 6th)

If you are interested in participating fill out an application using the links listed above. Only one application is necessary per team. If you have any questions contact Visual and Performing Arts Specialist, Beth Lambert or Early Childhood Specialist, Sue Reed.

Fostering Music and Movement in Early Childhood Classrooms

The Maine Department of Education invites you to be part of a brand new professional development opportunity, “Fostering Music and Movement in Early Childhood Classrooms”. Early Childhood Specialist, Sue Reed, and Visual and Performing Arts Specialist, Beth Lambert, are looking for teachers who want to energize their teaching and learning through focusing on music and movement in the public preschool classroom.  Applicants must apply in teams of two: one Public Preschool teacher and one music or performing arts teacher from the same district. The music/performing arts teacher must currently teach at the elementary level.

Under the expertise of Early Childhood facilitator, Ellie Libby, and Early Childhood Arts facilitator, Judy Fricke, teams will work on building a collaborative partnership to ensure that preschool students receive a musical and movement filled learning experience. Public preschool teachers will learn the research as to why music and movement is important in a preschool classroom and how it encompasses Maine’s Early Learning and Development Standards and how to include music and movement into their daily routines. Music and performing arts teachers will learn developmentally appropriate pedagogical approaches to teaching music and movement to our youngest learners. Teams will be expected to practice new pedagogy in between sessions and document their experience. As a culmination of their work, participants will create a presentation to share with their school community.

The training is free and each team selected will receive $650 worth of equipment and supplies for their classroom. The cohort will meet at Educare in Waterville on October 17th, January 10th, March 6th, and May 15th 8:30-3pm.

If you are interested in participating fill out an application. Only one application is necessary per team. If you have any questions contact Visual and Performing Arts Specialist, Beth Lambert at beth.lambert@maine.gov or Early Childhood Specialist, Sue Reed at susan.d.reed@maine.gov.