Saco Sixth Graders Re-Design School Entrance Through Art, Science, and Self Reflection

Saco Middle School art teacher Alison Crofton-Macdonald wanted to do something completely different with her students this year. After the pandemic completely changed the way she was able to engage students with art, she was looking for something beyond getting creative with digital art, or other simple materials like paper and pencil that can be found in most homes and are commonly used during remote learning.

Once students were back to school for the year in a hybrid situation, Mrs. Crofton-Macdonald also wanted to get them up, out of their chairs, and outside for her art classes.

“We are all sick of being inside,” said Crofton-Macdonald. “If I’m sick of being inside, then they are really sick of being inside.”

This year with a rearrangement for hybrid scheduling, Unified Arts teachers were linked with teams to prevent cohorts of students mixing. This made it so that Crofton-Macdonald and her colleague, Lindsay Wirsing were on the same team teaching the same students, which allowed them to collaborate on a project.

Crofton-Macdonald and Wirsing decided to create a project that brought together art, science, and social emotional learning for their 6th grade students by redesigning the entrance to the school with a mosaic garden.

Seeing that there was no evidence of students when visitors first enter the building at Saco Middle School, they decided that giving the students an opportunity to change that would be a win all around for the school, the students, and the goals of the educators.

Tying in her own knowledge of the mosaic process, Crofton-Macdonald had each student make a mosaic stepping stone for the entry way. They were all challenged to create an “I am statement” having to do with something they learned about themselves this past year. They each then turned that statement into a design for a mosaic tile that would eventually be placed with the other mosaic tiles of the other students to make a walkway.

The project also had an accompanying science unit, taught by Ms. Wirsing, that aimed to reconstruct the entrance to have a better impact on the environment.

“Students examined the increases in human population per-capita, consumption of natural resources and the impact on Earth’s systems,” said Wirsing. “They study how their usage of water and land impacts the earth. Typically, as human populations and consumption of natural resources increase, so do the negative impacts on the earth unless the activities and technologies are engineered otherwise.”

“So, our project’s goal was to use the land in front of our school to have a better human impact than grass by planting more diverse flowering perennial plants.”

Each project challenged the students (and educators) to work together, and to be constantly thinking about how each of them can have a positive impact on the world around them.

To embark on the project the teachers were able to obtain some grant funding from SACO Steam, in addition to getting plants donated by the PTO, and borrowing tools from Saco school staff. They also had to find a piece of land at the school that needed a re-design. After pitching their idea to local school leaders, they received full support of the plan that would both provide valuable intradisciplinary learning for the students and improved school property for the community.

In addition to the Mosaic Garden designed by the Saco Middle School 6th graders, Mrs. Crofton-Macdonald also worked with her Gifted and Talented students on an additional section of the entry way that features a pebble mosaic of the Saco Middle School paw prints, to compliment the school mascot.

The project proved to be hard work, but well worth it with many weeks of planning, digging, planting, placing and a whole lot of teamwork. Saco Middle School STEM teacher Sam Blunda even stepped in in the final stages of the project to help cut all the curved stone pieces, finishing the edges to perfection.

In the final stretch of the last days of school, the project was finally finished, providing the building with a beautifully sustainable school entrance that has the most wonderful evidence of students who have and will have a lasting positive human impact on the land and school for many years to come.

Information for this article was provided by Saco Middle School as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine DOE Welcomes Bowdoin Student for Summer Internship

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) has welcomed Clio Bersani, a rising junior  at Bowdoin College, as an intern for the summer through the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Institute’s Summer Government Internship Program. Clio is a History and Education double major and hopes to complete the Teacher-Scholar program while at Bowdoin, which will certify her to teach in public school upon graduating.

Clio will be working with the Commissioner’s Office team through the summer months, writing articles for the Maine DOE Newsroom, editing and updating content on the Maine DOE website, as well as working on a summer long research project on internal communications at the Department. Clio is excited to learn more about the governmental side of education as she hopes to get into education reform on a policy level in the future.

As the only Maine DOE intern this summer, she is eager to work with as many teams and different facets as possible at the Department to gain knowledge and understanding of the governmental side of education. Besides her passion for education, Clio is interested in imperial Chinese history and enjoys hiking, tennis, and doing the New York Times crossword.

 

Westbrook Regional Vocational Center CDL Program Assists with Donated Supplies for Maine Schools

Image: 2019 image of WRVC Director Todd Fields and Jeremy Kendall standing next to one of their CDL Driving Trucks.

A company in California donated a large amount of 64-ounce disposable cups with lids to the Maine Department of Education (DOE) Child Nutrition Team. The Child Nutrition Team works on a regular basis with school nutrition teams state-wide that need supplies like the donated cups. With the intent of efficiently distributing the free cups to as many schools as possible, the team reached out to Maine DOE colleagues for creative solutions, and the Career and Technical Education (CTE) team, a group of DOE staff what work directly with CTE schools across Maine, stepped up to the challenge.

Maine DOE’s CTE staff reached out to the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center (WRVC), a center with a robust Commercial Driving License (CDL) program, in hopes of getting assistance from student drivers with delivering the items. With the supplies located in Portland, assistance was needed to deliver it to locations where school staff and/or Child Adult Care Food Programs (CACFP) could come and take as many as they wished for whatever reason they wanted to use them. WRVC was eager to help! The mission would give one of their students both driving time and experience.

The first drop was to the WRVC and the second was to Emergency Food Assistance Program warehouse in South Gardiner.  Many schools and CACFP groups came to pick up the donated items from both locations, and they all left with many cases of cups and lids to use for school projects, food distribution, and more!

Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition and CTE teams thank both WRVC and the Emergency Food Assistance programs for their quick collaboration and help in planning – their action steps ensured that these donated supplies were available to schools and programs across Maine, while at the same time provided a CDL student with valuable time and experience honing their skills.

This article is part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Letter for Families: Importance of Completing the Meal Benefit Application for SY 2022

The Maine Department of Education Child Nutrition team has created a letter geared to Maine parents and families to express the importance of completing the meal benefit application. The letter can be downloaded and sent out to your district’s family mailing list. This letter can serve as a first step to get families thinking about the meal benefit application as we go into summer and can be sent out along with any other end of school year materials/reminders.

School and district administrators are encouraged to utilize their avenues of communication with families to share this resource.

Here is the link to this letter: https://www.maine.gov/doe/sites/maine.gov.doe/files/inline-files/Meal%20Benefit%20Application%20Promotion%20Letter%20to%20Families.pdf

There will be many promotional efforts coming this summer to ensure higher application return rates and meal participation!

For further questions, please contact Caroline Bennett, Ending Hunger in Maine AmeriCorps VISTA, Maine Department of Education at Caroline.Bennett@maine.gov

Governor Mills Signs into Law a Bill Focused on Life and Career Readiness for All Students

Public Law, Chapter 190, An Act To Support Life and Career Readiness Education in Maine was signed by Governor Mills on June 14, 2021.

Public Law, Chapter 190 was born out of a deep commitment to ensure Maine students are taught the knowledge and skills needed to make informed career choices in a complex world where exponential increases in computing power, the agility and power of digital technologies, and the creativity of human beings to innovate are fueling rapid rates of change in the workplace and in daily life.

Recognizing that students will choose to enter the workforce in different ways, the newly enacted law preserves local control over curricula, courses of study, resources, materials, and multiple pathways for learning. It also honors the impact that well-designed work-based learning experiences can have in developing student aspirations and employability skills by encouraging direct exposure of adolescents to a variety of career options.

Aligned tightly with the 2020 Maine Learning Results Life and Career Ready Standards, the newly enacted law updates language in Maine’s Education Laws by replacing the former title of the standards (career and education development) with the new title (life and career readiness), thereby highlighting the developmental progression of learning from career awareness in elementary school to career exploration and planning in grades 6-12.

To support educators throughout the summer, the Maine DOE will continue to develop and collect resources aligned with the 2020 Maine Learning Results Life and Career Ready Standards and upload them to the Life and Career Ready Resources page.

For more information, please contact Maine DOE Life and Career Ready Education Specialist, Diana Doiron at diana.doiron@maine.gov.