Media Release: Computer Science Education Showcase Highlights Maine’s Interdisciplinary, Project-Based Approach to Computer Science

Students and educators from across Maine showed off their computer science skills at the Maine Department of Education’s Computer Science Education Showcase at the Roux Institute. The showcase highlighted innovative computer science education programs in schools across Maine, with hands on, interactive exhibits featuring robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), 3D design and printing, coding, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), data science, cybersecurity, and more.

Maine has long been a leader in integrating technology and learning, and that holds true with computer science education. Instead of computer science being a separate course only some students take or an “add on”, Maine provides the support and resources to encourage all schools to provide interdisciplinary, project-based computer science learning experiences that incorporate computational and critical thinking, innovation and design processes, and applied learning at all grade levels and across all subject areas.

The Computer Science Education Showcase illustrated the state’s approach, with VR headsets transporting users to Maine State Parks which a student developed over the course of last summer, 3D printing demonstrations, a full-size arcade game developed by students, 6th graders demonstrating their block coding skills, a wide array of apps and websites around difference content areas created by students, and a robotics room with world champion level robotics teams. All Pre-K through 12 grade levels were represented, with educators highlighting how they were incorporating computer science education at younger grade levels, including having 5th grade students partner with kindergarten students to teach them basic coding skills and a new mobile makerspace that will rotate between elementary schools offering computer science education for Pre-K through fifth grade students.

Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin, University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy, 2022 Presidential Scholar Sirohi Kumar, Bethel second grade teacher Alice Lee, Jackson Labs Vice President for Education Charlie Wray, and the Roux Institute’s Chief Administrative Officer Chris Mallett participated in a panel discussion on how Maine is paving the way for students and teachers to be successful in the world of computer science. The discussion focused on reaching more students, making computer science more accessible to all, taking an interdisciplinary approach to computer science education, and how the critical and computational thinking, collaboration, and creative design skills developed through computer science education are critical to success in nearly every career and 21st century life.

“Computer science is about approaching a problem with optimism, logic, critical thinking, design thinking, creativity and vision. We need to make computer science accessible for every educator and every student and continue this tradition that we’ve started in Maine of interdisciplinary, project-based computer science education across all grades that is really contextualized in a way that is meaningful for kids,” said Education Commissioner Pender Makin.

“There is this perception of computer science that it’s for an elite group, and in reality that’s not the case–it can be used for everything including art, science, and music. I think computer science education should be framed for everyone at a very young age that computer science can solve whatever problem or scenario you have regardless of what field it is,” said Sirohi Kumar a 2022 Presidential Scholar from Mount Desert Island.

“The more we can engage with computer science at the Pre-K through 12 level, the more ready everyone is for whatever comes afterward. These students here tonight are getting a head start with these skills. It’s going to matter for your futures,” said University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy.

“Building those skills of computer science at the youngest level—problem solving, debugging, innovating, and creativity. These basic skills are really what our young learners need to take off academically,” said second grade teacher Alice Lee from Bethel.

“We now live in a world that is immersed in big data and the amount of data being generated is so tremendous that this next generation has this great opportunity to enter so many career fields where computer science has a touchpoint. It’s not just being a software engineer or computer scientist, but all of us can learn and solve problems with big data and the amount of careers that can come out of good computer science education is endless,” said Jackson Labs Vice President for Education Charlie Wray.

“This concept of computer science for everyone is important. These competencies and literacies are no longer siloed; they work across the spectrum. The logic and reasoning that comes from computer science paired with the creativity of a liberal arts education, it’s the intersection of these skills that all of us have the potential to develop that is going to propel the Maine economy and the Maine workforce of the future,” said the Roux Institute’s Chief Administrative Officer Chris Mallett.

The Maine Department of Education and the Mills administration continue to support and bolster computer science education in Maine:

  • The DOE works continually with educators, business leaders, and others to update and adapt Maine’s statewide computer science education plan and the Department’s work is guided by seven key principles;
  • Governor Mills signed onto Governor Hutchison’s computer science compact;
  • The DOE hired a computer science specialist to work with schools and has committed additional resources to support educators and schools in integrating authentic, project-based Pre-K through 12 computer science education;
  • Governor Mills signed a bill providing $50,000 in professional learning support for educators on computer science, with an emphasis on educators in rural areas and serving marginalized communities, and another $50,000 will be awarded this coming school year;
  • Next month’s Educator Summit will feature several professional learning opportunities for educators on computer science education;
  • The DOE developed its first Pre-K through 12 online computer science learning progression last year focused on computational thinking and a new progression will soon be launched; and
  • The DOE is doubling the number of Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) Ambassadors that work in schools to support the integration of technology and learning, including computer science education.

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Media Release: Governor Mills Announces Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative to Provide Maine Students Hands On, Outdoor Coastal Learning Experiences this Summer

Delivering on a promise from her State of the State Address, Governor Janet Mills announced today the launch of the Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative to provide Maine students with hands-on, outdoor learning experiences this summer.

 

The Initiative, developed by the Maine Department of Education using Federal funding, will give middle and high school students the opportunity to participate in marine and coastal ecology learning programs, including marine research and exploration, boat building, sailing, career exploration with marine businesses, island immersion programs, and more.

 

For example, The Ecology School will take students on field trips to sand beaches, tidepools, and salt marshes to learn about Maine’s coastal ecosystems. The Herring Gut Coastal Science Center will expose students to sea run fish streams, oyster farms, mudflats, hatcheries, and laboratories, while also touring marine businesses across the Midcoast to let students see firsthand potential careers in Maine’s maritime industries. Sailing Ships Maine will offer students the chance to sail aboard a commercial training ship as an active member of the crew.

 

This outdoor learning Initiative will benefit at least 1,000 students from across Maine, with a focus on students from low-income families from regions of Maine where they do not typically have access to such experiences. 


“The Maine outdoors is one of our greatest treasures. At a time when devices and screens too often grab the attention of our kids, getting them outside and connected to our state has never been more important,” said Governor Janet Mills. “In my State of the State Address, I promised that we would partner with outdoor organizations to create new learning opportunities and help young people who may have lost ground in school during the pandemic. Today I’m delivering on that promise. Our Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative will help our students learn, grow, develop new skills, and build an appreciation for the outdoors that will lead to new, lifelong interests.”


“The Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative offers hands on, highly engaging programs that allow Maine’s young people to explore and learn from our state’s amazing bounty of natural resources,” said Pender Makin, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education. “Being outside connecting with nature and each other is so important in helping students recover from the pandemic. These outdoor learning experiences will build teamwork and leadership skills, reduce stress and anxiety, and develop new skills in our vast outdoor classroom which will translate to success inside the classroom as well. We thank all of the organizations that stepped up to be a part of this exciting initiative.”

 

This kind of experiential learning is highly engaging and allows students to problem solve and learn new skills in real world settings, build teamwork and leadership skills, increase self-confidence, and develop an appreciation of nature.

 

Spending time outdoors has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety and to equip students with skills and knowledge that can help them succeed inside the classroom. Being able to interact with nature while building connections with peers is also beneficial students’ recovery following the disruptions and difficulties caused by the pandemic.    

 

The organizations that will receive funding through the Initiative welcomed the announcement:

 

“Governor Mills’ new Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative is such a breath of fresh air for Maine kids and for innovative education throughout the state. Through the support of the Maine Department of Education, Maine kids in middle school and high school will have access to experiential education experiences that get kids outside this summer to explore Maine’s amazing diversity of coastal ecosystems,” said Drew Dumsch, Ecology School Executive Director. “As part of the Initiative, The Ecology School is proud to be offering three sessions of the new Governor’s Academy for Coastal Ecology this July and will be offering up to 180 camperships for Maine students entering grades 6-9 to attend a free week of camp at our River Bend Farm campus in Saco.” 


“Schoodic Institute is thrilled to work with the Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative to create hands-on coastal education opportunities here in Downeast Maine for under-resourced schools and low-income families,” said Nicholas Fisichelli, President and CEO of Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park. “Furthermore, the early-career internship positions created through this initiative will be springboards for bright careers in outdoor education in Maine.”


“Downeast Institute is delighted to have received support from the Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative,” said Dianne Tilton, Executive Director of the Downeast Institute. “We have been helping students for years to enjoy science and math using outdoor marine science activities, and are excited to expand our program this summer.”


“All of us at Herring Gut Coastal Science Center are excited to bring the wonders and possibilities of marine science and aquaculture careers to Midcoast youth,” said Tom Mullin, Executive Director, Herring Gut Coastal Science Center.  The middle school and high school students will have a chance to have some fantastic hands on experiences made possible by these grants.”


“We are thrilled to have been awarded the
Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative grant from the State of Maine,” said Adam Shepard Executive Director of Rippleffect. “The programs at Rippleffect, focused on connecting participants to themselves, each other, and the natural world around them, are more important now than ever. This grant will help us continue to grow these opportunities for all children in Maine.”


“Thanks to the support of the Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative, Sailing Ships Maine will be able to connect more Maine students who need step-up experiences, the chance to disconnect from social media, and the opportunity to engage human-to-human in problem solving challenges that build connection and confidence,” said Alex Agnew, Executive Director of Sailing Ships Maine. “By taking a leap and going to sea for a multi-night tall ship sailing experience, students’ minds can be broadened about the potential of their lives at the same time they are gathering valuable skills in leadership, teamwork, science, technology, engineering and math in a fascinating and engaging hands-on learning environment. We are thrilled to be a partner in this initiative for Maine students!”


“Maine Maritime Academy is excited to have been selected as a grant recipient through the Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative in support of Summer Coastal Ecology Programs. With the expansion of the Discovery Voyage program, MMA will be able to introduce students from around Maine to the coastal estuaries and marine environments that are vital to the economic sustainability of the coastal ecosystems of our state,” said Kimberly Reilly, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Marketing for Maine Maritime Academy. “Maine Maritime Academy’s location on Castine Harbor allows students to go beyond the classroom and affords them the opportunity to be on the water for an up-close exploration of coastal environments.”

 

“Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership is honored to receive DOE funding to support new and expanded experiential science education initiatives in partnership with The Game Loft, The University of Maine 4-H Camp & Learning Center at Bryant Pond, The Apprenticeshop, Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, along with teachers and leaders at partner schools across the state,” said Tara Elliott, Grants Coordinator for Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership. “This support from the DOE will bring  new students to Hurricane Island’s sustainable campus for hands-on learning and will expand our education initiatives into the school year, bolstering support for teachers and schools implementing place-based learning while also getting students more time doing science outside. We hear firsthand from students and teachers about the uniquely impactful experience of learning on Hurricane Island, and we are grateful to be able to offer these experiences to a greater number of Maine youth.”

 

Organizations participating in the Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative include: Herring Gut Coastal Science Center in Port Clyde, Hurricane Island + Bryant Pond in Bryant Pond, Hurricane Island + Game Loft, Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Sailing Ships Maine in Portland, the Ecology School in Saco, Boothbay Sea and Science Center in Boothbay, Casco Bay High School and Rippleffect in Portland, Downeast Institute for Applied Marine Science and Education in Beals, Hurricane Island Foundation in Rockland, Laudholm Trust in Wells, Rippleffect in Portland, Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, and the University of Maine System Cooperative Extension summer camps at Blueberry Cove and Tanglewood.

 

The Initiative is funded by nearly $900,000 in Federal funding from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Funds. Full program descriptions can be found here.

Media Release: Maine School Safety Summit Brings Together More than 300 Educators, School Leaders, and Law Enforcement Personnel to Collaborate on School Safety Issues

The Maine Department of Education’s Maine School Safety Center held its annual Maine School Safety Summit this week at Windham High School, with a focus on how educators, school leaders, law enforcement, and communities can increase collaboration and communication around school safety strategies. The three-day summit attracted more than 300 participants from across the state with roles ranging from school principals, social workers, and nurses to school resource officers, first responders, and emergency preparedness professionals.

Nearly 50 workshops were offered on a wide range of school safety topics, including trauma awareness; supporting the safety and well-being of young people; brain science; restorative practices; social media use; emergency operations planning; food security linked to school security; behavioral threat assessment; bus safety; and more. Staff from the Maine Department of Education’s Office of School and Student Supports and Office of School Facilities and Transportation also helped lead several workshops.

The Maine School Safety Center (MSSC) was created two years ago, and codified into law this year, with the mission of developing a safe school infrastructure that will deliver high quality, up-to-date best practices, procedures, training, and technical assistance and support to Maine schools. MSSC offers school supports and services on school emergency management, threat assessment and mental health, restorative practices, training, and school safety and security. MSSC has provided hundreds of trainings, courses, and professional learning experiences to support school staff and school leaders throughout Maine.

MSSC’s approach to school safety is comprehensive and is guided by the beliefs that supporting the well-being of students and a healthy school environment is essential to the reduction of behaviors that threaten the safety of the school community; everyone who comes in contact with students and a school system has a responsibility to help create and sustain a healthy school environment and ensure a student’s well-being; the school environment, culture, approaches to discipline, and interface with the community are crucial to the well-being of all students, and particularly to those students who are alienated from the school program and those with behavioral and/or mental health issues; and schools and communities need to collaborate to create a systematic approach to school safety.

“This summit was planned long before the tragedy in a Texas elementary school last month, but that event, and so many others, certainly underscore the fact that school safety and security, emergency prevention, and emergency response preparedness remain top concerns for students, staff, families, and communities nationwide and here in Maine,” said Education Commissioner Pender Makin in her keynote address. “This three-day event offers a wide variety of professional learning opportunities and technical assistance to help schools and their community partners enhance all aspects of school safety, ranging from culture and climate to hazard planning to crisis response and recovery planning. What is clear throughout all of the sessions, and reinforced by who is here attending the summit, is the overarching message that partnerships, relationships, communication, and collaboration are the keys to this work.”

“We all know that when we put our minds and our hearts together, we can be brilliant. Throughout the last 27 months, we have all worked together to stay safe, to keep our schools open and to make sure that we took care of our students and each other–both professionally and personally,” said Eileen King, Executive Director of the Maine School Superintendents Association. “Keeping our students and staff safe is the priority, change is the reality, and collaboration must be the strategy.”

“School boards across the state engage in and support sound school safety practices for students and staff,” said Steve Bailey, Executive Director of the Maine School Board Association. “Through the leadership of the DOE’s Maine School Safety Center, and the collaboration with other partner agencies and associations, this identified effort to expand and promote safety practices and important inter-agency relationships will be an important next step to helping keep our schools safe, while also knowing what to do and who to turn to should additional resources be needed.”

“Safety is a top priority for students and for school staff, and with safety encompassing so many things, physical and emotional/mental health, security, cyber, food security, and more, we need to do what we can to work collaboratively to address these issues and provide the public education our students deserve,” said Grace Leavitt, President of the Maine Education Association.

“It’s imperative that law enforcement and educators have an open line of communication and a collaborative working relationship,” said Chief Kevin Schofield, Maine Chiefs of Police, Windham Police Department. “It’s incumbent upon all of us to take this issue seriously and work together to make sure our students and schools are as safe as possible.”

The Maine School Safety Summit was sponsored by the Maine Department of Education, Maine Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, Maine School Superintendents Association, Maine Chiefs of Police Association, Maine Sheriff’s Association, Maine Principals Association, Maine Department of Corrections, Maine School Resource Officers Association, Strategies for Youth, and Maine School Board Association.

 

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine DOE Welcomes 9 Interns for the Summer

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) has welcomed nine new summer interns this year, who began their work on May 31st. The interns were selected for positions in the Maine DOE by the University of Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Institute’s Maine Government Summer Internship Program. Over the course of the summer, the interns will assist in daily operations in the Maine DOE and gain professional experience and perspective. The Maine DOE is delighted to welcome the interns along with their energy and ideas.

woman smiling in green shirt
Alexa Bryant, Communications Team Intern

Alexa Bryant is a rising junior at Middlebury College majoring in political science and minoring in Chinese. She is originally from Parkland, Florida, but now lives in Hartland, Maine. As the Communications Team Intern, Alexa is excited to publish content to the Maine DOE channels this summer. When out of office, she enjoys paddle boarding and cooking.

woman leaning against tree
Erin Frankhauser, Computer Science Education Research Assistant

Erin Frankhauser is from Pittston, Maine. Currently, she is a double major in criminology and psychology at St Thomas University. After completing her undergraduate degree, she hopes to attend graduate school with the long-term goal of being a social science researcher. As a Computer Science Research Assistant this summer, she will be working with the Maine DOE Computer Science Specialist to develop and test a landscape study survey tool that will be used in the Fall of 2022.

woman standing in a field
Grace Harvey, Innovative Education Assistant

Grace Harvey is a rising junior at Colby College from Old Town, Maine. She is double majoring in sociology and science, technology and society. After Colby, she hopes to continue onto law school. This summer, Grace will be working on the Maine Opportunities for Online Sustained Education (MOOSE) team as an Innovative Education Assistant and hopes to aid in creating a more equitable learning option for students around the state.

man in a brown shirt
Chase Holak, Records Management and Operations Intern

Chase Holak is a business economics major at University of Maine Farmington. He is originally from Doylestown, Pennsylvania. This summer he will be working as the Records Management and Operations Intern, assisting in procurement and ensuring that all the Maine DOE’s records are organized.

woman smiling in a white shirt
Carrie Jeffrey, Climate, Culture, and Resiliency Team Intern

Carrie Jeffrey is a George Washington University student from Blue Hill, Maine. She is double majoring in political science and journalism and minoring in graphic design. Outside of the office, she enjoys running, painting, and volunteering at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in the Butterfly Museum and Insect Zoo. This summer, she will be interning with the DOE as the Climate, Culture, and Resiliency Team Intern, and is hoping to meet a wide variety of people and gain more insight into governmental processes.

man playing violin
Gus LaCasse, Computer Science Education Research Assistant

Gus La Casse is from Trenton, Maine. He attends University of Maine Orono for political science and environmental ethics. This summer, he will be working on a survey pertaining to Computer Science Education in Maine schools as a Computer Science Education Research Assistant.

woman in a suit
Cat Merkle, MTSS Framework Content and Web Development Assistant

Cat Merkle is a rising senior from New Jersey studying education and environmental science at Colby College. She was excited to come across this internship opportunity because her experience in Colby’s Education Program has inspired her to pursue a career in educational policy. In her free time, she is involved in Student Government, ultimate frisbee, Colby Cares About Kids, a cappella, and she loves to play music with her band. This summer, she is really looking forward to meeting other student interns interested in education policy and learning more about the Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS) framework as the MTSS Framework Content and Web Development Assistant.

woman in a black dress
Ella Pierce, Learning Through Technology Data and Media Assistant

Ella Pierce is from Camden, Maine. She is a rising junior at Wellesley College where she studies political science and psychology on a pre-law track. This summer, she will be working with the Learning Through Technology team to create a database of Maine schools’ social media presence and highlight the exciting and innovative happenings in Maine schools as the Learning Through Technology Data and Media Assistant.

woman smiling
Piper Strunk, Innovative Education Assistant

Piper Strunk is a rising junior at Bates College. She is an economics major and education minor from Cape Elizabeth, Maine. This summer she will be working with the Office of Innovation as an Innovative Education Assistant, helping to improve the existing MOOSE modules. She is thrilled to be a part of this program and looks forward to helping create meaningful and engaging educational content for all students across Maine.

Media Release: Maine Department of Education Awards $2.5 Million in RREV Funding to Support Education Innovation

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) today awarded $2.5 million in Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures (RREV) funding to support education innovation in twelve school administrative units (SAUs) across Maine. These funds will be used to support educational research and design projects focused on alternative education strategies, interdisciplinary/experiential learning, environmental stewardship, Wabanaki culture and heritage, outdoor education, and internship opportunities, as well as supporting unique approaches to remote learning.

Awardees for this third round of RREV funding include Lee Academy, Brunswick, RSU 21 in Kennebunk, Maine Indian Education, RSU 1 in Bath, Brewer, RSU 71 in Belfast, MSAD 6 in Bonny Eagle, RSU 25 in Bucksport, Falmouth, RSU 20 in Searsport, and Kittery. The first round of RREV investments were made last fall, a second round in March, and total RREV investments now near $6 million.

“RREV investments help fuel educational research and design and the innovation and creativity of Maine educators,” said Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “We’re excited to invest in these educator-led efforts to deepen student engagement through interdisciplinary learning, expand learning beyond the traditional classroom to include the outdoors and environmental stewardship, explore Wabanaki culture and heritage, expand alternative education strategies, and allow students to explore career paths that fuel their passions.”

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.

“RREV has not only helped us to reinvent how we deliver instruction but how we look at changing education as a whole,” said Renita Ward-Downer, Director of Instruction in Brewer.

“Maine Indian Education’s RREV pilot project will allow us to build a connected and immersive, community-based middle school experience that empowers students to always put first their Wabanaki knowledge,” said Beth Clifford, Curriculum Coordinator for Maine Indian Education. “We are eager to develop place-based and project-based educational experiences that connect learning and communities to increase student engagement and academic outcomes, promote partnerships and collaboration, and deepen our understanding of the world around us. Wabanaki history, culture and life will be a core element of programming.”

For more information on how to get involved in RREV and to learn more about the pilots, visit https://www.maine.gov/doe/rrev.  View the map of all RREV recipients.