Maine Educators Jenn Heidrich and Erin Towns to Embark on Polar Research Experiences

Two Maine high school teachers have received the opportunity of a lifetime. Jenn Heidrich and Erin Towns, both high school social studies teachers at Edward Little High School in Auburn, Maine, work across the hall from each other. Both entered separately into a competitive application process that resulted in them receiving the opportunity of a lifetime: Traveling to the Yukon’s Boreal Forest and the Greenland Ice Sheet to study with internationally-renowned climate scientists.

This opportunity will allow them to travel to the Arctic region in order to help create classroom experiences and resources which will combine social studies and environmental science in Maine classrooms.

Jenn Heidrich will be traveling to the Yukon for five weeks to study carbon sequestration in the alpine region of the Yukon, as well as biodiversity in various arctic ecosystems. She will be doing this with Dr. Jennie McLaren of University of Texas El Paso. Jennifer has a background in archaeology, geography, and science and as such, is thrilled to be working with a biologist who is examining trophic cascades in the sub-arctic. She hopes to bridge the gap between social studies and science in Maine classrooms, with a specific focus on how changes in remote ecosystems will impact cultures around the world.

Erin Towns is traveling to Ilulissat Greenland for two weeks to study how increases in surface runoff influences ice flow and subsequent loss of water mass from the Greenland ice sheet to the oceans . She will be working with Dr. Sarah Das, a glaciologist and climate scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Erin’s background includes extensive work in the areas of global education, geography, and teacher professional development and she will use the experience to build social studies and science inquiry based strategies and classroom activities related to the Gulf of Maine and climate change adaptation efforts.

Beginning in June for Jenn and August for Erin, each teacher will participate as a full research team member in an authentic scientific expedition in the Arctic, joining the ranks of educators who will be working in research locations from the Arctic Ocean to Antarctica, as part of a program that allows educators to experience first-hand what it is like to conduct scientific research in some of the most remote locations on earth.
Erin and Jenn are two of eleven educators selected through a nationwide search to participate in PolarTREC, an educational research experience in which classroom teachers and informal educators participate in polar research, working closely with scientists as a pathway to improving science education. Through PolarTREC, selected educators will have the rare opportunity to spend several weeks working with a research team in the Arctic or Antarctic.

While on field expeditions, educators and researchers will share their experiences with scientists, educators, communities, and students of all ages through the use of Internet tools such as online teacher and researcher journals, message boards, photo albums, podcasts, PolarConnect real-time presentations from the field, and online learning resources. After the field experience, teachers and researchers will continue to share their experiences with the public and create instructional activities to transfer scientific data, methodologies, and technology to classrooms.

The first expedition departs in spring 2020 with an educator deploying to the Arctic community of Utqiaġvik (Barrow) Alaska. Additional expeditions will take place throughout the Arctic field season in the summer of 2020. The Antarctic field season will be in full swing by November and continue through the winter of 2020-21. This year’s expeditions will range from the Arctic Circle to the South Pole and study a large scope of topics from marine biology to landscape ecology.

PolarTREC is managed by the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. (ARCUS) and funded by the National Science Foundation and additional partnerships. For more information and to participate, see the PolarTREC website at: http://www.polartrec.com or contact the ARCUS Project Managers, Janet Warburton and Judy Fahnestock at info@polartrec.com or call 907-474-1600.

Follow Erin Towns on Instagram @Esctowns and Jenn Heidrich @MrsJHikes to keep up with their travels, stories, and scientific work.

The Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS) is based in Fairbanks, Alaska and was formed in 1988 to provide leadership in advancing knowledge and understanding of the Arctic. ARCUS is a member consortium of educational and scientific institutions. Further information is available at: http://www.arcus.org.

This story was submitted by Shelly Mogul, Curriculum Director for Auburn School Department 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.

Vine Street Elementary School Custodian Honored with A. Burleigh Oxton Award for Excellence

The Educational Plant Maintenance Association (EPMA) of Maine awarded the A. Burleigh Oxton Award to Head Custodian Christopher Whitney of the Vine Street Elementary School in Bangor recently.

On Tuesday, December 10, Andrew R Madura, Director of Facilities
SAD #61-Lake Region Schools and Dana Petersen, EPMA President and Manager of Facilities at York County Community College drove to Bangor to present the award to Chris at an assembly in the school’s gymnasium.

At 8 am, each of the individual classrooms began to file into the gym to participate in honoring Chris.  His Mother and a local NBC news reporter were also in attendance. One by one the classes rose and presented him with cards of appreciation, stories and one class even sang a song to their favorite custodian.

Chris is much more than a custodian to the school and community.  One particular story I came away with was from the school Principal, Lynne Silk who told the crowd that every Memorial Day Holiday on his day off, Chris and his son will get up early and go to every school in the district and ‘properly’ lower the flags to half-staff, paying honor and respect to all the men and women who have died defending this country.  He brings his son who sometimes brings a friend and thus teaches them how to respect the flags and our military personnel. – Dana Petersen

The pictured in the photo above are (left to right): Dr. Betsy Webb – Bangor Superintendent of Schools; Andy Madura, EPMA Chairman A. Burleigh Oxton Award Committee; Christopher Whitney, 2019 Award Recipient; Dana Petersen, EPMA President; Lynne Silk, Principal.

The event was truly emotional for everyone and I am glad to be a small part in the EPMA organization and this annual recognition award.

This story was submitted by Dana Petersen, EPMA President and  Manager of Facilities at York County Community College as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea email Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Presque Isle Regional CTE Provides Enhanced Dual Enrollment Pathway to Students

At the Presque Isle Regional Career & Technical Center (PIRCTC) we strive to provide our students with marketable skills which will translate to a career or educational path. Dual enrollment opportunities are a very powerful tool in this regard.

One example is the PIRCTC Drafting & Engineering program. Two unique and highly effective dual enrollment opportunities are available to the Drafting & Engineering Technology students.

As a result of a collaborative effort between The University of Maine College of Engineering, Bridge Year Educational Services, Inc. and the Presque Isle Regional Career & Technical Center (PIRCTC) Students enrolled in the PIRCTC Drafting & Engineering Technology program are able to earn college credit for the Maine College of Engineering course MEE-120 (Engineering Graphics & Computer Aided Design) and CIE-101 (Engineering Graphics for Civil engineers). During the current 2019-2020 school year, 14 students have taken advantage this unique opportunity.

Since 2014, eighteen graduates of the PIRCTC Drafting & Engineering Technology program have been accepted into the Maine College of Engineering, majoring in Mechanical Engineering Technology, Mechanical Engineering, and Chemical Engineering. Additional graduates of the PIRCTC Drafting & Engineering program are pursuing degrees in Marine engineering, Industrial Design, and Precision Machine at various post-secondary institutions.

These opportunities are the first such agreement between the University of Maine, College of Engineering and a high school level program and provide an enhanced pathway for those PIRCTC students desiring to pursue an engineering degree through the Maine College of Engineering.

The PIRCTC Drafting & Engineering Program is a two year program providing area high school students with computer aided design (CAD) and solid modeling skills using state-of-the art software and technology as well as introducing fundamentals of engineering and architecture, education and career paths, additive manufacturing (3D printing), and CNC technology through classroom, lab and applied learning opportunities.

This story was submitted by Timothy R. Prescott, PIRCTC Director and Terry Harper, PIRCTC Drafting & Engineering Technology Instructor in collaboration with Dwight A. Littlefield, Maine DOE Director for Career and Technical Education (CTE) as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign and in celebration of CTE this month. To submit stories or ideas email them to Rachel Palling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

James H. Bean School Gets Creative with “The Final Countdown Food Drive”

James H. Bean School (JBS) fifth graders organized the annual food drive for the Sidney Food Pantry centered around the Super Bowl this year.

Students were encouraged to bring in non-perishable food items to be be delivered to the food pantry. Items were placed in a grocery cart either labeled the Kansas City Chiefs or the San Francisco 49ers. Whichever cart had the most food items in it would be JHB’s prediction for the team that will win the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 2.

The cans were counted and the results were:

  • Kansas City Chiefs – 201 items
  • San Francisco 49ers – 376 items.

JHB’s prediction was clear – San Francisco 49ers were predicted to be the Super Bowl LIV Champs!

Even though the prediction was not correct, JHB still collected 577 items for the Sidney Food Pantry. They extend a special thanks to everyone who participated. 

This story was provided by Keith, Assistant Superintendent of Schools/Chief Academic Officer for Regional School Unit No. 18 as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success campaign. To submit a story or idea, email it to Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov,

Williams Elementary School Uses Let’s Go! Mini Grant to Create Sensory Path

Williams Elementary School (WES) has been awarded a $416 Let’s Go! Mini-Grant from Northern Light Inland Hospital to support their Let’s Go! Work. Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 is a state-wide obesity prevention initiative working with communities to create environments that support healthy choices.

WES will be using the grant to create a sensory path with decals in their school hallways for all grade levels. This sensory path will give students an opportunity to release energy and tension by travelling through a series of physical movements like hopping, skipping, balancing, jumping and stretching while improving their ability to learn.

This story was provided by Keith, Assistant Superintendent of Schools/Chief Academic Officer for Regional School Unit No. 18 as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success campaign. To submit a story or idea, email it to Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov,