Bucksport Students Design Their Own Outdoor Classroom

On Wednesday, June 1, the students and teachers at Bucksport Middle School (BMS) celebrated a big achievement. Since August 2021, students have been prototyping, designing, and constructing elements of an outdoor experiential learning environment through team building and design thinking challenges. And now, after almost a year, their new outdoor classroom, which was made possible by a three-year $130,000 federal innovation grant, has been brought to life.

Art and STARS Teacher Hannah Bailey, Science and STARS Teacher Kent Burnham, and Special Education and STARS Teacher Katie True have been working to serve alternative education 6-8th grade students by facilitating as they built this new outdoor classroom. STARS (Students Taking Alternate Routes to Success) is an experiential advisory program that started in the summer of 2021. STARS aims to support students through hands-on learning, including designing and building a home base, while focusing on connecting student interests with community resources and providing extra opportunities to reconnect with each other, with their teachers, and with school.

To start this project, students took a trip to Troy Howard Middle School to check out their outdoor classroom, outdoor kitchen, and garden to gain some inspiration. While the students were there, they drew pictures of Troy Howard’s facilities, to take back as blueprints for the models they were about to make. Next, Hammond Lumber supplied a model of the outdoor classroom, which students used in conjunction with their drawings to create prototypes out of cardboards. Once the prototypes were finished and refined, students met with Orcutt Builders, Hammond Lumber, and the RSU 25 maintenance crew to review and finalize their plans.

As Orcutt Builders got to work on constructing the exterior of the classroom, BMS STARS students got to work designing the interior of their classroom. Their first task was to create chairs that could hold their weight out of cardboard. Next, they started doing skill building to learn how to use their new tools by constructing birdhouses. Once the birdhouses were completed, students learned how to construct tables and chairs from a furniture maker and, using feedback from teachers, began to prototype their own. As Orcutt Builders began to put the exterior of the building up in early October, students learned how to wood burn, creating signage for their soon-to-be hub.

As the classroom began to take shape, students began to assist in its construction, helping to build the knee walls and even painting it the light blue color they had voted on. Then, as Orcutt Builders finished up the construction of the exterior of the classroom, students turned the prototypes of their tables into reality – constructing, sanding, and painting them themselves. In addition to an outdoor classroom aimed to engage increased school attendance and hands-on learning, the students have also built 12 benches and 6 tables for the classroom and are currently in the process of building 12 garden boxes to have outside of the classroom to grow their own flowers and vegetables.

The STARS students say they enjoyed the entire process and are excited for next year. One student shared that she had fun this school year. While she loved getting to put her hands in the wet cement of the classroom and growing closer to her classmates, her favorite part of the classroom is the garden boxes. Another student said his favorite part was getting to meet and interact with different teachers, students, and experts.

The school also plans to construct an applied learning laboratory next to the outdoor classroom, set to open in June 2023. The space will include a 4-season greenhouse, kitchen, makerspace, and aquaponics system, among other features, and is being funded through a $250,000 federal grant through the Maine Department of Education’s Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures program.

Maine is Ready for International SEL Day 2022 

On Friday, March 11, 2022, educators, community partners, and families across the globe will take time to build a greater awareness for the importance of supporting children’s wellbeing and mental health through social emotional learning. Our Maine Department of Education SEL Specialist and the entire team at the Office of School and Student Supports invite all of Maine to our official webpage for International SEL Day 2022. 

We have generated a number of resources and events for you to participate in on Friday, March 11, 2022 – the 3rd Annual International SEL Day.  This is a day that is sponsored by the national non-profits SEL4US and the Urban Assembly and is fully supported by CASEL – the Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning.  Whether you are a staff member, a parent, a superintendent, a board member, or a community member, there is literally something for everyone to access and to learn: 

  1. Access the free national events that SEL4US has garnered. A few of these events occur prior to March 11th, so you may want to register now.   
  2. The O3S is sponsoring an entire day of learning, connection, and ideas. We have learning for nurses, SROs, bus drivers, administrators….all school personnel!  Some of our sessions will be live, but many are asynchronous so that you can participate when and wherever it works for you.  
  3. And last, but definitely not least, is for our classroom teachers and interested parents. We realized early in our planning that we could not pull teachers away from students to access conversations on SEL, so our SEL Specialist has collated both free and archived resources for teachers to use in their daily lesson plans – from suggested read alouds to integrated activities during content area time.   

We hope we have provided you time to explore these offerings in anticipation of Friday, March 11th, and that our entire state will be immersed in all-things SEL. You deserve it! Our students deserve it! #SELDay2022 

For more information visit: https://www.maine.gov/doe/schools/safeschools/selday.

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Department of Education Resources on Helping Young People Safely Navigate the Internet

During his State of the Union address this week, President Biden called for increased measures to ensure young people are protected on the internet and while using social media. The Maine Department of Education offers parents, educators, and students a number of free resources, by grade level, to help young people safely navigate the internet and avoid dangers that can impact their physical and mental health.

The Maine Department of Education’s comprehensive web-based social emotional learning resource SEL4ME embeds specific lessons in interest safety at every grade level. For example, the second grade module Be Fine Online helps students learn ways to stay safe when online, including the importance of never revealing their personal information; sixth graders have lesson like Be Aware What You Share in which they gain a deeper understanding of internet safety and social media and on cyberbullying; the eighth grade lesson User Beware: The Scary Side of the Internet helps students understand that not everything on the internet is safe, including how to spot online predators and the dangers of sexting; and in 11th grade, students have access to Cyber Bullying and Digital Citizenship which goes into the effects of online bullying and the virtual footprint that can follow them into the work place.

SEL4ME is free to all Maine schools, families, and community partners and offers more than 450 PreK-12th grade learning modules. Each grade level hosts lessons within the five key elements of social emotional learning (SEL): self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships, and responsible decision making. Educators, families, and students can learn more and sign up here.

The Maine Department of Education’s Digital Learning Specialists, in partnership with the MLTI Ambassadors, also provide professional learning, resources, and support for digital citizenship, social media use, online safety, and cyber security. MLTI also partners with Common Sense Education to share digital citizenship and online safety resources with educators. Educators can also reach out to specialists directly to explore ways to integrate these skillsets into their instruction to help students stay safe online.

“The internet is a tremendous resource for students to explore and activate their passions, develop skills and knowledge, build connections, and expand their digital literacy, and Maine educators and schools are constantly integrating technology into teaching and learning in innovative ways,” said Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “We’re also committed to making sure students have the tools and resources they need to navigate the internet safely and avoid the very real dangers that President Biden outlined in his State of the Union speech that pose a threat to the physical and mental health of our young people. We encourage educators and families to take advantage of our free resources.”

SAVE THE DATE: #SELday on March 11th

Save the Date – Friday, March 11, 2022

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) is participating in the International SEL (Social Emotional Learning) Day 2022 by providing all Maine classroom teachers access to ready-made plans to use that day:

  • Age-appropriate read aloud options
  • Selected SEL4ME modules
  • Interdisciplinary lesson plans

Social emotional learning (SEL) changes lives—studies show that SEL improves well-being and academic outcomes, builds a positive school climate, and provides children with the necessary skills to excel in today’s workforce. Yet many members of our communities don’t know about SEL yet.

Keep your plans light for March 11th as we will be doing the planning – all you’ll need to do is access the links and share with your students.  Our goal is to provide the plans to Maine educators by March 1st.

While classroom teachers are accessing SEL activities throughout this international day of celebration, the Maine DOE Office of School and Student Supports (O3S) is also inviting people to join them for a day-long focus of all-things SEL.  Each team member from the O3S is sponsoring an hour throughout the day that will feature articles, podcasts, videos, TED Talks, exercise, office hour time, reading, conversation, and more! From SEL Specialist Kellie Bailey to our newest Nurse Specialists Tammy Diaz and Sarah DeCato, there will be something for every person associated with Maine schools – personnel, parents, caregivers, you name it!

Be on the lookout for a day-long menu of options on March 1st. 

Local District SEL Teams are also encouraged to sign up for the international celebration event and create their own plans, as well! Learn more here.

For further information about Maine DOE Office of School and Student Supports event, contact Julie Smyth at Julie.A.Smyth@maine.gov.


SOS to Spring – Social Emotional Intelligence Series for Maine’s Education Workforce

The Maine Department of Education’s Office of School and Student Supports invites ALL educators to SOS to Spring starting Feb. 3rd.  Our SOS (Supporting our Staff) Platform was first introduced in November 2021, and if educators have not had the opportunity to explore its modules, we’re here to spring you forward and to reignite your own Adult SEL (Social Emotional Learning) skills.  Educators are invited to chart their own course and to choose modules from the Adult, Social Emotional Intelligence site, OR our SEL Specialist Kellie Bailey has selected six high-leverage modules for interested participants.  Those selected modules are as follows:

  • Feb. 3rd – I Wasn’t Trained for This!
  • Feb. 17th – Up Against the Clock Adult Wellness
  • March 3rd – De-Stress for Success
  • March 17th – What is Compassion Fatigue, and Do I Have It?
  • April 7th – A Mental Balancing Act
  • April 28th – Choosing to Be Grateful and Optimistic: A Lesson in Mindfulness

SEL Specialist Kellie Bailey will lead the six-part series – focused on reflection of the assigned module and applying the learning.  Sessions will run from 4:00-4:45; HOWEVER, if you do not have time to watch the module ahead of time, log onto the zoom at 3:45pm for each session and watch it with our DOE team!

If educators choose to chart their own course, simply track your modules and send your documentation to us – kellie.bailey@maine.gov.  We’re all in this together – make the time to tend to YOU!

Registration link

Participants do need to register on the SOS page if educators are not already registered for SEL4ME (takes two seconds!): SOS/SEL4ME Registration

For more information contact Kellie D. Bailey, Maine DOE Social Emotional Behavioral Learning Specialist at Kellie.Bailey@maine.gov.