600+ Devices Deployed to Mt. Ararat Middle School Students: a look at how one school implements the 1:1 device portion of MLTI 2.0

Thanks to the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), every September, with the excitement of a new school year just beginning, the Learning Commons Team at Mt. Ararat Middle School (MAMS) prepares, organizes, and deploy 600+ laptops for student to use as critical tools for their learning throughout the school year. It is a group effort by Karen Silverman, Candy Wright, and Kat Campbell to get every kid their laptop. MAMS asks for all hands on deck, so they also are lucky to have the help of the IT team, Ryan Palmer, Corrie Calderwood, and Kate Greely.

The groundwork for laptop deployment starts in the summer. Each machine is cleaned, charged, and fitted with a student name sticker. These stickers are placed not only on the machine but also on the charger and case so that if anything is lost throughout the school year it can be returned.

There were many brand-new devices this year and Karen shared student reactions.

“Students were excited when I…showed them that all our laptops flip into tablet mode. They loved that! And then I would do my best Vanna White and tell them ‘but wait there’s more!’  MAMS students all have touchscreen laptops this year.”

MAMS was able to choose a Chromebook model from CTL for their students, one of the six choices available through the new and reimagined MLTI 2.0. Karen, who served on the 2020 MLTI Advisory Board, is now able to work with a program that is not just devices, but also offers the opportunity for teachers to develop their craft around technology. The program’s long-term goal is to provide the equitable integration of technology for engaging and effective educational experiences.

Students at MAMS are excited for the opportunities and most students have begun using their devices, and many students will be taking them home this week if their parents opted them in. Throughout the year, the Learning Commons Team will support students in troubleshooting problems, or if a student has lost their laptop, they will help locate it. This will keep the team busy until June when the same type of organization goes into collecting the devices and preparing them for the following year, until then the devices will help students at Mt. Ararat Middle School be engaged in learning.

2022 Maine Teacher of the Year Kelsey Stoyanova Attends NASA Space Camp with Teachers Across the Nation

Each year teachers from across the nation are invited to participate in an opportunity of a lifetime through the National Teacher of the Year (NTOY) program. NASA’s Space Academy for Educators is a place for all of the National Teachers of the Year to come together for a professional learning experience in space exploration.

“Before going to camp, as an English teacher, I felt some apprehension that I wouldn’t excel in the same ways that my NTOY colleagues in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] fields might,” said 2022 Maine Teacher of the Year Kelsey Stoyanova. “I quickly came to realize that there are so many career paths that exist within the realm of space and space exploration that I never expected.”

Held at NASA’s Space Camp Headquarters in Huntsville, Alabama, the Space Academy for Educators program includes authentic astronaut training simulators and activities developed to promote learning in a classroom setting. Curriculum includes NASA-inspired lesson plans and is correlated to the National Science Education Standards.

Upon understanding more about what the experience was all about, Stoyanova explained that, “many people look at anything NASA and space related and think SCIENCE, but the truth is, space exploration programs employ technical writers, PR specialists, photographers, architects, and more.”

Some of Stoyanova’s favorite experiences include travelling to the ISS via spacecraft and having to solve anomalies with friends and fellow mission specialists from New York and Michigan, getting “dropped” from a helicopter into the water and having to swim to a rescue rendezvous point (and ultimately having to get rescued), and launching rockets from the rocket launch pad where her team sported their Live and Work in Maine t-shirts which she had brought with her give to fellow educators.

She also got to experience the simulation of the space craft tumble in the multi-axis trainer. “[It] flipped me every which way and we all couldn’t stop laughing,” as well as the simulation of the moon walk.  “I’ve never felt so weightless — and I perfected the moon RUN,” said Stoyanova.

What topped all the once in a lifetime opportunities and experiences, Stoyanova says, was the unequivocal appreciation that exuded from everyone hosting educators at Space Camp that week. “The whole week was filled with gratitude at what educators do to help grow the next generation of thinkers, creators, speakers, innovators, and explorers.”

In fact, one thing that stood out to our Maine representative was the many counselors there who are now adults but were once campers. “My team leader, Sydney, is now a middle school science teacher while another is in school to be an aeronautical engineer. As space camp alum they continue to go back year after year to inspire the future generation to be innovators of space exploration in some way,” said Stoyanova. “Every kid should have the opportunity to go to space camp,” she added.

Stoyanova also found inspiration in learning that as part of the Artemis I mission which is set to try launching again in late September, the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion will have Maine made pieces that will aid in going to the moon. Two companies in Maine, both in Biddeford contributed to the building of the spacecraft being launched in the Artemis I mission (learn more here). “It takes so much more than just what you see on launch day for a successful mission.” For Stoyanova this is a wonderful example of the idea that in education, every lesson matters and students find success when they are able to connect and apply their learning to the world around them.

“My experiences at space camp, as a scientist, a builder, an inventor, a mission specialist, an astronaut, a critical thinker, and team member truly demonstrated my belief that authentic learning happens through experiences where students can see themselves in roles or actually be part of the outcome,” said Stoyanova. “As a lifelong learner, Space Camp holds lessons I’ll cherish forever.”


Another Successful Year of Maine’s Agriculture in the Classroom Summer Institute

There may only be one place where a teacher can make mozzarella cheese, tend to beehives, and take a virtual farm tour on the same day, the Maine Agriculture in the Classroom Summer Institute. In August, more than 25 educators came together for a 3-day institute at the University of Maine to engage in workshops that focused on including aquaculture facilities, school gardens, the research farm, and more. Educators developed new partnerships and formed ideas for integrating agriculture into their classrooms.

Maine DOE’s MLTI Ambassador, Erik Wade, shared resources on creating virtual tours, demonstrated the usefulness of virtual tours in bringing agriculture into the classroom, and shared resources for educators and students to develop their own tours and engage students in the creation process. Wade’s session also shared resources in agriculture game-based resources that educators can use with students to “gamify” their classrooms and engage students in agricultural simulations.

If you are interested in learning more about virtual tours, game-based agricultural simulations, or integrating technology into your garden or outdoor space, contact MLTI Ambassador, Erik Wade, at erik.wade@maine.gov.

Beech Hill School Team Kicks the Year off as “Agents of Agency”

Beech Hill School teachers and staff have launched the school year as “Agents of Agency.”  Each year, Superintendent/Principal Nichole Pothier designs a theme that unifies the year-long work and efforts of their school community.  Members infuse the theme into multiple aspects of school life, including morning meetings, team challenges, special activities, and more.

This year, the Beech Hill School team spent their first few professional development days revisiting their school’s mission and how best to organize and leverage their existing systems into a Multi-layered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework.  PBIS, RtI, special services, thinking classrooms, and culture and climate were some of the breakout session topics.

Agency is the capacity of individuals to have the power and resources to fulfill their potential. Teachers with agency act purposefully and constructively to direct their professional growth and contribute to the growth of their colleagues, and on those first few days back, teachers planned and facilitated some of the professional development.

Beech Hill School teachers and staff are focused on ensuring that the academic, behavioral and social-emotional needs of each student are met in the most inclusive and equitable learning environment.  Student agency relates to the student having an active role in their learning through voice, and often choice, in the process.  Nichole Pothier explains how critical agency is since it enables people to play a part in their self-development, adaptation, and self-renewal with changing times.

Yearly school-wide themes not only create partnership at Beech Hill School, they also add excitement and fun to their days. Teachers, staff, and students are already excited about being “Agents of Agency,” because there are lots of ways to incorporate it into learning, daily happenings,  and student events.  Cues, evidence, I Spy, mystery genre, riddles, super sleuthing, scavenger hunts, geocaching, team missions, Breakout Edu challenges, problem solving, critical thinking—the possibilities are endless!

Bridging the Gap Between Rural Farms and School Nutrition: Maine Kicks Off First Farm and Sea to School Institute

The Maine Department of Education served alongside many state-wide partners in organizing Maine’s first Farm and Sea to School Institute which launched last month bringing together teams from 3 different school districts at the Ecology School in Saco.

The event is the kick-off of a year-long opportunity in which the 3 districts will develop a values-based, school-wide farm & sea to school action plan that integrates curriculum, local food sourcing, youth voice, equity and inclusion, and family and community connections, all unique to their school community. The 3 districts participating in the first institute are MSAD 17 (Oxford Hills), RSU 22 (Hampden), and RSU 89 (Katahdin). They applied for the opportunity in January 2022.

The institute was hosted as a collaborative effort among farm to school practitioners, advocates, and supporters throughout Maine who are all part of Maine’s Farm and Sea to School Network (MFSN).

The 3 teams are comprised of school nutrition staff, educators, and students who will be working to co-develop and implement agriculture, gardening, and/or nutrition related programming at their school. The student members on each team are UMaine college mentors trained in youth leadership via 4H STEM Ambassador Program – this component of the Institute is to both incorporate student voice and provide an extended learning opportunity for Maine students.

The 3-day kick-off event was a chance for the teams to come together for the first time and start planning, have the opportunity to meet the other teams, and begin work with state-wide partners and coaches. They participated in a wide array of activities including learning about planting specific crops that are easy to grow without maintenance. Given that schools are typically out of session during prime garden-growing season, this option allows for a “set it and forget it” style of growing vegetables.

Richard Hodges from ReTreeUS, a nonprofit that plants orchards and provides education and resources to schools specifically, showcases seed packets with pumpkin, Mexican sunflower, and popping corn seeds, among others, which he explained will help school staff grow enough food to be used in school cafeterias without a lot of maintenance. Hodges also showed participants how to plant a peach tree during his workshop and tour of the gardens.

Other workshops included learning about Incorporating Local Agriculture into Classroom Curricula, Building Sustainability through the district budget, finding local foods, how to promote school efforts, food security, and an institute-wide workshop with Racial Equity & Justice Organization, among many other workshops. The three-day event also provided lodging, locally sourced meals, and plenty of team time for participants to engage in conversation and work together to begin their action plans, all while enjoying the serene Ecology School campus.

Following the kick-off event, the districts teams will continue to engage in workshops designed around school specific roles throughout the year and continue work with an experienced coach from the Maine Farm to School Network to develop their school-wide farm & sea to school action plan.

Funded by a USDA Service-Learning Grant, the MFSN group is working to secure funding for future Institutes. Read more about it here. Pending more funding, the Farm and Sea to School Institute expects to open applications for year-two of the institute in January 2023. Read more about the application and selection process here.