Building Community Through Extended School Programming at Georgetown School

Small rural schools are often faced with the challenges of how to support working families who may need before and after care for their children. Before and after care sometimes provided through the YMCA, or other organizations, are not always accessible to families, making drop off and pick up times difficult. In some cases, rural schools lose students to other schools who have consistent care programs. In Georgetown we heard this challenge presented many times from multiple families. The goal was to find a solution that made sense for families.

Last year, Georgetown School, with the support of Georgetown Island Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for education in Georgetown, began offering free after school clubs to students. The first step was to find a program coordinator, someone that could administratively organize the sign ups and rally adults interested in offering unique opportunities for students at Georgetown. Sarah Mancini, a local community member, was interested in charging the venture of after school clubs.

Beginning in November, GCS offered nine different clubs free for students in grades PreK-6. From learning how to survive in the wild, to archery and a regular after school homework club, the news of clubs began to spread in the community. More and more community members came forward and offered to volunteer their time to work with kids after school. This helped increase the offerings of after school clubs, traditionally run by just school employees.

“I feel so lucky to live and work in a place where community members consistently donate their time to work with the kids at Georgetown School,” said Sarah Mancini.

By June, students had access to regular weekly clubs Monday through Friday, many of which were run solely by community volunteers. Over the course of last year, we provided after school clubs to 78% of our student population.

This year, Georgetown School is continuing to offer after school clubs for all students. This fall, students have had offerings of 8 different clubs that have served around 75% of the school population. Weekly, students have access to a regular homework club and after school gym time. GCS also offers special clubs such as theater club, gift making, soccer club, arts etc.., garden club, and archery.

While after school clubs were providing a much needed community connection for students, they ultimately were not solving the problem of before and after care for students. Principal Nina Willette and after school program coordinator Sarah Mancini, sat down this summer to try to problem solve how to help. With the help of AOS98 Schools, the school found a way to utilize school employees, and a donation system, to offer daily before and after school programming for students. What has evolved from simply attempting to solve a problem in the community has become something independently beautiful. With the help of Jordan Lang, a local community member and parent, and Sarah Mancini, the school is able to provide families with a monthly sign up for before school programming beginning at 7:30am, and after school programming ending at 5:30pm.

The school aims to keep the cost as low as possible for families, enough to pay employees who provide a creative, loving, and community building space for students to be together before and after school. A less structured environment than clubs,
programming allows kids the time to be together, something that has been greatly lost these last few years of the pandemic. Kids have creative choices and lots of outdoor play time. So far, in the months of September, October and November, before and after school programming has served roughly 17 families in the community.

Donations are essential to providing programming to the students in our community. Principal Willette and Sarah Mancini are actively searching for other funding sources that will allow before and after programming to be free of charge to students and families who may need or benefit from this service.

“We are thankful to those community members who have generously donated towards ensuring this program is successful. We know that schools and children are the foundation of our communities,” said Principal Willette. “Our hope is to continue to provide this much needed service to families in Georgetown for years to come.”

Monmouth Memorial’s Makerspace Reaching Even More Students

A finished student independent project from wood and stain
A finished student independent project from wood and stain

Monmouth Memorial School has some innovative ideas on how to involve more of its students with their makerspace. Not only is this makerspace available to whole classes and individuals throughout the day, but students in grades 6-8 also take a unified arts class where they are exposed to many different components of the makerspace, including 3D printing, motors and electronics, woodworking, sewing, all the way to virtual and augmented reality. By the time the students finish middle school, they will have developed makerspace skills, learned about the design process, and completed an independent project. These projects can be hands-on, virtual, or anything in between with some projects including a YouTube instructional video on quilt sewing, marble runs, an American Flag made out of wood and stain, safety guides on tools in the makerspace, and a three-foot-tall basketball hoop.

Monmouth Memorial's studio space
Monmouth Memorial’s studio space

The makerspace projects are spearheaded by Elizabeth Bellegarde, the district librarian, and Seth Mitchell, who is the school’s technology integrator and the 2022 Kennebec County Teacher of the Tear. Bellegarde feels the system is a great fit for their school, saying “I feel as though the set-up we have is ideal for our school’s structure, allowing the maximum amount of student access.” That structure allows for many different projects happening all at once, with one space designed as a work area that involves everything from power tools and snap circuits as well as materials for the Lego Robotics and VEX Robotics teams, which competed in the 2022 Vex Robotics World Championship.

In the makerspace unified arts class, 6th-8th grade students will be working on a wide array of projects simultaneously, with Bellegarde moving between groups to provide support when needed. Students enthusiastically switch between low-tech and high-tech skills to complete their projects, but the energy and excitement from the students is constantly pulpable.

“It takes time to build that culture,” Mitchell says, “having administration who see the value in this program makes it even more successful.”

A student’s marble run project
A student’s marble run project

Attached to the main makerspace area is Monmouth’s studio space. This area contains a wide array of materials including a sound board, iPad teleprompter, green screen walls, and resources for video editing. “Students and teachers have this wonderful resource available [that can] extend learning in a way that wasn’t previously possible,” Bellegarde says. “By using the makerspace this way, classes become more fun with memorable experiences that will increase retention.” For many students in the makerspace unified arts class, having flexibility between both learning spaces gives them even more options to create unique projects.

Bellegarde wants to continue making these learning resources available for as many students as possible. “We are still working on making more students aware of this opportunity, the makerspace unified arts class is a huge part of that,” she says, “but the students who do take advantage of the makerspace find it to be a rewarding experience.” Not only can students participate in the unified arts class, classroom teachers can use the space for whole-class learning experiences as well as individual students working independently during study halls and available times throughout the day. Bellegarde sees these learning experiences leading to the development of lifelong design, critical thinking, decision-making, and independent skills. “For me, this is the best part of the makerspace.”

This story was written and coordinated by MLTI Ambassador Joshua Schmidt as part of the Maine Schools Sharing the Success Campaign. To learn more, or to submit a story or an idea for a story, email rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Yarmouth Students Find Their Courage with SpiritCorps

Eighth graders at Frank H. Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth faced their fears this fall as they wrote, recorded, and shared short video stories of Courage from their own lives for SpiritCorps.

Barbara’s Story of Courage (3 mins)

In 3 weeks of project-based learning, students engaged in self-reflection and a rigorous 5-step narrative writing process, culminating in their Courage videos. Along the way, students were supported by their teachers, peer Story Partners, program videos, as well as adult volunteer Story Coaches–a distinguishing feature of SpiritCorps–providing approximately one hour of individualized feedback per student. Teachers and students were thrilled with the positive impact on both academic and social-emotional skills:

The support for students’ revision and encouragement they received from their Story Coaches was highly effective and helped to keep students motivated.” – Mike Rice, Yarmouth Partner Teacher

I learned that I’m braver than I think I am and that I show courage in many different ways throughout my life.” – 8th Grade student, Yarmouth

In partnership with the Maine DOE, we hope to bring the benefits of SpiritCorps to students throughout the state over the next two years. All participating schools receive a 100% scholarship in their first year, thanks to a federally funded DOE grant. We still have some openings in our spring schedule and would love the opportunity to work with you and your students! Keep your eye out for more wonderful SpiritCorps stories coming your way in the weeks ahead.

To find out more or schedule an information session, please email Dr. Christina O’Neal, our Director of Program Partnerships, at coneal@spiritseries.org.

Three School Projects Honored with ‘Spirit of America Foundation’ Award

Spirit of America Foundation, has selected three school programs with their ‘Spirit of America Foundation Award.

Nominated by local school leaders, the Award is presented to local individuals, organizations, and projects for commendable community service within the school community. The three awardees this year are:

  • Perry Elementary Parent-Teacher Committee (PTC) – The Perry Elementary PTC worked diligently to create a Haunted Trail at the school.  Many parents, teachers, students, community members, and alumni came together to design a haunted trail that has become an annual event.  This community project provided an evening for our families and area families to come together and “Get Spooked.” There were also indoor activities and concessions provided by the 8th-grade students. It was an amazing fundraiser for our PTC.
  • Kingfield Elementary School Growing Gardeners & Outdoor Learning Program – The Growing Gardeners Program teaches students about wellness: planting and growing healthy foods and herbs, as well as how to prepare healthy foods. The Outdoor Learning Program focuses on “Place” and teaches students about their environment and the world around them.
  • Stratton School Garden Team Harvest Fest – The Harvest fest is a collaborative event that takes place with the collaboration of the entire staff, including the students and community members.  It’s a good event in this crazy world. This year we had over 150 people in attendance and raised about $600 to support the growth of the garden program. This event brings the community together to break bread, chat and genuinely build community and good feelings.

Spirit of America Foundation is an Augusta based public charity established to honor volunteerism. To see past awardees or learn more about the Spirit of America Foundation, visit spiritofamerica.website.

RSU 13 Extended Learning Coordinator Creates Student-centered and Enriching Experiences for Oceanside High School Students

“Students are at the core of every move I make, and we create these internship experiences together,” said Molly Staples, Oceanside High School ELO Coordinator. “We treat every challenge as a learning experience and the students are able to dabble in real-world challenges.”

The best part of Molly’s day is hearing about students’ experiences at their internships. “I’m always wanting to unpack their time and hear how it made them feel,” she said. “I also love working through challenges.”

Realizing that oftentimes students don’t really want to make mistakes, Molly works hard to break down that fear of doing things wrong. She does this by encouraging students to test things out and experiment with how to work out a situation and to not be afraid of trying something and if that didn’t work out, then try something else.

“I’m most proud of the diversity in our program,” said Molly. She and others at RSU 13 have created a range of different opportunities for students which all may look a bit different depending on what the student’s needs are.  Where some ELOs may be a chance to connect with someone via email, on a video call, or attend a community meeting, other opportunities are more traditional experiences like job shadowing and full internships. It all depends on what the students’ goals dictate. “This allows for lots of wiggle room and time to segue to new experiences,” explains Molly. “It allows students the opportunity to say, ’that isn’t what I want to do,’ and pivot to a new avenue without consequence.”

Here are what a few students from the program had to say about their ELO experiences:

“It definitely impacted me. The stuff I’m working with really gives me a lot to think about.”

“I am really overall enjoying the internship and the work I do.”

“Being at the shelter working with animals takes my mind off of everything else letting me fully focus.”

“I absolutely loved it. I learned so much and I really enjoyed it.”

Here are a couple of parent comments:

“I am so proud of her and excited that she has this opportunity!”

“This program is so neat!” 

Looking ahead, Molly is working on expanding the program to allow students to be able to stay on for a second semester to elevate their work in career exploration.

In celebrating the success of the Oceanside High School ELO program, Molly and the RSU 13 school community would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the following community partners who have helped make this all possible: Schooner Bay Taxi, Penobscot Island Air, Somebody Loves Me Bridal, Habitat for Humanity, City of Rockland, Dream Local, Hybrid Fitness, Adventure Advertising, Carleton Investment Properties, Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, Miller Turnery Co, Pitch, Flanagan Rec Center, Pope Memorial Humane Society, Officer Bagley and Rockland PD, Gerald Weinand, Architect, Penobscot Bay YMCA, Kim Young, Thomaston Grammar School, New Hope Midcoast, Jesse Rutter, Emily Philbrook, and SO many more!

“I am incredibly excited to see how receptive our local businesses and organizations have been to work with our students,” said Steffany Tribou, RSU 13 Assistant Superintendent. “We are merely building the foundation of this project, and in this work, we are seeing the great potential that it has for our students. There are great possibilities on the horizon for students in the Midcoast.”

To learn more about the RSU 13 ELO program visit their Facebook page.