Innovation and Interdisciplinary Learning Has Students Doing Math in Orono’s Webster Park

Would you go to the park to do a little innovative learning connecting math, science, and art using the sun? Students from nearby schools did just that on October 21, 2022!

A unique partnership between the University of Maine and the Town of Orono made it possible for students, and members of the public, to go to the park and explore multiplication and division using the sun. The interactive sculpture, the SunRule, was unveiled in a public ceremony in October.

The project was a part of UMaine’s MIRTA accelerator program that is designed to advance research to commercialization with a focus on innovation and real-world connections. This type of work brings to light the connections within and across the content areas (math, science, and art) and community partnerships that opens doors to student curiosity, engagement, wonder and joy for learning.

The concept for the sculpture began as an email between UMaine Associate Professor of Mathematics Education and Instructional Technology, Justin Dimmel, and Associate Professor of Mathematics Education, Eric Pandiscio, in 2019 just before the pandemic started! The concept went from SunRule 1.0 (a sawhorse with dowels) to cardboard boxes and then was shared with UMaine Associate Professor of Art, Greg Ondo, and Sculpture Studio Technician, Sam Hoey. With the artistic influence of artwork using sunlight and further planning, a prototype sculpture was created and then a final sculpture of granite and bronze was produced and installed in Webster Park on North Main Avenue in Orono.

Using the sunlight to measure the shadow of an object is something that has been done in math classes for a very long time. The SunRule concept uses the sunlight, not the shadow, to show the continuous nature of multiplication by using a scaling model, showing that for every discrete number (1, 2, 3, etc.) and all those in between, there is a product.

You can read more about the SunRule at UMaine News.

Using Book Creator & Educational Technology Tools to Engage Students in Reading

The Gorham Middle School (GMS) library website is a rich resource for students to discover and access reading materials from their home or classroom using their MLTI iPads. Librarian Suzanne Liacos-Dix has created an extensive collection of Book Talk videos, a Google Classroom stream, and a selection of Google Forms to engage students in sharing their literary passions with others. This year, in collaboration with 7th grade teacher, Sherry Coyne and the GMS technology integrator, Terri Dawson, the library website has a new feature to help engage students in Silent Sustained Reading (SSR).

The GMS library website features a link to join a Google Classroom where Mrs. Dix streams library announcements like new book arrivals, book fair information, and author visit events. She has also created a Google Form where students can request a featured “Favorites Shelf” to display their top picks as well as a form to request new books to be added to the library. The forms are student-friendly and provide students an opportunity to have a voice in the library collection. The Google Classroom stream allows students across grade levels to have conversations that they might not otherwise from expressing excitement about a new book release or sharing thoughts on upcoming events with others. The stream is also an opportunity for Mrs. Dix to help students learn how to communicate effectively with others and become good digital citizens. Mrs. Dix says there is a long waiting list for the Favorites Shelf that just started this September. It has been extraordinarily popular with the students!

Like many middle schools, Gorham Middle School has a Silent Sustained Reading period during the day to allow students to dive into a book of their choice for a set amount of time. Sometimes getting students to actively engage in SSR can be a challenge. Sherry Coyne, a 7th grade teacher on the Little River team reached out to Mrs. Dix about an idea she had heard about that might help support students who have a difficult time with the SSR period. Mrs. Dix talked to the technology integrator and a new, creative solution was born: Meet a Book Mondays. Using Book Creator, an app for web browsers and tablets that “enables students to create and read multimodal digital books,” ¹ along with audio recording and image editing tools on the MLTI teacher MacBooks, Mrs. Dix and Mrs. Dawson created a comic book style book that is full of book previews, character descriptions, book release announcements, audio recordings of chapters and more. The book has a vibrant and fun design to grab student interest.  The Meet a Book Mondays book is projected for the class all together during SSR. Students fill out a feedback form on their iPads and draw whatever comes to mind as they listen. The following day, students have the option to read the books that they learned about. Students can come back to Meet a Book Mondays any time as it is readily accessible via their iPads. Mrs. Coyne has seen a positive result since introducing the project to her students, they are more engaged and she feels like the SSR time is becoming more valuable to students. They are already exploring a new Google Maps project based on the response from students on a particular book that they learned about through Meet a Book Mondays. They plan to virtually follow and map out a character’s journey around the world. After hearing about the success on the Little River team, other teachers are beginning to use the Meet a Book Mondays book with their classes for SSR as well!

Mrs. Dix’s library website and the Meet a Book Mondays Book Creator Project are great examples of blending educational technology tools into every day learning to provide accessibility and actively engage students in a creative way. Using their MLTI devices to create and access content, both teachers and students are connecting and discovering new resources to support reading. You can see the Gorham Middle School Library website and the ongoing Meet a Book Mondays project here:

¹University of Massachusetts Amherst. (n.d.). Learner-Centered Tools, Book Creator. Online Tools for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved October 18, 2022 from

Augusta Adult and Community Education Offers Free Childcare for Students

Augusta Adult and Community Education is pleased to announce their partnership with the City of Augusta Parks & Recreation to offer free child watch services for adult education students. This is a momentous moment for adult education programming as childcare is the leading barrier for many adult education students.

“All students should be able to access their education. Adult education students often face many barriers when returning to school. As the director of this program, it is my goal to eliminate barriers whenever possible. I am excited for this opportunity to partner with our neighbors at Buker Community building and offer free child watch for our adult education students,” said Kayla Sikora, Director of Augusta Adult and Community.

“This partnership with Augusta Adult Education is extremely exciting for our community and the students that August Adult Education serves. We are so fortunate to have the Augusta Adult Education Program  in the Buker Community Center and I believe that our  partnership is going to continue to grow beyond the child watch program,” said Bruce Chase, Director of Parks & Recreation

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed into effect on October 25, 2022 between Augusta Adult and Community Education and the City of Augusta Parks & Recreation to offer free child watch for adult education students. Pictured- Kayla Sikora, Director of Augusta Adult Education and Bruce Chase, Director of Parks & Recreation.

Old Town Elementary Hallway of Flags Celebrates Diverse School Community

A few years ago Old Town Elementary School (OTES) reflected on their school’s role in expanding the experiences and perspectives of the students and staff in the school. They realized they had an obligation to make the community aware of the diverse cultures and countries entering through their doors each day and to create a welcoming environment for all people at OTES. With the University of Maine as the school’s neighbor, they often receive students from the University because parents are finishing their degrees or are professors.

OTES decided to put a flag up for every country represented at the school to welcome families and teach their students about the various cultures represented at the school with each of these new community members. As a result, OTES families coming to the school building feel immediately welcomed by the gesture of seeing their native country flying in the hallways of the school.

“Students and staff are so excited about another country joining this hall of flags and getting to know about the country,” said OTES Principal Jeanna Tuell. “We have found more opportunities to make connections with other countries and to celebrate our diversity.”

Sparking Creativity: International Dot Day and Augmented Reality

When Terri Dawson, Technology Integrator at Gorham Middle School, heard Peter H. Reynolds read from his children’s book, The Dot, at an International Society for Technology in Education conference, she knew she had to bring the book back to her school. Reynolds’ book tells the story of a young student, Vashti, who feels like she can’t draw. Her teacher encourages her to simply “make a mark and see where it goes,” and by doing so, sparks Vashti’s creativity, inspiring the little girl and her classmates to have creative confidence.

So, when Dawson discovered a collaboration between QuiverVision, an augmented reality (AR) coloring app for iPads, and International Dot Day, she knew she had found an innovative way to connect sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade students to this beloved children’s book via technology. The students began by listening to Peter H. Reynolds read from his book on YouTube. That’s when they began their own creative process.

Dawson provided students with a paper template from QuiverVision that included space for the students to design their own dots and a QR code, that, when scanned by their iPads, displayed their dots in augmented reality. This allowed them to experience their drawings in a totally different way. Dawson noted that “when the students saw their dots come to life, their engagement and motivation to do another dot was amazing…it gave them another level of learning. They started to think about what else they could create.”

Dawson’s students were so engaged and inspired, they asked for the opportunity to take their iPads home and continue with their own designs using AR.

“Augmented reality and virtual reality seem to be a natural progression in education,” said Dawson, “there are so many different things that allow students to view their world differently. That’s what I want to expose them to. I want them to have these skills so that when they go out into the workforce they say, ‘I remember using AR! Did you know you could do this with a QR code?’”