Growth Celebrated and Knowledge Shared as MoMEntum Literacy Pilot Wraps Up

Kindergarten through 3rd grade teachers from across the state gathered this month for a final event that served as the culmination of two and a half years of work by 1500 students, 100 teachers, 9 schools, and 6 literacy coaches. Momentum, a K-3 literacy pilot program designed to improve the literacy achievement of students, came to a close with a professional learning event and an opportunity to reflect on the knowledge and growth experienced by its participants.

Deployed in January 2018, the MoMEntum pilot program provided 9 schools with iPad devices from Apple, Inc. and research-based curriculum resources along with targeted professional learning and coaching to help them improve not only the reading levels of their young students, but also to engage them in a meaningful integration of literacy across other content areas using technology. Additionally, and somewhat uniquely, the pilot also provided schools with the tools to measure how well students were responding to the new learning style.

Teachers received intensive professional learning on specific software applications that individualized student learning, and provided a platform to share student progress with their parents or guardians. Trained literacy coaches worked within each school along with locally grown professional learning communities (PLC) that met monthly (or more) to share practices, evaluate their work and progress, and seek ways to improve.

room of educators sitting at tables listening to speakerAt the closing event were an array of teacher-lead professional learning sessions about classroom management and curriculum practice. For example, Lindsey Davis, a 1st Grade Teacher from Leroy H. Smith School in RSU 22, lead a session about how to engage students in Close Reading lessons that utilize integrated and relevant content. Heather Gray and Danielle Afari, teachers from Dirigo Elementary School in RSU 56, lead an informative and entertaining session about ways to glean student progress based on data and assessment in the classroom.

Teachers and administrators also had the opportunity to work on sustainability plans to keep their work from the MoMEntum pilot going in their schools by establishing school level and individual goals to help continue their integrated literacy work.

Kathy Jacobs, a 1st grade teacher who is moving into a special education role at China Primary School, a participating school from the pilot, said that she has definitely, “seen growth in the students” during the pilot program and that no matter what happens now that the program has come to a close, she will apply some of the things she has learned into her teaching practices going forward.

Wonders & wows posterThere was also an opportunity for teachers and administrators to share their “Wonders & Wows” as a way to evaluate the work and progress and highlight areas for future collaborative work.

“I learned as much from the teachers as I hope they learned from me,” said Literacy Coach Heidi Goodwin, a Distinguished Educator on loan from MSAD 54 who worked directly with the Maine DOE on the pilot program. “They [teachers] were great thinking partners,” she reflected. There were 6 educators total that served as coaches for the program. Along with Heidi were, Kayanne Nadeau, on loan from MSAD 27; Liz Wakem, on loan from RSU 71; Lisa Sleight, a retired Maine educator; Li Gowell, a retired Maine educator; and Dee Saucier, a Maine DOE staff member.

“This was not just a great learning opportunity for the schools involved but for the Department as well,” said Lee Anne Larsen, Maine DOE Early Learning Team Coordinator who has been involved in the administration of the MoMEntum pilot from its inception.  Reflecting on the valuable lessons learned during the pilot, Lee Anne remarked that the most notable were about ways to effectively use technology in the classroom, and methods of meaningfully integrating literacy into other content areas. “It will definitely inform our future work at the Department,” she added.

While the full pilot program and everything that came along with it was only deployed in 9 schools initially, the professional learning resources are available, completely free, to all schools on the Maine DOE Website, along with help and support from Maine DOE staff members Lee Anne Larson and Dee Saucier who both helped administer the pilot program. For further information please reach out to them at Leeann.Larsen@maine.gov and/or Danielle.M.Saucier@maine.gov.

 

 

 

 

MSSM STEM Summer Camp Success Story

Submitted by Ryan McDonald, Summer Programs Director and Public Relations Coordinator at Maine School of Science and Mathematics.

The STEM Summer Camp at Maine School of Science & Mathematics ended the 2019 season on August 3rd. Over 550 middle school campers came to the small town of Limestone in beautiful Aroostook County to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math. The campers had three hands-on classes daily and then a non-STEM class called “Instructor’s Passion”. After that, they participated in traditional summer camp activities such as rock climbing, creating tie dye shirts, baking, capture the flag, swimming, and of course our special 100-foot mega slip-n-slide.

The camp started in 1997 as a camp for girls to get them interested in the STEM fields, but expanded to six weeks total with three for boys and three for girls. In 2018, the camp changed to five weeks with a co-ed week in the middle. We have found the new model to be very effective and plan to continue.

The classes are designed to keep kids academically stimulated through the summer and have no homework nor prerequisites. The only requirement is curiosity for how things work. Some of the classes this year and past years have included Real Life CSI, Model Rocketry, 3D Printing, You Can Do the Cube (Rubik’s Cube), The Science of Clay, Intro to Programming, LEGO Robotics, Catapults and Trebuchets, and many more. This year brought a new idea, Instructor’s Passion for the 4th class. It was a shorter class where each instructor taught a hobby or interest such as origami, Japanese language, drawing, creating your own game, appreciating Beethoven’s music, team building, etc.

The MSSM STEM Summer Camp brings educators, staff, and campers from all 16 counties, a few other states, and even a few foreign countries. Each year we strive to improve the camp based on feedback from the campers. We don’t make anyone an expert in each week of camp, but we do love when campers learn something and say, “Wow! This exists.”

For more information about the MSSM STEM Summer Camp and Maine School of Science and Mathematics, go to:  www.mssm.org.

Maine Teachers Learn About the Benefits of Technology in Elementary School Classrooms

This article was written by Simon Handelman, a Maine DOE Intern from the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Institute.

Imagine how surprising it was seeing my own mother sitting in a classroom at Casco Bay High School, on a Friday morning in August. Allow me to clarify, I was not surprised to see her attending the professional learning class there; she is an extremely dedicated teacher. All I mean is it was serendipitous to see her on a day I might have otherwise stayed in Augusta at the Department of Education. My mother, Ellen Handelman, is the art teacher at Harrison Lyseth Elementary School in Portland. She, like so many other enthusiastic Maine teachers, is spending her last weeks of  summer vacation attending professional learning classes, one after another. I do not believe she has had so much homework since college. 

We were at Casco Bay High School that day for the same reasons. A session was being taught by former Cushing Community School teacher Beth Heidemann, and philanthropist David Perloff. They were underscoring the benefits of technology in elementary school classrooms. For my mother, the highlight of that day was a winning a 3D printer for her very own classroom. When I asked her to express her excitement about the printer, she said “my students can witness (in real time) how science, technology, engineering, and math combine with art to create usable objects which pair form and function.” 

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Teachers at Casco Bay PL Session use downtime to network and catch up with friends.

My mother is constantly developing methods to display for her students the foundational importance of art education. She firmly believes “everyone is an artist,” and I agree. In fact, that same mantra of was repeated again and again at Casco Bay that day. Heidemann’s company Go2Science, which she founded with scientist Curtis Bentley, allows kindergarten through second grade students to travel virtually around the world, investigating hypotheses for a representative group of scientists. Heidemann’s message: “everyone is a scientist.”  

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Teachers at Casco Bay PL Session Listening to a Presenter

Perloff’s Perloff Family Foundation, which donated the printer my mother won, believes all young students are equipped to learn about complicated technology, if given the chance. His foundation provided three hundred fifty 3D printers to Maine public schools, and the Maine Medical Center Children’s Hospital. Perloff believes “everyone is an engineer.” 

Other elementary school teachers in attendance raved about occasions in their own classrooms when young students expressed high level critical thinking. In one case a teacher told the group that her kindergarten class was able to fix the internet for a substitute teacher, using only verbal directions (for safety reasons).  

As the summer months come to a close, teachers across the state are eager to return to their students. There are many fantastic professional learning opportunities available in Maine, and many more dedicated teachers prepared to become the best they can possibly be.   

Innovative New “Experiential” Educator Training Takes Center Stage

Course Instructor Keith Kelley and EMMC President Lisa Larson looking through a STEAMRoller cart included with the course.
Course Instructor Keith Kelley and EMMC President Lisa Larson looking through a STEAMRoller cart that is included with the course.

In a four-day educator training that took place last month at the United Technology Center (UTC) in Bangor, 14 educators from across Maine gathered for a unique professional development opportunity offered through a partnership between two educators from RSU 19, Eastern Maine Community College (EMCC), and UTC that aims to help educators integrate advanced technology and experiential learning into every lesson plan, and to help fill the workforce gap in Maine.

Utilizing a $50,000 grant that EMCC President Lisa Larson obtained through the Maine Community College System, the 3 credit Introduction to Experiential Teaching through Technology course was offered as an opportunity for educators to “learn practical learning experiences to integrate traditional and newly advanced technologies into project biased lesions,” similar to the teaching methods found in career and technical education (CTE) settings throughout the state. The idea is to bring the experiential teaching philosophy to classrooms long before the high school CTE experience. The earlier integration of experiential learning gives students a taste for possible career paths but just as importantly, learning experiences that allow them to utilize and understand the advanced technological tools of their future and to utilize and exercise their own problem-solving and management skills.

The course was led by RSU 19 educators, Keith Kelley and Kern Kelley who are brothers, partners, and advocates for integrated experiential student learning. It provides classroom teachers, at any grade level and of any subject matter expertise, with not only the tools but also the mindset and methods to teach project based and integrated lessons to their students. This type of learning environment provides students with real-world, problem solving experiences with technology, bringing full circle the content areas that make up the very well-known acronym STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math).

The STEAMRoller Cart includes: Seville Classics UltraHD 2-Door Rolling Cabinet and a 6-drawer Rolling Storage Cabinet, Vise, Portable Vise Table, Power Strips, Cordless Orbital Hand Sander, Corded Orbital Hand Sander, Power Drill, Impact Power Drill, Rotary Dremel Tool, Irwin Clamps, Kobalt 100-Piece Household Tool Set with Hard Case, Hand Tool Bag, Hammer, Locking Pliers, Tape Measure, Speed Square, Spade Bits, Flash Forge 3D Printer, 3D Printer Tool Set, Frog Tape, Duct Tape, Rocketbook, FriXion Pens, iPod Touch & Case, Tripod, Raspberry Pi, Soldering Iron, Scrappy Circuits, Safety Goggles, Disposable Gloves, Breakout of the Box DRAWER, and a Breakout EDU Kit.
The STEAMRoller Cart includes: Seville Classics UltraHD 2-Door Rolling Cabinet and a 6-drawer Rolling Storage Cabinet, Vise, Portable Vise Table, Power Strips, Cordless Orbital Hand Sander, Corded Orbital Hand Sander, Power Drill, Impact Power Drill, Rotary Dremel Tool, Irwin Clamps, Kobalt 100-Piece Household Tool Set with Hard Case, Hand Tool Bag, Hammer, Locking Pliers, Tape Measure, Speed Square, Spade Bits, Flash Forge 3D Printer, 3D Printer Tool Set, Frog Tape, Duct Tape, Rocketbook, FriXion Pens, iPod Touch & Case, Tripod, Raspberry Pi, Soldering Iron, Scrappy Circuits, Safety Goggles, Disposable Gloves, Breakout of the Box DRAWER, and a Breakout EDU Kit.

Each educator’s school paid $381 total for the four-day hybrid course that includes the four in-person sessions, bi-weekly reading and reflection assignments and online discussions and provides educators with contact hours plus 3 college credits, in addition to a “STEAMRoller” cart of hardware and equipment valued at over $2,000 each. They will also each have the opportunity to host a STEAMRoller bus for a day at their school, which includes an experiential student conference provided by course instructors and their partners. At the student conference, educators and students will be able to participate in a day filled with breakout sessions on various topics such as 3D printing, drones, and virtual reality to name a few.

Hermon High School Principal Brian Walsh is excited that one of his 9th grade science teachers is attending the course this summer so that he can share his knowledge and the tool kit with the other 9th grade science teacher so that they can integrate hands-on project-biased learning experiences, not just to 9th graders but throughout the high school as well. Walsh has felt a void where they were unable to fill an industrial arts position in prior years and hopes this will help bring new STEAM learning experiences, career pathways, and experiential opportunities to the students at Hermon High School.

educators looking at a computer screen togetherTonya Therrien, Benton Elementary 5th Grade teacher decided to take the course with the hopes of bringing back to her classroom, “a way to utilize technology more with the kiddos, beyond just using it for research.” She wants her students to know how to use technology as a tool. When asked what she thought of the training so far, she said, “this is probably the most worthwhile class I’ve ever taken, and I’ve taken a lot of classes.” She then added that she has two master’s degrees which both required a fair amount of coursework.

Aaron Pody, a high school Life Sciences teacher from RSU 18 came to the class to learn about ways to teach the content with more relevance to his students. He has been pleased to find that there are ways to bring technology into the classroom that are not cost prohibitive.

educator wearing VR gogglesRSU 26 educator Karen Frye from Orono was excited to bring back what she has learned at the course to provide her gifted and talented students with the rare opportunity to do some hands-on problem solving, which will further enrich their learning experience and give them some problem-solving skills.

The 3-credit course and the STEAMRoller bus events are intended to give participating educators and schools a taste of experiential learning methods, along with emerging technologies, tools and resources. The course is expected to be followed up by an Experiential Education certificate program that EMCC is expected to launch in January of 2020. The new program aims to provide the state with educators that can help fill the growing workforce gap in technologically skilled workers.

The launch of the experiential training was deemed a success by organizers and participants alike. The innovative approach to an obvious need has the potential to further help Maine schools lead their students toward successful career choices, experience with problem-solving, and the ability to successfully navigate the technology of our future.

Educators standing with STEAMRoller Carts

This article was written by Rachel Paling in collaboration with course instructors Keith and Kern Kelley, and staff at both UTC and EMMC. If you have story ideas for Maine DOE’s Maine School’s Sharing Success campaign, please contact Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Maine DOE Engages Stakeholder Input Through Regional Think Tank Series

Drawing its largest gathering of stakeholders, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) hosted its 5th event in a series of Think Tanks held at various locations throughout the state this spring and summer. The Think Tanks are a way for the Department to discuss various topics and gain feedback from stakeholders about ongoing initiatives, long term programming, and to inform future decision-making.

In this first round of Think Tanks, the following topics were discussed: redefining school success, the Maine Learning Through Technology Initiative (MLTI), educator readiness, educator excellence, and special education.

The July 8th event held in Augusta started off with a warm introduction from Deputy Commissioner Daniel Chuhta thanking participants for making the trek to Augusta, in some cases from as far away as Washington County. Shortly after, attendees split off into three large groups to discuss specific topics for the day.

The discussion about MLTI, hosted by Beth Lambert, Maine DOE Coordinator of Secondary Education and Integrated Instruction, was introduced with an explanation of the 20 year history of MTLI, an acknowledgement that information will be forthcoming in regards to the recent passage of the budget and the coming school year, and that the day’s feedback will aid in the planning of the future of MLTI beyond 2021 when all of the current contracts have come to an end.

“Before we begin, I want to mention that there is only one thing that is off the table for today’s discussion,” said Lambert in her opening remarks. “We will not be talking about whether or not to end the MLTI Program,” she noted. “MLTI has been around for 20 years, and we would like it to be around for many, many more years to come.”

Stakeholder presenting feedback

Over the course of the next few hours the group was split off into four smaller groups, each tasked with identifying values, concerns, and suggestions on large sheets of chart paper. A summary of those lists was then shared out with the entire group before the session ended prior to lunch.

Meanwhile in another session, a group was discussing the answers to a specific set of questions posed by Maine DOE Deputy Director of the Office of Special Services, Ann Belanger:

  • What is the most challenging aspect of the special education process?
  • Do you find the Maine Unified Special Education Regulations (MUSER) user friendly? What would make them more user friendly?
  • How can the Maine Department of Education support districts and parents in providing services to students with disabilities?
  • Are there topics/issues about which you feel that more information and/or training is needed? What are they?
  • Are there practices and/or policies that create barriers for students with disabilities?

Stakeholders engaged in worksessionParticipants then shared their collaborative responses with the entire group, working together to carefully record all the responses in notes. The group then worked together to create the ideal special education program, detailing the processes that would need to be involved to create this type of ideal setting.

For the session about redefining school success, Mary Paine, the Director of a new Office of School Success, introduced an initiative that engages educators, students, parents, and communities in conversations about what they think makes a school successful. Her session worked to further engage with stakeholders on this topic. The framework that results from the Maine Defines School Success statewide dialog will eventually complement Maine’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan by providing a broader set of indicators of success in Maine’s schools. In addition to being part of the Think Tanks series, the school success discussion will continue in school communities throughout the state over the course of the next school year.

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Led by Maine DOE’s Office of Higher Education and Educator Support Services, the educator readiness session prompted participants to discuss talent needs that are ideal for teacher candidates including pre-service and in-service, as well as what is needed to ensure teachers are prepared for equity and diversity in the classroom.

Each session resulted in walls of chart paper filled with written notes detailing suggestions, ideas, concerns, values, and much more. “We are pleased with the participation and appreciate that folks were willing to join us in these discussions across the State,” said Deputy Commissioner Chuhta.

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Following the July 8th event there will be an additional Think Tank held in Winter Harbor this fall to discuss the same topics and the Department is also planning to release a survey for those unable to participate in discussion topics at the Think Tanks already held.

“In the works is a new section of the Maine DOE website dedicated to the Think Tanks where the transcribed notes from each of the sessions will be available along with other information,” said Chuhta. “In the coming months, the notes will be synthesized to help us determine next steps and guide decision making on the topics discussed,” he added.

In a continuation of the Think Tank Series, the Department is expecting to launch another round of Think Tanks on a different set of topics over the course of the coming school year.