I took some time yesterday to check in on a conference organized by some collaboration all-stars, Julie Hart of the Mahoosuc Kids Association and Susan Jennings of UMaine Cooperative Extension and the Bryant Pond 4H Camp and Learning Center. They received a state grant that allowed them to bring together teachers, administrators, after-school and summer program staff, and other interested folks to talk about bringing alive STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum for their students. The school staff came from all over western Maine, including Oxford Hills, Fryeburg, Denmark, Rumford, and of course SAD 44 to meet for two days at the Grand Summit Hotel at Sunday River.
Collaboration was a big buzz word. We had a discussion about our "silos" that we feel restrict us from being more creative and collaborative - in this case, people mentioned the rigidity of the school year, the burden of standardized testing, working with people set in their ways, lacking time or money. Those particular things may not apply to you in your job, but we all have parallels in our own lives. The challenge is to figure out how to find the people who are willing to work together with you so you can help each other escape from this tunnel vision. The conference attendees worked to generate ideas for curriculum that will weave together the traditional school day, after-school, and summer program experiences and relate learning to real-world problems. That's where I think other BANC members can come in. THS Principal Dan Hart referenced our BANC Forum as a great starting place for giving kids a voice in the community, and as we grow, I believe we can find many ways of getting our kids involved in nonprofits and service learning.
Pat Carson, a teacher from Oxford Hills, gave the crowd an excellent overview of a model for collaboration. He partnered with the Western Foothills Land Trust, which owns an easement on a local farm, to have his students create a garden. They did all the research and math about what and when to plant, budgeting, planning, building, planting, sourcing materials, recruiting advisers and volunteers, and then went to the farm and made it happen. When they harvest, they'll donate much of it to Maine Harvest for Hunger, a UMaine Cooperative Extension program that encourages people to donate their surplus garden vegetables to local food banks. The kids divided themselves into groups with different jobs, such as engineers, financial managers, researchers, and media and technology masters. As you can imagine, the kids loved it and learned a ton because the project was so hands-on. Mr. Carson's presentation was a strong reminder of what can be accomplished when we look for ways to work together!
Congrats to Susan and Julie for pulling off the conference and modeling collaboration to so many people. It makes me want to be a kid again so I can be one of the students who this summer gets to "test" the curriculum ideas generated at the conference.
Hope to see you all at our meeting on Monday, July 27 at 3 pm at the Mahoosuc Land Trust!
Smiling faces looking forward to collaboration in our schools
Pat Carson of Oxford Hills Elementary School presents his students' farm project.
Teachers and staff review study materials as they generate ideas for STEM curriculum.
Bryant Pond 4H Camp staff demonstrate the robots their students are using to identify invasive milfoil in local lakes.