The first set of RREV (Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures) award winners were announced in August 2021. RREV is an initiative of the Maine Department of Education, funded by Education Stabilization Funds through Education Models Rethink K-12 from the U.S. Department of Education, which reinforces the innovative efforts of Maine educators to support their students with agile, efficient, and resilient learning experiences that improve learning outcomes for all students. Now, after a year of experience and development, the Ministry of Education would like to thank the winners for their dedication to innovative education and to recognize their achievements that have resulted from RREV contracts over the past year. Keep reading to learn more about how School Union 76 has used its RREV funding over the past year.
Last August, School Union 76 was approved for its RREV pilot project called Classrooms in the Community, which aimed to create outdoor learning spaces for students in the district. These outdoor spaces were meant to be inclusive and were designed for all students to engage, connect and explore. The district has set big goals, hoping to significantly improve student learning skills across all student subgroups, create a comprehensive and integrated knowledge base for staff, students and parents, expand aspirations and awareness of lifelong learning opportunities for students and communities, and better prepare students for a rapidly changing world through technology and innovation by teaching and fostering self-education, research and exploration, and teamwork practices. A year later, significant progress has been made toward these goals through the construction of an ADA-accessible boardwalk that is part of a nature trail and partnerships with community organizations, sharing their progress throughout of Facebook.
The ADA accessible boardwalk has been a focal point for schools and the surrounding community. Students now interact with it regularly, and in October, after construction was completed, the Island Heritage Trust collaborated with the district on a jack-o’-lantern carving event. Jack-o’-lanterns lined the boardwalk and were illuminated on two nights the trail was open to the public. Deer Isle-Stonington (DIS) elementary science teacher Mickie Flores described how students “oohed” and “bullied” as they walked the boardwalk. Community members, she said, also showed up to enjoy the pumpkins and the fall air.
However, the promenade and outdoor facilities are not only used for events. A kindergarten class walked the nature trail every day for the past school year. They loved their routine so much that they wanted to do whatever they could to maintain the boardwalk and the trail. As part of the district’s shift to hands-on learning, teachers encouraged their students to collect pennies and took them on field trips to the bank to deposit them. When all the pennies collected were counted, the students had raised over $230 to spend on maintaining the boardwalk, and members of the bank community at the time donated even more money to help the kindergarteners maintain their beloved nature trail.
As kindergartners use the trail to soak up the nature around them, Flores points out that “going out is not just about learning science.” She believes you can learn anything outdoors, and the SU 76 curriculum reflects that. Grade 5 students spent time outdoors writing haiku this year, and Grade 2 students painted rocks with positive messages. The time spent outdoors was good for their creativity and mindfulness, not just for science-based, factual education.
Next year, Flores will find herself in a new position with a new title as Class and Community Coordinator. “I think the old titles of RREV Coordinator and Place-Based Education Coordinator are far too cryptic,” she said. For her, a label that clearly communicates her role within the district is more important, as clarity helps create and strengthen the community bonds that are integral to the project. In her new role, Flores looks forward to becoming a resource for all four schools and continuing to collaborate with Island Heritage Trust, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, and the Chase Emerson Public Library.
As for the continuation of their project, the district hopes to expand opportunities for students this coming school year. The construction of an outdoor classroom is underway and should be opened near the school. Flores hopes that this outdoor space, although it will be used by all students, will increase engagement and excitement among high school students due to its proximity to their school building. The district also hopes to have opportunities to connect schools through field visits and increased interaction with community partners to achieve their long-term goal of providing all students with multiple active learning opportunities. , practical, creative and student-centred. .
Ultimately, before the June 30, 2023 funding deadline, Flores hopes to increase attendance at Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School and Sedgwick Schools and begin involvement with Brooklin School as well as the Deer Isle-Stonington High School. It also intends to produce a calendar documenting the activities of the different schools throughout the year in order to share the activities with the community and increase this involvement.
Martin Mackey, the former director of the RREV project who died tragically in April this year, embodied the RREV spirit: think and act boldly to meet the needs of students. His passion was to “change lives”. As such, he challenged every RREV participant to do just that by devising pilot ideas that would ultimately have a lasting systemic impact on students. After 18 months at the head of RREV, Martin’s passion has been transmitted to nearly 200 educators who have participated in the professional development of innovation. From these educators, 27 pilot ideas were brought to life and received over $5.7 million in RREV prizes. Through their pilot ideas, these educators are committed to engaging in innovation.
The Maine DOE encourages all schools and districts in the state of Maine to learn more about these innovative educators and their RREV pilots through the RREV website and the RREV online collaborative platform known as EngiNE. It’s through Engine that we all hope to continue Martin’s momentum to change the lives of students through innovative and responsive educational programs.