Newsletter Highlights and Stories

Spring Open Air Classroom Success Story, December 16, 2022

Upper elementary teachers at Camden Rockport Elementary School (CRES) asked for support in facilitating student achievement of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) within the framework of their re-formatted remote learning plan during the 2021-2022 school year. The project goal was to facilitate equitable access to outdoor learning as part of the school’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

An initiative of the Maine Department of Education, the RREV (Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures) grant supported teachers in piloting learning experiences that aimed to improve learning outcomes for all students. At CRES, the RREV funds enabled each teacher to engage in an outdoor residency partnership with local experts in their respective fields, in this case, science. Each student in third and fourth grade engaged in three meaningful learning experiences with Tanglewood during the 2021-2022 school year.

Students practiced open-ended inquiry, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. We focused on the STEM experimental design process to guide this learning: ask, imagine, plan, create, test, improve, and share. Field instructors collaborated with Camden Hills State Park, The Coastal Mountains Land Trust, and local 4-H volunteers to utilize outdoor spaces, like trails, beaches, and blueberry barrens to enhance student learning.

Grant sponsors evaluated the project, observed several on-site visits, and conducted post-program interviews with participants. Evaluators stated that other schools that received grant funding had limited experience with integrating standards with lessons to create meaningful outdoor field experiences and could utilize our model when creating programming adapted to their own needs. Written feedback indicated that the evaluators were impressed by our ease with correlating standards with impactful field experiences and that it was an incredibly “humbling experience to observe the transformative work happening with students at CRES.” This pilot highlighted the sustainability of alternatives to what we traditionally think of as remote learning and contributed to Maine’s commitment to visionary educational practices.

Blueberry Cove After School Highlight, December 16, 2022

The Blueberry Cove After School program has provided so much joy and comfort to students and families throughout the years. Caregivers frequently share how grateful they are for the program existing, noting that no other after-school programs in the area even allow students to play outside for extended periods of time. Their gratitude extends to the thoughtful programming that we deliver, allowing students to be hands-on, get a little messy, and encourage their creativity.

This year, students’ growth has been tremendous. We have seen increased buy-in from students since introducing more elements of student choice and emotional growth from modeling empathy and care. Students arrive excited to learn and play and often leave semi-reluctantly. They feel proud to help with daily responsibilities: up until the creation of a roles and responsibilities board, many students would argue over who would help facilitate the question of the day or lead the group in the 4-H pledge.

One student has thrived since being encouraged to try more art activities and has become one of the most excited to create art. Another student has become more independent and able to support other students who are struggling, after a long period of being rather dependent on educators for support. We are excited to continue to support students’ growth and are always looking for ways to improve the program and better ourselves along the way.