Maine Education Project

The Maine Education Project explores student-centered learning from early childhood through college and beyond. The project is funded by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, which is working to encourage a transformation of public schools toward places that create learning opportunities to engage and inspire all students to meet challenging standards.

Spearheaded by Robbie Feinberg, education news producer, and Dave Boardman, education program coordinator, the project seeks stories about innovative learning in Maine’s classrooms and educational institutions and connects with the voices of students, educators and policymakers as they look at solutions to the challenges facing education today. We highlight the perspectives of students through our Raise Your Voice! initiative.

Have a story suggestion? Contact the team at maineeducationproject@mainepublic.org.

4-H instructor Norm Greenberg teaches students at the 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond in Bethel.
Robbie Feinberg/MPBN

Originally published on June 20, 2016

It’s not unusual for high school students to spend time in the community or work on a special project. But one Maine school district has taken that a step further. On almost every school day during the school year, freshmen at Telstar High School in Bethel are bussed to a local 4-H camp, where they work on anything from English to building solar panels and hiking trails. The school views the “Telstar Freshman Academy” program as a new way of tackling the state’s new proficiency-based graduation standards. But, parents and students are still coming around on the idea.

Dan Ryder Teaches Students Design Thinking at Mt. Blue High School
Robbie Feinberg/MPBN

If you looked inside Dan Ryder’s classroom at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, you might think that he taught engineering. A 3-D printer sits in the corner, there’s a giant box of Legos, and a full cart of electronics right beside. Ryder, though, teaches English. And he uses a method called design thinking, in which he combines books, inventions and brainstorming to create a new kind of classroom experience.

Robbie Feinberg / MPBN

Earlier this week, all staff members at Athens Elementary School gathered together to discuss their yearlong experiment in school governance. To save money and reclaim local control, the school decided in September to get rid of its principal and appoint teachers to serve as both instructors and administrators. The approach is still new, but it could lead to changes across Maine’s small, rural school districts.

Dave Boardman / MPBN

LEWISTON, Maine - There aren't a lot of opportunities for students to be innovative in schools today. Between a focus on standards and getting the grades, there's not enough room or time to try something new.  But some schools in Maine are finding that allowing for some innovation is worth the risk.

8th Grade Students in Presque Isle Participating in the "Amazing Race."
Nick Woodward/MPBN

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine - For young people in Presque Isle - and their peers in a lot of Maine towns - local history might not always be visible. But over the past decade, an eighth-grade teacher in this northern Maine city has developed a tradition of bringing the past to life, in what's known in these parts as the Amazing Race.

Brian Bechard / MPBN

When Pedro Zamarro teaches his first-grade class, it’s all in Spanish. What’s unusual about it, though, is that Zamarro’s students aren’t from Spain, Mexico or South America. They attend Lyseth Elementary in Portland, which two years ago launched the state’s first public Spanish immersion class for first-graders.

Dave Boardman / MPBN

Tennis great Serena Williams, Olympic gold medal skier Mikaela Shiffren and Mets outfielder Carlos Delgado might play vastly different sports, but they share one common trait that some Maine student-athletes are working to emulate: they are writers.

Robbie Feinberg / MPBN

School enrollment is declining in nearly all of Maine’s school districts. But in one city — Lewiston — more students keep pouring in each year.

It’s been more than a dozen years since the state launched the Maine Learning Technology Initiative — a program to put a laptop in the hands of every 7th and 8th grader across the state. The program has since expanded to high schoolers. And in 2013, it moved beyond laptops to touch-screen iPads. But now, some school districts say the iPad approach has led to software glitches, frustrated teachers and distracted students. As a result, some schools are switching back to laptops.

Dave Boardman / MPBN

The growing popularity of the farm-to-table movement and a surge of interest in local food is fueling a renewed interest in agriculture. It’s not just an old-fashioned occupation anymore — students at one Maine college are finding their own ways into the field through one of the state’s only degree programs in farming.

Waterville Senior High School Sign
Flickr.com/Kris McElman

Studies have documented the connection between childhood trauma, and chronic disease and mental illness later in life. Some public schools in Maine are paying more attention to the impacts these experiences can have on student success. These schools are helping students identify — and cope with — the stressors that are effecting their lives.

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