Archive for the ‘Service Learning’ Category

Summer off? Yeah, right! I’m already excited for next year!

July 1, 2013

So what does a middle school teacher do with his/her extra time now that school is over and he/she is getting antsy?  I don’t know about you, but I’m already thinking about how I can rearrange my classroom for next year.  I’ve checked out ideas on Pinterest, checked in with other teacher-friends, and have pretty much figured out how I’m going to do it.

So, what’s next, you ask?  Hmm, professional development!  I love to learn new things, which is good, since I will be teaching two different subjects next year than I taught this year, and I’ve never taught of them before.  Though I have a bit of anxiety about the switch, I’m really looking forward to it.  I’m also really lucky to have two other math/science teachers at my grade level who are willing to share their knowledge and materials with me.

Participants at the STEM Camp learn about plant life.

Participants at the STEM Camp learn about plant life.

Besides the TON of reading I’ll be doing during the next two months (and the school year), I’ve also chosen to immerse myself in STEM activities.  And here’s the coolest part…there’s a week-long STEM Collaborative Educators’ Camp that is absolutely FREE to Maine residents (and they provide housing too)!  There are varied classes being offered focused on teachers of grades 6-12.  I’ve looked through the brochure of courses (ranging from origami to and am torn about what I will attend, but having heard feedback from some who attended last year’s camp, I know I’m going to walk away with a toolbox full of new techniques, strategies, and knowledge for me to apply to my teaching.  Also, beyond classroom (both inside and out) learning, there are fun, experiential activities for those who want to participate, ranging from ziplining to swimming.  I just know that is something I should attend because of this quote from their website:

“Our hope is to encourage Maine STEM educators to share their passions and talents with one another to form a                   community vested in improving student learning in STEM topics across Maine.”

Doesn’t that tie into the Bright Futures Report beautifully?  A focus on collaboration and learning sounds perfect!

You can register right at the website I’ve linked above.  Hopefully I’ll meet some of you there!

Thank you to Lisa Smith for her permission to write about the camp.  She’s the Outreach/Camp Director and is happy to answer any questions you may have!

P.S. Bring your insect repellant and sun screen for those outdoor options!

THERE’S STILL TIME . . . to attend the NELMS Annual Conference

March 25, 2013

It’s a sure sign that Spring is right around the corner.  “Meeting the Multi-Faceted Needs of the Middle Level Learner” convenes next week, April 4 & 5, in Providence, Rhode Island, where there will be green grass and blooming flowers(I hope!).  Don’t miss two days of inspiring, invigorating, relevant professional development.  If you need help or ideas on how to fund this incredible opportunity, contact the NELMS office, and check out the full Annual Conference program.

Inspiring Keynote speakers:

Tom Burton on “Magic, Motivation & Our ‘Sparkling’ Middle Level Students”

Carol Ann Tomlinson on “The Demographics, Research & Ethics Of Differentiation”.

Engaging ticketed luncheons and targeted full and half day sessions (a sampling includes):

“It’s More Than A Name” – Tom Burton

“Listen To What The Students Say: Student Profiles That Invite Differentiation”  – Carol Ann Tomlinson

Student Success Plans + “Cutting Edge, New” Advisory = Student Success – Earle Bidwell

Digital Tools for Project Based Learning – Jill Spencer

How Can We Use Strategies and Assessments to Prepare for the Transition to Common Core State Standards? – Deb Scarpelli

Exploring and Applying Web 2.0 Tools and Resources in the Middle – Chris Toy

Courageous and Collaborative Leadership in the Middle – Lyn Ward Healy

Differentiation and the Brain: How Neuroscience Supports the Learner Friendly Classroom – Carol Ann Tomlinson

Timely and relevant concurrent workshop sessions based on the concepts contained in Turning Points 2000 and This We Believe

Another Service Project! Maine Based PuppyRescueMission

March 17, 2013

My last post focused on the Tacugama Chimp Sanctuary in Sierra Leone. Just today I read about another project that would definitely appeal to middle grades students because it is about bringing to the U.S. dogs and cats that our soldiers in combat overseas have adopted. What makes is really cool is that its chief organizer is a Mainer, Anna Cannan from Ft. Kent!

Anna began PuppyRescueMission because her boyfriend, stationed in Afghanistan, wanted to find a way to bring home a puppy of a stray dog who had alerted soldiers that a stranger was nearby.  The man turned out to be a suicide bomber, and the U.S. soldiers were determined to take care of the dogs who saved their lives. Long story short, Anna began the PuppyRescueMission to raise money to bring this dog and others to the US so they could be with the soldiers when they too came home.

It’s very expensive to transport these animals to their new homes so the organization is continuously in fund raising mode.  Students looking for a service project would find this a worthwhile endeavor.

Anna first started a Facebook page:

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 4.31.52 PM

The organization now also has a store and a blog:

After investigating these sites, individuals, homerooms, advisory groups, teams, or an entire school might be inspired to get involved or create some other type of service project using this one as a model. Anna Cannan has certainly demonstrated that one person can make a difference with hard work and ingenuity–she sounds like a good role model to me!  It is also an opportunity to help students become savvy consumers of the Internet by having them research the reliability of the site and the percentage of funds raised going to the actual cause–two habits students need to develop in order to make good decisions about getting involved with organizations/charities they read about online.


Fitzpatrick, K. (2013) “This is my way to say ‘Thank you’ to our heroes!” Woman’s World. 3/18/13. p. 26.

Speaking of Oxymorons…Mass Customization: Join the Conversation!

January 14, 2012

In Bea McGarvey’s and Chuck Schwahn’s new book, Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning, the authors observe that almost everywhere in today’s marketplace, providers are using technology to better match the needs and preferences of consumers on a vast scale never seen before. Everywhere that is, except in education…so far. However, more and more educators in Maine are beginning to engage in conversations about Mass Customization and what it might mean for schools, teachers, and students. In December this conversation started off with the first in a series of monthly webinars about MCL. Author Bea McGarvey and DOE Superintendent of Instruction Don Siviski talked about Mass Customized Learning and its implications for Standards Based Education here in Maine. There was even a surprise visit from Commissioner Bowen! This month, on Tuesday January 24th, the conversation continues with the second webinar focusing on Chapters 2 and 3 of the book and looking more closely at some of the questions raised by participants in the first webinar. Come join Bea, Don, Principal Bill Zima, and me as we continue the conversation. Just click here to register!

Quick! Opportunity to Recognize Student Community Service

November 19, 2011

Hello middle school colleagues!  Our good friend at NASSP, Patti Kinney, just informed us about a great chance to recognize and support good things happening in our schools through the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. I’m sure there are students at your school who are involved in community service projects and activities who reflect what is right about middle level education in Maine and who deserve to be recognized for volunteering in their communities.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is the United States’ largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service.

Created in 1995 by Prudential Financial in partnership with NASSP, the program has honored more than 90,000 young volunteers at the local, state, and national level.

Currently there are NO applications for the middle level Prudential Spirit of Community Award from Maine…so there’s a really good chance of someone winning if they get an application turned in…the deadline has been extended to Nov 30.  Any middle level student who has headed up a community service project is eligible – here’s a link to the details –

So…if you know of any student that should apply, please let them know ASAP…and get the word out to other middle level folks as well!

Thanks…hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!

MAMLE Conference – Sugarloaf

October 21, 2011

Chris Toy and Tim

I had a wonderful day yesterday at Sugarloaf at the annual Maine Association for Middle Level Education (MAMLE) conference. It doesn’t seem to matter what the weather is there, driving up the road to the lodge makes me feel cozy. I arrived just in time for Jill Spencer and Chris Toy’s collaborative keynote So You Think You Know the Keys to Educating Young Adolescents? 

Jill started us off with a little brain gym and yoga. Jill and Chris modeled good teaching by engaging us in our learning. They utilized technology, reminded us all of the key components of middle level education, and pushed on our thinking. They were creative in their delivery, differentiated their instrution for a variety of learners, and provided some time to work collaboratively at our tables. It was a fun way to start the day (and conference) after a long drive to the mountain. Jill and Chris brought friends with them to help deliver the keynote so you won’t want to miss it when it appears on the MAMLE site.

Jill Spencer and Chris Toy - Bright Futures Partners

Later in the morning I had the pleasure of attending Old Town’s Leonard Middle School workshop that was led by four 8th graders and one 9th grader who were engaged in a service learning project last year. Music teacher, Shianne Priest, said that she wishes she had learned about service learning 14 years ago because she will never go back to teaching her Music Appreciation class the way she did. Students were committed to raise awareness and educate others about
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). You can learn about the fantastic project by reading and watching the segment on WABI TV5 by clicking here. You can see and listen to singer/songwriter Lily Muscatell there as well. The $3 CD is available and can be purchased by emailing Shianne at

Lily and Service Learning students presenting at MAMLE

Danette and Kathy

During the afternoon session I attended Integrating Language Arts, Visual Arts and Technology to Enhance Learning presented by Sacopee Valley Middle School art teacher Danette Kerrigan and ELA teacher Kathy Rice. The unit is a great example of collaboration. This isn’t about one content dominating the other but the two, ELA and visual art coming together to provide a deeper learning experience for all students. The writing process and art making were the vehicles and student choice created engagement for every student. The unit started by reading The Call of the Wild by Jack London and the process had a huge focus on the layering of learning. Students used “Is There Really a Human Race?” written by Jamie Lee Curtis and illustrated by Laura Cornell to understand the concepts and artistic elements to creating an illustrated book. Workshop participants had the opportunity to learn techniques that the students used to create their illustrations. Some of those were were water color lifting, wash, salt, and resist.

I suggest you think about how you can collaborate with colleagues from different content to enrich the learning opportunity for all students. Danette and Kathy shared a wonderful opporunity for students!

Sugarloaf– Save the Date! October 20 & 21

August 9, 2011

What Are You Waiting For? Sign Up For MLEI 2011!

June 18, 2011

There’s still time to Register for MLEI, the Institute Designed Specifically to Address the Learning Needs of 10-15 Year Olds!

Achieving Student Improvement: Effective Middle Grades Now! is the focus of this summer’s annual Middle Level Education Institute (MLEI). It will be held from August 1-4 at Thomas College in Waterville, Maine. Institute participants work on a project they design to address their school needs and delve deeply into the major learning issues in today’s middle grades. MLEI provides teams and individuals critical support from national and international experts in middle level education and technology integration. This Maine tradition attracts educators from Maine and across the globe. Recent national studies establish that student academic performance, habits, and attitudes formed in middle school are the greatest factors in determining students’ success in high school and beyond. MLEI is the only Institute in Maine that focuses exclusively on the learning needs of the young adolescent. Participants earn graduate credits or CEUs. The final day for registration is Thursday, June 30. To register, call Mikaela Ziobro at 207-859-1211 or email her at For more information, go to

Help us spread the word by sharing via your favorite social network or email list!

Chewonki Goes for Zero Waste

April 5, 2011

This post was written by Betta Stothart Connor, Director of Communications at the Chewonki Foundation.

Chewonki unveiled Zero Waste, the fourth in its poster/online curriculum series, on April 5 at Memorial Middle School in South Portland. The poster was two years in development, and its unveiling included a press conference and a statewide rollout and contest.

“The Chewonki poster series grew out of a solid waste curriculum we developed almost twenty years ago.  With so much attention today on water and energy, we decided to really emphasize the release of the Zero Waste poster and curriculum,” said Chewonki president Willard Morgan. “Many of us at Chewonki have read the groundbreaking book Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. The authors’ idea of moving toward a Zero Waste world through ecologically intelligent design and sound waste-management strategies and is a concept we want to promote and embrace.”

Willard was quick to admit, however, that Zero Waste is an ambitious goal and that Chewonki has some work to do before it can make any claims of its own about being a Zero Waste campus.

Sustainability coordinator Peter Arnold concurred. “Chewonki is working hard to be all that it can be in terms of sustainability initiatives, energy use, and carbon reduction. But claiming ‘Zero Waste’ is not a declaration we can make with a straight face yet,” he said. “Like many, we have some work to do, and we will do it publicly to show the challenges and opportunities of striving for Zero Waste in our operations.”

Recognizing that reducing its waste had to involve students and staff working together, Chewonki engaged Semester 46 to undertake a campus-wide evaluation of Chewonki’s waste stream and make a formal recommendation for how the organization could move toward a Zero Waste campus.

“We asked the students to become garbologists, to do dumpster dives and get to know our waste stream with intimacy, so they could help us reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill or the waste-to-energy plant,” said Peter. Once the process was underway, things got really interesting, said Willard. Trash collection at Chewonki began to change; trash bins were reduced in number, made smaller than the recycling bins, and labeled “Landfill” instead of “Trash” to drive home the point. Within weeks the frequency of trash dumpster pick-ups was reduced by half.  “Reaction to the poster draft was really positive,” Willard added. “Knowing that we had hit on something big, we felt the curriculum and the challenge deserved statewide attention.”

The two-year effort to create a Zero Waste curriculum project began as a partnership with the Maine State Planning Office, which provides independent analysis to the governor and legislature on the development of the state’s economy and conservation of its natural resources. The concept was vetted with teachers and students throughout Maine, as well as experts in the field of waste management. Then it took on a corporate sponsor.

“When our communications director brought the project before Poland Spring CEO Kim Jeffrey, he immediately liked it,” Willard explained. Poland Spring signed on to a significant sponsorship and also proposed a statewide Zero Waste competition for middle schools. The “Zero Waste Challenge” was announced at the April 5 rollout, with students and principals from several middle schools pledging to enter.

This coming fall, any Maine middle school (or sixth-, seventh-, or eighth-grade class) can enter the contest, which involves completing a campus waste assessment; working steps 1–6 on the Zero Waste poster; evaluating the school’s progress; proposing how the school can move to Zero Waste; and writing a plan.

Entries are due in January 2012. An independent panel of judges will review the entries, and winners will be announced in February. First prize will be $3,000, second prize $2,000, and third prize $1,000. The funds can be used to implement a Zero Waste strategy on the campus of the winning schools, or they can be used toward a Zero Waste Outdoor Classroom program at Chewonki.

“The Zero Waste poster project has catalyzed triple bottom line thinking at Chewonki and we hope it does throughout Maine,” concludes Willard.  “Zero waste has environmental, financial and social benefits: We can reduce solid waste, save money, and engage students in meaningful education.”

For more information about the contest, go to To see the online version of Zero Waste go to:

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