A Time to Get Together for Islanders

by | May 9, 2024 | News

Following the sound of shrieks, cheers, and laughter at Schoodic Institute in early May, you will see a familiar scene playing out in front of you. Some kids are engaging in an enthusiastic game of soccer, sprinting from one end of a basketball court to the other. On the sidelines other kids sit in small clusters chatting, while a few feet away another group is turning a bike rack into their own jungle gym. It is a normal scene at most schools, but for these kids it is not a common experience. All of these students attend one-to-two-room schoolhouses on outer, unbridged islands, with the largest school having less than 15 students and the smallest, just one student.  

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The students are at Schoodic, as well as their parents and teachers, as part of a field trip put on by Outer Islands Teaching & Learning Collaborative (TLC) and Island Institute. The TLC includes six Maine schools, Ashley Bryan School (Great Cranberry and Islesford), Cliff Island School, Chebeague Island School, Frenchboro School, Isle au Haut School, and Monhegan School.

he group holds two field trips each year, one in the fall and another in the spring. It also brings students and teachers together virtually for classes including one with the Mission’s Director of Island Services Douglas Cornman, and other activities. Marcella Carroll, the teacher on Isle au Haut, explains “We have book groups and make an effort to have our students come together. It is a space where we can join each other so by the time we are together in person for field trips, it is very natural.”  

This year’s spring field trip was to the Schoodic Institute, where students played, met author Alex Hinrichs (through Island Readers & Writers), practiced photojournalism, and explored the natural world with Acadia National Park Rangers. Students split up into groups based on their grades and got to spend time with students their own age, something that may not happen in their schools. One day, Pre-K and first graders did Junior Rangers activities, while students in second through fourth grades learned more about soil, and older students did an invasive crab survey.  

The three days are filled with educational activities and plenty of time for play. By watching students play together and work on projects, the social and educational support TLC offers is clear to see. Cliff Island teacher Jenny Baum, who has been an island teacher for eight years, says “Without this collaboration we would just be one-room schoolhouses out there in the middle of the ocean on our own. This gives us the opportunity to interact with other teachers and students.” The teachers meet virtually every week with Mission and Island Institute staff to collaborate but also get advice from one another, which Jenny says is her source of support and connection to people beyond her island.  

This field trip has also been a way for the teachers to get together as well, and they spend the breaks between activities chatting on the sidelines with each other and parents as they watch kids play. It looks like any other day at most schools, but for everyone here, these small moments are a rare and exciting opportunity.  

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