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Courses and Research: The Island Schools Project

Story posted November 12, 2008

Students participating in the Teaching Minor program through Bowdoin's Education Department had the unique opportunity to explore issues in rural island schooling through the Island Schools Project. Bowdoin collaborated with the community school on Vinalhaven, a small island off the Maine coast with a strong lobstering community.  In preparation, Bowdoin students read and discussed Michael Corbett's book Learning to Leave which explores the irony of schooling in a rural coastal community where pursuing further education is often equated with leaving the community. Bowdoin senior Dave Yee, who student teaches on the island once a week, coordinated visits for the Vinalhaven students to Bowdoin and for the Bowdoin students to Vinalhaven.

On October 26-27, seniors from Vinalhaven Community School came to Bowdoin to explore college life. They had a chance to talk with Bowdoin students about college experiences, attend a talk on financial aid opportunities, tour the campus, and participate in a class discussion with their college hosts, the students of Education 301 and 303.

The roles were reversed two weeks later when Bowdoin students and Education faculty members travelled by ferry to Vinalhaven. Bowdoin students had a chance to sit in on classes at the Vinalhaven school, talk to Vinalhaven students and teachers about their experiences, and explore important aspects of community life such as the lobster buying station.

Senior Suzanne Heller explained the impact the project had on her views of higher education. "I have always thought that going to college is the best thing anyone can do. However, getting to know the students from Vinalhaven made me understand that the decision to pursue higher education is much more complex than I originally thought."

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The Vinalhaven students left Bowdoin with a greater sense of college life and most had a newfound sense of excitement surrounding college.
— Dave Yee '09

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