Joseph McKeen
Center for the Common Good

The Island School Project

Story posted April 22, 2013
By: Kaley Kokomoor '13 & Bill Griffiths '14

The Island School Project is a core component of the Education Department’s two 300-level teaching courses, Teaching & Learning, and Curriculum. A joint effort between the department and the McKeen Center, the ISP has allowed several classes of Bowdoin students to study rural education thorough firsthand experiences with Maine island communities.

In the fall of 2012, our education class visited the K-12 Vinalhaven School of Vinalhaven, Maine. Located in Penobscot Bay, the island of about 1,200 year-round residents is sustained by strong lobster fishing and summer tourism industries. As we learned, many facets of island life presented unique challenges and opportunities to local educators. How does a teacher structure homework for students who spend the majority of their time outside of school working on lobster boats? In what ways can the school get their students involved in the local community? The various, creative ways in which the Vinalhaven School’s teachers made their curriculums relevant to their students provided our class with valuable insights we used to better our teaching in our own classrooms.

When we first arrived at Vinalhaven, members of the school faculty and a few community leaders hosted our class for dinner at The Gathering Place and discussed with us the different aspects of island life that impact education. After a cozy night at the Payne Homestead, our class spent the morning at the Vinalhaven School discussing standards-based education with the high school teaching team and engaging with teachers and students in the classroom. Before catching the ferry back to Rockland, we had the opportunity to see and hear about the ARCafe (a local non-profit) and the lobster buying station from students who are involved in the lobster business. This two-day trip provided our education class not only with a chance to learn from skilled veteran teachers but also the option to gain a broader, more detailed perspective of Maine beyond Brunswick.

As liaisons for the ISP, we were given a learning experience we truly could not have found anywhere else. Our opportunity to get to know the community, its students, and its impressive teachers made for a memorable semester that will undoubtedly inform our future careers as educators.

Learn about this and many more College ~ community connections next Thursday, May 9, 3:30-5pm at Bowdoin and the Common Good: a Celebration of Community in Morrell Lounge, Smith Union.  This event is open to the public.

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