Fabulous, Free Institute — Weaving a Tapestry of Learning

Here’s a shout out to all middle grades educators who advocate for integrated learning that engages students in solving real-life problems! The Thomas College Center For Innovation in Education’s Summer Institute: Weaving a Tapestry of Learning is the place to be in late June!

June 27-29, 2017

More Details & Registration:    http://www.thomas.edu/cie/

It’s free for up to five members of your school team!

Focus on…

Steam curriculum and instruction, digital learning, and/or proficiency-based learning

A Few Highlights:

  • Tim McNamara, principal of High Tech High, kicks off the Institute.
  • Brooke Haycock from the Education Trust explores compelling issues impacting all schools through Docudrama.
  • An EXPLO experience will knock your socks off!
  • A supportive and knowledgeable coach supports your team planning.
  • Enjoy a relaxed atmosphere where you and your colleague actually have time to talk and plan.

Recruit Your Team Today!

More Details & Registration:    http://www.thomas.edu/cie/

Specific Questions? Contact Dr. Katie Rybakova: rybakovae@thomas.edu

Penny Kittle to Keynote MAMLE Annual Conference!

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-5-36-53-amAs an Author, Teacher, and Advocate, Penny Kittle is dedicated to fostering a love and passion for reading and writing within students and teachers.

Success at the Summit!

Moving Middle Level Learners Forward

Point LookoutPenobscot Bay from the Summit of Lookout Point

Have you registered for MAMLE’s Annual Conference, Success at the Summit, October 20-21 at Point Lookout? Here’s a peek at what to expect:

  • Two inspiring keynotes
  • Relevant and engaging concurrent sessions
  • Networking with like-minded middle level educators
  • The never-to-be-forgotten experience of a MAMLE social

Register Now!

Details below…


Opening Keynote: Jennifer Dorman—Teacher Leadership: Moving from Good to Influential

JennHedges Hall — 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.(No meal at this session)

Luncheon: Exemplary Practice Awards

Hedges Hall — 12:30 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.

Best Practice sessions

10:00 – 11:00   Best Practice Session A

Increasing Student Engagement with Text through Close Reading and Text-Dependent Questions – Jennifer Dorman, Maine 2015 Teacher of the Year

Are you looking for ways to increase student engagement with content-area texts? Do you find your students come away from reading without an understanding of key ideas? This session will focus on how to integrate close reading activities and text-dependent questions into your daily lessons across the curriculum in order to optimize student involvement and elevate learning.                               COMPASS ROOM – SUMMIT

Rock and Roll Show! An Integrated Social Studies and Performing Arts Unit – Stacy Edgar & Heidi Goodwin, Skowhegan Area Middle School

Hasn’t everyone dreamed of being a rock and roll star? This engaging unit lets you have some fun with your students while incorporating elements of RTI, Common Core, and more! This presentation will show you how to integrate goal setting, student choice, collaboration, technology, research, history, drama, and music into your curriculum, with the culminating event being a “Rock-N-Roll Show” that your students perform for parents, friends, and community members.                             NORTHPORT ROOM – SUMMIT

Applications of Mindfulness, Social, and Emotional Skills into Education – Nancy Hathaway

Research shows that integrating Mindfulness, Social, and Emotional Skills into Education not only eases teacher burn-out and brings calm to the classroom, but also brings aliveness to schools creating a healthy environment for learning not only academic skills but tools for life. In this session we will explore Mindfulness, Social, and Emotional intelligence offering some simple and practical skills to take into the school environment.



Breakout EDU – Amy Tucker, Maranacook Community School & Sonja Abbott, Auburn Middle School

Can you find all of the clues and open each of the locks to open the box(es) before time runs out? Find out how Breakout EDU can transform learning and engagement in your classes!    BELFAST ROOM – SUMMIT

SPARK Year Two – An Advisory Program with Career Prep Gocus – John Keane & Anthony Bitetti, Piscataquis Community Secondary School

Come hear about how year two is going with this innovative approach to advisory. Last year we presented about how we designed and implemented the first year of the program. This year we will tell you how we have built on the strengths and eliminated the implementation issues. We will talk about the journey and the school change process along with the specifics about the actual program we call SPARK.          


screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-9-20-27-amTrue Grit: Helping Learners to Persevere – Jill Spencer and Dr. Wally Alexander, Thomas College. Center for Innovation in Education

It has been suggested that children need to develop grit in order to be successful in school and life. Can grit be taught like mathematics or social studies? Might there be a better way? In this interactive session we will explore approaches that help students internalize the importance of perseverance in their own lives. Hint: We do not believe a standardized test in grit is the way to go!                LINCOLNVILLE ROOM – SUMMIT

Innovations in Personalized Learning: Fully Knowing, Connecting, and Engaging Young Adolescents – Erin Elizabeth & Tom Shepard, Currency Camp

Personalized learning necessitates truly knowing your students. Learn how to know, reach, and engage students quickly and deeply for a more successful, easier, and more impactful school year.

Gain the foundation to:

  • Identify human hard-wiring: the 7 natures which underlie personality, behaviors, decision-making, communication, and essential soft skills.
  • Identify the 3 motivation types: what drives people.
  • Implement future-forward training and tools to provide effective, meaningful personalized learning opportunities.
  • Improve classroom culture and increase results.


Promoting Literacy with Cartoons, Comics, and Graphic Novels – Barbara Greenstone, Boothbay Regional Schools

At one time comic books were banned from schools because they were thought to have no literary merit or to contain inappropriate content. In recent years, many teachers and librarians have begun to see how cartoons, comics and graphic novels can be used to engage reluctant readers, support struggling readers, and assist language learners. Join us as we explore the many ways students combine pictures and words to read and tell stories, both in print and digitally.                                        EXECUTIVE OFFICE — SUMMIT


11:15 – 12:15   Best Practice Session B

I Spy/Talk About It! – Margy Burns Knight, Winthrop Public Schools

Using the original Talking Walls Discover Your World* illustrations the author of Talking Walls Discover Your World, Margy Burns Knight, will have everyone participate in her Talk About It/I Spy Scavenger Hunt…. an inclusive, very fun activity that not only incorporates listening, conversation and questions strategies, but supports comprehension and close reading. Participants will also create and share their own I Spy activity.
*Michael Fiori purchased Anne Sibley O’Brien’s original Talking Walls illustrations. Thanks to Michael the framed exhibit is available to loan
 to libraries, schools and museums.           COMPASS ROOM – SUMMIT

Helping Middle Schoolers Live in the Past – Bill Guerrette, Presque Isle Middle School

How can you bring your local history to life? This session will focus on some ideas that will connect middle schoolers to their community’s past. Projects shared will show the use of ArcGIS and collaboration with local merchants and civic groups. No prior understanding of ArcGIS is necessary.        NORTHPORT ROOM – SUMMIT

Believing, Blurring, Building – Morey Hallett & Robert Griffin, Wells Junior High School

We believe that individuals are capable of success and want to achieve.  By blurring and strengthening the connections between students and teachers as well as regular and special education we strive to build a stronger academic community.  Each student is unique and may access their potential differently from others.  We recognize that students learn when their basic human needs have been met and their assignments are aligned with their capabilities.  Using a common shared space designed to promote belonging, pride, and self-determination we attempt to find an alternative path to meet the challenge of educating the student.     CAMDEN ROOM – SUMMIT


Nine Changes to One School’s Grading Practices – Sherri Nelson, Huron School District – South Dakota

For three consecutive years, Huron Middle School learners have completed all assignments and exceeded national growth projections in reading and math. Learn the bold actions this school took to increase student achievement and narrow the achievement gap by overhauling their assignments and grading practices. The presenter, a former middle school instructional coach (currently the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment), describes how to implement best practice research and will share assessment and grading practices that can be implemented at the classroom, department, building, or district level.      BELFAST ROOM – SUMMIT

Baxter2Bug Bytes – The Health of Our Rivers – Andrew MacLeod & Nick Costello, Middle School of the Kennebunks

In this presentation we will be demonstrating how we (and our students) can assess the health of our local rivers by looking for the aquatic macro-invertebrates (bugs) that live in the water. Certain bugs can tolerate higher levels of pollution, pH that is not neutral, and differing levels of dissolved oxygen. By assessing what creatures live in the river, we can determine how healthy the river is by calculating a bio-indicator score. We run this program with the help and support of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.    SEARSPORT ROOM – SUMMIT

Teaching Computer Science in Middle School – Dani McAvoy, Code-org

Computer Science is for Everyone! In the new ESSA, CS is defined as a core subject, and Code.org is a non-profit dedicated to making it available to all, including teachers new to the field. Our newest freely available course, CS Discoveries, has been designed to meet the needs of an MS audience. Come see what CS can look like in your class, how it empowers students to make real things, and how to get your school ready to provide CS for All!                                                                                              LINCOLNVILLE ROOM – SUMMIT

Recollections and Restoration – The Alewife Project – Alison England, Sonja Schmanska, Ashby Bartka, Josh McPhail, St. George School

Join us to learn about a middle school expedition combining local alewife restoration and community history, math and language skills. Students embraced active science research and primary oral histories and developed leadership skills in order to make recommendations to the town government, blogging their process and learning along the way. Leave with inspiration to use this model and find your own local partnerships for integrated studies where students can make a difference in their community.


visual-notetakingVisual Notetaking/Doodling in Class – Ann Marie Quirion Hutton, Apple, Inc.

A combination of sketching and traditional note taking results in rich educational documents to support learning. Studies show that sketching leads to better retention of information and helps clarify ideas. Sketching is one of our original forms of communication. Visualizing ideas is a great way to learn. Why not bring this creative form of learning into your classroom? Explore how visual notes support learning. Discover techniques to create, share and integrate visual notes into your instructional practice. Visual note taking, often called sketch noting, uses two parts of your brain, which is referred to as Dual Coding Theory. This has been found to improve learning. Research has shown that people who doodle while listening retain 29% more information (Andrade, 2009). Join this hands-on session and start sketching your notes today


2:00 – 3:00   Best Practice Session C

Special Education Scavenger Hunt – Lindsey Carnes, Apple Inc.

Bring your sneakers to this session to move through different learning stations to see how well you know your assistive technology built into your Mac. Need to enlarge your display? Find easier workflows? Explore apps for dyslexia? Think you know your special education assistive technology accommodation and modifications? Arrive at this session to take the challenge. Team-up to conquer special education stations and gain points along the way. Pick up brain break ideas as you go. Be prepared to move, think, and gain life changing knowledge to help individuals with disabilities. The team with the most points win a coveted prize.


screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-9-31-24-amGetting Started with ArcGIS Online – Margaret S. Chernosky, Maine Geographic Alliance

This hands-on workshop will help you get started making custom maps with ArcGIS Online. Margaret will help you learn how to use web-based mapping software to create, save, add data and share maps. At the conclusion of this workshop, you will be comfortable teaching your own students how to use this powerful geo-spatial technology. Please bring your laptop or tablet. At least a week prior to the workshop, please request a free ArcGIS Online Organization account for your school. http://www.esri.com/connected.

If you miss getting your Organization account, please come anyway!



The Ease, Need and Fun of Digital Storytelling Around Curriculum – Brett Price, Meridian Stories

Digital literacy – the mix of image, sound and text – has risen to the same level as textual literacy in significance (think YouTube, Crash Course, BrainPOP). Since digital literacy is where kids already are, we have an obligation to integrate these skills into the classroom. How do we do that in an engaging, creative, and deeply curricular way? Meridian Stories is one answer. This will be a hands-on workshop, working in teams, to pre-produce a short digital story. Fun.                                                                        CAMDEN ROOM – SUMMIT

When Students Don’t Learn: Reteach! Relearn! Reassess! – Sherri Nelson, Huron School District – South Dakota

If you believe all students can learn…how do you respond when they don’t? At Huron Middle School, teachers have aligned their core beliefs, transformed their assessment practices, and become unconditionally focused on learning…and students are learning! School administrators attribute this success to teachers identifying at-risk students, allowing extended learning time, providing extra help opportunities, and requiring reassessments. Discover how to make the reteaching and relearning process more efficient, ensure reassessments produce desirable results, and make certain original assessments are taken seriously.


National Board Also Believes… – Tammy Ranger, Skowhegan Area Middle School & Danette Kerrigan, Sacopee Valley Middle School

Two flavors that go well together: This We Believe and National Board Certification. Danette and Tammy are passionate about middle school kids and know firsthand how National Board Certification helps them better serve their amazing young adolescents! In this workshop, you will: (a) uncover the shared traits of AMLE’s This We Believe and the National Board’s Core Propositions and (b) learn about NB Certification through an introductory PowerPoint and informal discussion. Session includes dark chocolate!


Feedback in the Digital Age: Using 21st Century Literacy Skills to Provide Differentiated Feedback in the MS Classroom – Katie Rybokova, Thomas College Center for innovation in Education

In this session, the presenter will discuss multiple ways of providing feedback on student papers using a variety of digital platforms. These platforms include Word track changes and Google Docs but will focus primarily on the use of screencasting as a form of video feedback. The audience will come away with concrete examples of how to use a variety of digital tools to provide feedback as well as a hands-on experience of creating a screencast.                                                                                         CASTINE ROOM – SUMMIT


Easy Book Making – Carol Duffy, Lamoine School

Lotus books, accordion books, and slat books are all easy to make and encourage students to combine art and writing across content areas. One of my former students wowed her school geometry teacher with a geometric term lotus book. All of these books use “regular” school materials. If you can cut and fold, you can make these books next Monday with your students.                                             LINCOLNVILLE ROOM – SUMMIT


Designing Innovative Professional Development – Amanda Nguyen, MLTI-DOE

Do you have a long list of topics that need to be covered during your very limited amounts of professional development time? Would you rather spend that time inspiring teachers to use more innovative teaching and learning tools? You don’t have to choose between the two! This session on innovative professional development will give school leaders ideas about how they can design professional development opportunities for their teachers that will model what they’d like to see in classrooms (increased student engagement, deeper learning, etc.), while still covering the required topics at the same time.  Participants should bring either a laptop or tablet device to the session so they can participate more fully in the activities.          EXECUTIVE OFFICE – SUMMIT



Penny KittleKeynote: Penny Kittle—You Can’t Hurry Love

Hedges Hall — 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.  (No meal at this session)

Luncheon – Annual Business Meeting

Hedges Hall — 12:30 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.

10:00 – 11:00   Best Practice Session D

Book Clubs: Connecting Kids to Books and Each Other – Penny Kittle, Author

Reading habits do not emerge by accident, but through careful and purposeful modeling and instruction. We must meet children’s social and learning needs as we support their lives as readers. These needs are intertwined and interdependent and have more to do with reading success than school-centered standards do. We will consider classroom conditions grounded in the key principles for motivation: relevance, engagement, and success. I will show how I help readers construct identities of power and opportunity, to challenge themselves as readers, and to act with agency in my classroom through meaningful talk and writing in book clubs.


Embedded Formative Assessment in the Math Classroom – Peggy Brown, Mt. Ararat Middle School

In this participatory workshop, you will strengthen your understanding of the five elements of Formative Assessment and learn practical techniques for linking assessment, instruction and learning that can be put to immediate use in your classroom. You will find this session to be valuable, even if you are not a math teacher.



So You Think You Know Middle Level? – Chris Toy, BoomerTECH Adventures

Come to this interactive game to see how much you and your team really knows about middle level students, instruction, organization and research.                                               CAMDEN ROOM – SUMMIT

Restorative Practices – Rick Hogan, Maranacook Community School


Digital Breakouts – Amy Tucker, Maranacook Community School & Sonja Abbott, Auburn Middle School

Can you solve the clues and escape before time runs out? Come and try a Digital Breakout and learn how to create your own for your students!                                                    LINCOLNVILLE ROOM – SUMMIT

Creating Engaged and Courageous Citizens: The Samantha Smith Challenge – Connie Carter & Robert Shetterly, Americans Who Tell the Truth

The Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) is a MAMLE and Americans Who Tell the Truth initiative that connects students to real issues, gives relevancy to their education, and requires them to be engaged community and world citizens. Participants in this session will learn how teachers at seven Maine middle schools and their 700 students used the curriculum to turn their concerns about the world into positive action while connecting to standards.  Learn how to bring the SSC to your students!             SEARSPORT ROOM –SUMMIT

image of students talking to visiitors
Students explain what they learned and how they hope to address the issues.

Using Productive Talk to Build a Culture of Public Reasoning – Kate Cook Whitt, Thomas College Center for Innovation in Education

Building a classroom culture of public reasoning can help teachers effectively engage students in the knowledge building and sense-making practices central to the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards. In this session, teachers and administrators will be introduced to productive talk moves and strategies that help students go public with their ideas, share their reasoning, and collaboratively build understanding.                                                                                             CASTINE ROOM – SUMMIT


More Cowbell – Tim Hart, Apple, Inc.

Using GarageBand to support learning GarageBand is a whole audio creation studio on iPad. Whether you are writing a song or recording a podcast, GarageBand makes it easy. In this session participants will learn the basics of GarageBand and explore uses of audio in the classroom. Apple Primary Solution, please bring your updated iPad with Garageband installed.                                                  EXECUTIVE OFFICE – SUMMIT


11:15 – 12:15 Best Practice Session E

Engage Students and Enhance Problem-Based Learning with Free Microsoft Tools – Jill Pierce, MLTI-HP

Come for a whirlwind ride through over 30 free tools from Microsoft available for your classroom and students. Learn about Photsynth, Photo Gallery, Sway, Microsoft Math, AutoCollage, Songsmith and many more. Explore how these tools and technologies designed to engage and energize your students in learning.


Embedded Formative Assessment in the Math Classroom – Peggy Brown, Mt. Ararat Middle School

In this participatory workshop, you will strengthen your understanding of the five elements of Formative Assessment and learn practical techniques for linking assessment, instruction and learning that can be put to immediate use in your classroom. You will find this session to be valuable, even if you are not a math teacher.


screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-9-48-50-amWildcat Relay – Building a Community Where Everyone Finds Success – Julie Gardner & Dianne Leavitt, Presque Isle Middle School

How many times do we, as educators, want to get the entire student body involved and connected? Presque Isle Middle School designed and implemented a fun and educational activity that unified the school. Come and see how we helped a diverse population of kids feel included and work together as part of a spirited team.


Classroom Management Strategies that WORK – Andrea Logan, Lyman Moore Middle School

Looking for a way to make life easier in the classroom? Looking to gain more time with students? In this session you will learn about three highly effective classroom management techniques that promote learning, structure and respect from all students. You will learn how to reduce time lost for bathroom and locker visits, increase response time when gaining student attention and manage student absence in an organized way.


kate4Using STEAM and Proficiency-Based Learning to Engage MS Students in Inquiry-Driven Projects – Katie Rybokova & Kate Cook Whitt, Thomas College Center for Innovation in Education

In this presentation, the presenters will showcase different project-based learning activities for students in 5th-8th grade classrooms. These inquiry-driven projects will be situated within the STEAM and proficiency-based learning frameworks. Participants can expect to leave this session not only with inspiration for their own units but also a concrete example of how to incorporate such a project logistically as well as how to work collaboratively with administrators to promote such a project.      SEARSPORT ROOM – SUMMIT

Classcraft: Turn your class into an epic adventure – Amy Tucker, Maranacook Community School

Classcraft allows teachers to foster engagement and collaboration, as well as to recognize positive growth and to hold students accountable for behavior concerns. Using gamification, students can earn XP and level up in your class. It is a fun (and teacher-friendly) way to manage a classroom. Integrates with Google Classroom.


img_3905Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom – Sean Malone, MLTI-DOE

Have you heard the hype about the Maker Spaces? Learning Commons? Think of the Making Spaces as a place to make, tinker, collaborate, and invent. How much space, time, resources, tools do you need? The answer is ‘next to none’. Come explore instructional strategies and resources to use in your classroom Monday… not someday.                                                                     CASTINE ROOM – SUMMIT


Using a Data Protocol to Make Informed Goals/Decisions – Alison Veilleux, Lyman Moore Middle School

Do you want to make informed changes? Have you struggled with wanting to make changes but aren’t sure how to corral all of your data or coworkers? In this session, participants will review various data protocols and take part in a mock data meeting. The remainder of the session will be spent creating goals and making informed decisions based on participants’ data. Data that you bring should not have student names.


1:45 – 2:45 Best Practice Session F

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-9-36-18-amiBooks Author – Tim Hart, Apple, Inc.

iBooks Author is an amazing app that allows anyone to create beautiful digital books. With image galleries, video, interactive diagrams, 3D objects, mathematical expressions, and more, these books bring content to life in ways the printed page never could. In this session, we will experience an overview of iBooks Author and discuss best practice when creating digital books.                             ISLEBORO BALLROOM – HEDGES

img_4033The Beat of the Brain – Monte Selby

Music can bring power to every middle school classroom.  No musical bones in your body?  No worries, you can still use the power of music to engage reluctant, challenged, or gifted learners.  Powerful research supports the notion that music is more than singing and dancing.  For many students, music is the rhythmic soul of learning. Come learn how every educator can unlock the magic of music to increase learning, reduce misbehavior, motivate, and improve writing skills. Explore practical strategies from schools where students write music to promote respect and responsibility in classrooms, hallways, activities, and leadership groups.  Learn why that favorite old tune from The Beatles, Jay Z or Hank Williams remains stuck in your head – and how to use the “Beat of the Brain” at school.                                  DUCKTRAP – HEDGES


Additional information including registration, housing, and all of the times.


Heinemann logo image
Conference Sponsor













Happy August! Think October!

IMG_0883We MAMLEs hope you are enjoying this lovely summer we’re having.  The many, many bright sunny days have allowed us to bask in the warmth of  the sun this year. However we know the mornings will soon grow a little chillier, and that’s the signal to switch our brains from play mode to planning our best school year ever.

Add zing to your year by attending the MAMLE Annual Conference on October 20-21st at Point Lookout in Northport. You will…

  • Explore major issues facing every middle grades school.
  • Network with colleagues from across the state to exchange ideas.
  • Experience interactive sessions that provide specific strategies for making learning authentic.
  • Hear two inspirational keynote speakers who, just like us, are in the classroom everyday.

Below is a preview of  Success at the Summit: Moving Middle Level Learners Forward! Register now!

JennThursday keynote: Jennifer Dorman, Maine’s 2015 Teacher of the Year and special education teacher at Skowhegan Region Middle School: “Teacher Leadership: Moving from Good to Influential”



Penny KittleFriday keynote: Penny Kittle, Author of Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers and teacher at Kennett High School in North Conway, New Hampshire: “You Can’t Hurry Love”


Here’s just  a taste of some of the sessions you will have to choose from including sessions on middle level basics, digital learning, literacy, problem solving, STEAM and much more!

  • So You Think You Know Middle Level?
  • Creating Engaged and Courageous Citizens: The Samantha Smith Challenge
  • SPARK Year Two – An Advisory Program with Career Prep Focus
  • Classroom Management Strategies that WORK
  • Classcraft: Turn Your Class into an Epic Adventure
  • Using a Data Protocol to Make Informed Goals/Decisions
  • Book Clubs: Connecting Kids to Books and Each Other
  • Increasing Student Engagement with Text through Close Reading and Text-Dependent Questions
  • Designing Innovative Professional Development
  • What is the Cloud, and How Do I Ride?
  • Designing Innovative Professional Development
  • Engage Students and Enhance Problem-Based Learning with Free Microsoft Tools
  • Using Productive Talk to Build a Culture of Public Reasoning
  • Using STEAM and Proficiency-Based Learning to Engage MS Students in Inquiry-Driven Projects
  • Innovations in Personalized Learning: Fully Knowing, Connecting, and Engaging Young Adolescents
  • Getting Started with ArcGIS Online

Click here to register!




Looking for a new challenge?


Just saw this post on the ACTEM Listserve!  Wanted to share with our membership in case anyone is interested.

Reposted from ACTEM Listserve 2/19/16–posted to ACTEM by Mike Muir, Policy Director—Learning Through Technology Team

Mike MuirThe Learning Through Technology Team and MLTI are looking for a high energy, entrepreneurial-thinking, collaborative educator who would like to work with us.

Are you making great things happen in your classroom or school? Consider joining us and make great things happen statewide!

We currently have one opening for a Regional Education Representative: Digital Learning Specialist (and anticipate 2 more in the coming months).

The Digital Learning Specialists will work closely as a team with Sherry Wyman, our Coordinator for Education Technology, and me, to design and implement our efforts to support schools leveraging technology for learning, including strategic efforts (think MLTI, the Move the Needle Summit, iLearnMaine Educator Micro-credentials, etc.) and existing programs, including LTTT Professional Learning, School Libraries, District Technology Plans, AP4ALL, the STEM OER Project, MSLN, and others.

Ok. Ok. The vacation time stinks and the pay is just “ok”! (At least, experienced educators would likely come in closer to the top of the salary range…)


FreeportMS*   If you know you want to be part of where we’re going, and you want to have a role in making it happen, then apply.
*   If you are someone who smiles and nods when you hear, “If it were easy, it wouldn’t be any fun at all!” then apply.
*   If you want to support teachers and help make them feel capable of making terrific learning experiences happen for every student, in every classroom, then apply.
*   If you want to be the tech geek who helps makes great learning happen with each school’s devices, then apply.
*   If you want to be the pedagogy and instruction specialist that helps schools get the most from their devices, then apply.

Applications accepted until March 18.

More information and how to apply can be found here: http://www.maine.gov/fps/opportunities/ (scroll down and click on “Regional Education Representative – Digital Learning Specialist”)

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions.


(Mike Muir)

The Kind of Learning We Need

This article was written by Nancy Doda, an international expert in powerful learning for students

Nancy Doda headshop copy 3

At Americans Who Tell The Truth, we are eager to stir the hearts and minds of young people towards caring deeply and acting boldly to make our world a better place. Often such initiatives are reserved for experiences outside school learning. We believe, however, that connecting school and life holds the greatest promise for enhancing student engagement and creating enduring learning. As such we have created The Samantha Smith Challenge to build a bridge between the classroom and the community and show students that no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see in the world.

The Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) is named for a young peace activist, Samantha Smith, whose single voice made a positive difference in the world affairs of her time. Samantha entered young adolescence during a critical time in world history when the then Soviet Union and the United States were locked in a cold war. In December 1982, when Samantha was ten years old, she appealed to her mother to help explain this tension. She explained “I asked my mother who would start a war and why. She showed me a news magazine with a story about America and Russia, one that had a picture of the new Russian leader, Yuri Andropov, on the cover. We read it together. It seemed that the people in both Russia and America were worried that the other country would start a nuclear war. It all seemed so dumb to me. I had learned about the awful things that had happened during World War II, so I thought that nobody would ever want to have another war. I told Mom that she should write to Mr. Andropov to find out who was causing all the trouble. She said, ‘Why don’t you write to him?’ So I did.”


Samantha wrote that letter and eventually visited the Soviet Union where she launched a peace-making venture that may have in fact helped avert a war. She also brought Russian and American students together to build understanding and appreciation of one another and to focus on building allies and connections instead of armies.

Like Samantha, many young adolescents are ready to ask the hard questions about problems they observe in their lives and the world. Adolescence is a pivotal time in human development. During this period of tremendous growth and change, our students experience significant cognitive, physical, emotional, and moral shifts. Decades ago, developmental psychologist, Erik Erikson declared adolescence an entry into life’s identity crisis. This is the time in life when young people entertain questions like: Who am I? What do I believe in? What matters in my life and in the world? How can I be all I want to be? How can I help others in need? Why do bad things happen to good people?, and so on. In many ways, young adolescents are emerging philosophers, and burgeoning Samaritans as a consequence of their developmental shifts. These important life shifts are so profound that some have argued that who we become between the years of 10-19 shapes the trajectory of who we are in our adult lives. So it is that these “turning point” years offer us a marked chance to stimulate the civic sentiments and caring dispositions we all aspire for young people to acquire as they grow.

Bacteria in Our School

Participation in the SSC can yield many rich educational benefits for students, teachers, and community. The nature of learning that emerges from the SSC is unique because it holds the capacity to engage young adolescents in an empowering entry into real-world issues, as they are asked to identify and investigate an unresolved issue or disturbing problem in their communities. Moreover, it seeks to bring young people into awareness of the persistent issues that challenge others in their communities and in our world.  It aspires to cultivate the natural altruistic dispositions in our young people and help them understand the power of civic participation to make the world a better place.

In particular, students participating in the SSC will develop a broad range of sensibilities, aptitudes, and understandings that reflect traditional academic standards, 21st-century learning outcomes, and social, emotional and civic dispositions. Last year, over 700 middle school students from schools across the state of Maine participated in the Samantha Smith Challenge. In June, at the state capitol, many participating students gathered to share their findings and accomplishments. These students declared this to be the most exciting project of their school year. Many noted they were transformed by what they learned and gratified by what they could do to help resolve the issue they investigated. Students observed that they learned how to conduct real-world research, interface with local officials, and organize evidence in ways that could be shared with others. For many, and most importantly, this was the first time in their schooling they had actually focused on examining a real, local issue or problem in earnest.

Lyman Moore

Educators planning for the SSC rightfully want reassurance that this learning experience will assist them in meeting the CCSS or state standards. As you plan to engage your students in the SSC, it may be helpful to keep in mind that the SSC seeks to meet or exceed many of the CCSS. By its very nature, the challenge addresses what we choose to call “power standards”- standards drawn from a rich bank of standards embedded in the Common Core standards, 21st century Learning, social and emotional literacy, and service learning.

Leonard MSThe nature of the SSC evokes certain standards over others. In particular, most challenge experiences require students:

  • to identify a troublesome social issue or concern,
  • to design and conduct research,
  • to read and comprehend a wide variety of complex, nonfiction text,
  • to interview others,
  • to gather, compile and interpret a wide variety of data,
  • to choose effective ways to organize and represent the data they collect,
  • to write, and speak clearly throughout all phases of the work,
  • to gather data and communicate results through varied media,
  • to use data to persuade others,
  • to rally for action,
  • to interface with diverse people in positive ways,
  • to manage time productively to complete multi-step work,
  • to collaborate with others in all phases of the challenging work,
  • to listen attentively to others,
  • to apply knowledge wisely to generate recommendations for action,
  • to show empathy for others and the difficult circumstances they face,
  • to understand how local citizens can make a difference in their communities,
  • to appreciate the challenges of changing beliefs and practices,
  • to embrace the value of using knowledge to improve lives,
  • to create new and promising solutions to community problems.

These skills and understandings should sound very familiar. As “power standards”, they address career and college readiness, emotional and social health, civic and service preparedness, and the life-long skill set young people need to manage 21st -century living.

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Participation in the SSC, of course, does more than help our young people meet these many standards. In particular, it brings life into the curriculum. Since real world issues are complex and multidisciplinary, they call on students to draw upon a wide array of content knowledge, to utilize diverse academic and social skills, and to develop social and emotional dispositions often associated with civic and social learning.

Just as many adolescents have the developmental capacity to ask philosophical questions about life and the world, likewise many wonder about the meaning and value of what they are learning in school. Many ask: Why would anyone want to learn this? What does this have to do with anything in the real world? When can I use this? As one middle school student declared in a recent focus group, “We need to learn real stuff about life and not just stuff from the textbook.” Powerful learning demands that we find ways to connect our curriculum to the world and the SSC can help us do just that.


Those who have participated in the Samantha Smith Challenge have repeatedly reminded us that young people are concerned about the welfare of others and our world. Their projects rested on provocative questions such as:

  • What energy source will most sustainably take us into the future?

How can an individual’s choice impact the environment?

  • What is it like to be in poverty and what can we do about it?
  • What can we do to reduce our carbon footprint?
  • What does it mean to eat healthily?
  • How can we educate people about the negative impacts of marine pollution on the York beaches, and get rid of single-use plastic bags?
  • How can we work together in conjunction with the Maine State government to reduce homelessness, hunger, and poverty in our state?

Mental Health-Messalonskee

These sophisticated questions are not extraordinary. Though they often remain at the tacit level in school, when we ask students to share what questions they have about themselves and the world, very powerful questions emerge. Examining the common questions generated from literally hundreds of middle school students in other schools and locations, we can see that when solicited, students ask provocative questions like:

  • When will we clean up the environment?
  • Why do we have hunger in the world when we have so much food?
  • Why do people hate people who are different?
  • What causes grown-ups to be so stressed?
  • Why do we get sick?
  • Why do we fight wars when they are so horrible?
  • Can we cure cancer and other major diseases?
  • Is space really going to be our next home?
  • Why does time fly?
  • What leads to poverty?

When, however, do our students have the chance to dig into any of these questions? When we ask these same students to identify school experiences that help them address similar life questions, they are stumped: “We don’t really deal with life stuff in school,” observed one middle schooler.

At Americans Who Tell The Truth, we believe that life ought to be the stuff of education. We further believe that our young people need multiple and steady opportunities to explore life issues using the knowledge of science, social studies, art, health, language arts and so on. Finally, we believe, and many contemporary conversations echo, that adolescents need to see themselves as active agents of their own learning. The once accepted largely teacher-directed model of learning has finally given way to models in which students are empowered to be in the driver’s seat of learning. Student-centered learning rests on the premise that students should be able to take an active role in determining what they study, how they study it and how they share what they come to learn.

The SSC takes that premise seriously. When young people are truly empowered in a meaningful learning experience that allows them to make a contribution to the welfare of the world, the results can be transformative. Young people come to see school learning as valuable, and they come to see themselves as playing a vital role in the welfare of others. It is our hope that the SSC will be among the most memorable and transformative middle school experiences students will recount and treasure long after they leave us in the middle school.

Leonard & Poster

Samantha Smith Challenge

A note from Connie Carter and Americans Who Tell the Truth ….

I hope that you had a great holiday break and are relaxed and taking on the new year with your usual vigor and enthusiasm. I am excited to write to you about this year’s Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC). While the essence of the SSC remains the same, we have added some additional components that will give you and your students an opportunity to build an even stronger bridge between the classroom and the world.


Please take a look at the following additions to our website:

  • introductory activities to help you and your students build a foundation of activism by incorporating Americans Who Tell the Truth into your Samantha Smith Challenge project.
  • EngagEd, lesson plans created by AWTT portrait subjects based on their experience, knowledge and their everyday work as activists for social, economic, and environmental fairness
  • resources that we will continue to add in the next 3 months about topics that will support you and your students as you take on this year’s challenge

I also want to share with you a few of the important dates for this year’s Samantha Smith Challenge.

February 1: Deadline for signing up for this year’s SSC (You do not need to have identified your issue by then; you only need to let us know that you plan to participate.)

April 1: Deadline for submitting the issue your students will address for the SSC

May 1: Deadline for submitting videos and progress report to AWTT

JUNE 6: Samantha Smith Challenge Celebration for ALL participants – time and

location to be announced

I hope that xxx Middle School will participate in the Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) this year. You can register right now at



Please let me know if I can answer any questions or concerns you may have. As we did last year, we are hoping to visit all of the SSC schools to learn more about your projects and to offer any assistance.

Thanks so much for all you are doing for education! We look forward to working with you as part of this year’s Samantha Smith Challenge!

Contact information: Connie Carter   connie@americanswhotellthetruth.org