Helping Teachers on Maine’s Islands

If you love the Maine coast, Rachel Thompson, MEd ’11 has what may be your dream job-to help ensure that the schools on Maine’s fifteen unbridged islands with year-round populations are sustainable. Since December 2010, she has worked for the Education Program at the Island Institute in Rockland, Maine, whose threefold philosophy comprises place-based education, nonhierarchical learning communities, and technology integration.

As the education programs associate, Rachel supports island teachers involved in integrated, place-based education projects. For example, she has worked with students on Casco Bay’s Long Island studying how weather and climate affect life on the island. They interviewed old-timers and made a documentary. They monitored one beach with GPS and digital photos through the winter to see how storms and erosion change the landscape over time. They also collected daily weather data from a digital weather station at their school and contributed daily to an outer-islands weather blog.

Rachel’s newest project is Energy for ME. She’s helping students in ten island and coastal schools to learn about their communities’ energy consumption habits by measuring electricity usage in houses, schools, and public buildings with eMonitor energy meters. The program’s goal is to have students come up with innovative ways to make their homes and schools more energy-efficient.

Sold on AUNE
A native of Maine, Rachel said she had been dabbling in informal education for several years, working at summer camps and doing environmental education for a nonprofit organization, when she decided to get her master’s degree in education. Once she read about the Integrated Learning teacher certification program and the professors’ backgrounds on the Antioch University New England (AUNE) website, she knew she’d found what she was looking for. “I was sold,” she said.

At AUNE, she liked the way her cohort immediately became close, as well as the school’s philosophy of collaborative learning. “Professors and my classmates at AUNE had a diversity of experiences, and through thoughtful activities and discussions we were all able to benefit from our collective knowledge,” she said.

Her first internship while at AUNE was at the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock, New Hampshire. “It was an excellent opportunity to practice the place-based, developmentally appropriate approach we’d discussed in class,” Rachel said. Her second placement took her to Peterborough Elementary School, in New Hampshire. “I had a challenging and wonderful group of students,” she said. “It was in the classroom where my learning as a teacher really took place and helped me refine my personal philosophy of education.”

David Sobel, core faculty member in the Department of Education, recommended Rachel for the Island Institute job. “Rachel has a deep-seated can-do attitude,” he said. “When I gave her a challenge, she grasped it immediately, pursued it independently, and did a brilliant job of it.”

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