Two articles in this week’s Houlton Pioneer Times prompted me to think about innovation in education and the value of offering alternative forms of learning. Educational innovation improves learning outcomes and the quality of education provision, yet our school systems and teachers often lack the time, resources, and support to make transformational change possible.
Al Morris’ editorial about the Carleton Project shows the clear impact of innovative thinking on student outcomes - particularly for those students that don’t thrive in a traditional academic setting. Recognizing that the measures of achievement for college-bound kids are different than the benchmarks for those that don’t immediately continue their education, Al, the founder of the Carleton Project, set to work on building a program that teaches students to perform complex tasks necessary for success a modern world - problem-solving, group dynamics, and inquiry - within a personalized curriculum that addresses the needs of each student. As a result of this innovative thinking, Al and the team at the Carleton Project have helped lots of young folks graduate from school with the skills necessary to build successful futures here in our community.
My husband and I had the opportunity to participate in Al’s approach to innovation when we owned The Vault restaurant. Al approached us about the idea of providing school lunches to the students at the Carleton Project, and we embarked on a collaboration with the students to plan menus, learn restaurant skills, and serve other members of the community. It was a terrific project, and we really valued our interaction with the bright, engaged students we saw each day.
Another example of innovative practice in the classroom comes from East Grand School, which implemented an outdoors-based developmental program in the wake of COVID-19. How I wish my school experience would have included fort-building, campfires, and other ways of stimulating curiosity, creativity, and engagement! And that the superintendent reports that in-classroom participation has increased since implementing this program? Even better.
As I run for the Maine House, I’m eager to work with teachers and administrators to understand how the state legislature can help to enable more of the sort of innovation that's happening at the Carleton Project and the East Grand School. With the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, there’s no better time to think creatively about new learning modalities and a path to better for today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders.
Onward and upward!