BRUNSWICK — What better way to make learning fun than to make it about the place where you live. That’s the purpose of the Connect to Casco Bay teacher workshop coming up on Aug. 4. It’s a one-day free event designed to help teachers connect with local organizations that have marine science curriculum and resources to offer educators.

The workshop will be held at Brunswick High School and will start with brief presentations from over a dozen science and non-profit institutions from the Bigelow Lab to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to Friends of Casco Bay.

Each of these organizations brings their own specialty in terms of topics and grade level. But, what they share is an expertise in some aspect of Casco Bay’s ecology and a desire to introduce this to students.

The event is sponsored by the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership and The Tidelands Coalition, two area non-profits that believe that marine science education is critical to fostering stewardship of our coastal resources. Support is also provided by the Maine Coastal Program and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The idea isn’t new. In fact, this year’s workshop builds on a successful event held in May last year for teachers from the Brunswick School District.

As Assistant Superintendent Pender Makin said, “Our teachers were inspired and validated during this unique professional development experience, and we are hoping to continue to strengthen the partnerships that were initiated. As Brunswick works to create multiple innovative pathways for students, place-based and project-based learning through coastal studies is a natural fit within our mission.”

Based on feedback from that event regarding the importance of learning from other teachers, this year’s workshop will have a broader geographic scope. It will include K-12 teachers from the eastern Casco Bay region (MSAD 75, Brunswick, RSU 1, WBSAU, and independent schools including Harpswell Coastal Academy) and give them an opportunity to share their valuable experiences with each other.

Coming up with innovative ways to connect students to the bay is not simple, however. Last year’s participants noted that they have quite a puzzle of requirements they have to meet. While many would like to do more place-based education with their students, it is difficult to fit this in with what they are already tackling.

To that end, this year’s workshop will focus on helping teachers craft ideas for the classroom that will satisfy the inquiry-based practices of the Next Generation Science Standards that many of the districts are in the process of adopting.

Small groups will center on the first three practices: Asking questions and defining problems; developing and using models; and planning and carrying out investigations. Curriculum specialists from the participating districts, as well as the Maine Math and Science Alliance will help participants come up with a workable result for their classroom.
Attendees are encouraged to submit specific areas they’d like to work on by the registration deadline of June 15 in order to structure the workshop to address their needs most effectively. After all, teachers are dedicating a valuable Saturday in August to attend.

On that note, breakfast and lunch are provided during the workshop, and Continuing Education Credits are also available.

Finally, teachers will have a chance to get wet at Brunswick’s outdoor classroom at Wharton Point. They will get to see the clam and green crab experiments that high school students have been involved in there, as well as try out a simple shore-side lesson led by a fellow teacher.

And, in an effort to help equip teachers, the Maine Coastal Program is providing a bucket of outdoor teaching supplies for each attendee with practical items like waterproof notebooks and mini-clipboards.

This is a fun and free opportunity for Casco Bay teachers to form new partnerships and gain new ideas about creative ways to make learning fun and place-based. And, the workshop will serve as a starting point for a follow-up event to be held in the fall in order to provide teachers with ongoing support.

The registration deadline is June 15 and there are currently still spaces available. If you are interested in attending or have any questions, please contact Victoria Boundy at Casco Bay Estuary Partnership by emailing [email protected]