Monday, January 23, 2012

Notes on Education Evolving: Maine's Plan for Putting Learners First

Maine Department of Education. (2012). Education Evolving: Maine's Plan for Putting Learners First. Augusta, Maine.

This strategic plan, released on January 17 by Commissioner Stephen Bowen, outlines five core priority areas with detailed goals, objectives, and action plans to implement change in these areas. 

The five core priority areas are:
  • Effective, Learner Centered Instruction
  • Great Teachers and Leaders
  • Multiple Pathways for Learner Achievement
  • Comprehensive School and Community Supports
  • Coordinated and Effective State Support
In Commissioner Bowen's opening essay, he outlines several challenges that Maine education faces and how these drive the report.

The first challenge Bowen identifies is that our schools are struggling to accomplish what they need to accomplish.  On page 3, he states: "The state's higher education institutions report that a shockingly high percentage of incoming students require remedial coursework."  He emphasizes on page 4 that "our schools are not struggling due to a lack of effort."

The second challenge is that recent efforts to improve schools have come up short.  Since high-stakes testing has driven assessment, other content areas have suffered.  A telling statistic from a University of Indiana study revealed that "67% of students report being bored in school every day" and over half reported that they do not see how the material was relevant to them (p. 4).  The intensive work done to raise test scores have made  "little discernable impact" and "a narrowing of the school curricula at a time when the job creators of the 21st century are calling for more emphasis on creative and innovative thinking and skills" (p. 4).

The third challenge is that our traditional approach to education is standing in the way of success.  I found this challenge to be a real eye-opener, as it explained how a committee of ten people sat down over a hundred years ago and wrote our current blueprint for a school day.  The blueprint was not designed for students who would pursue college but who would get a full, well-rounded education in high school.   It was not designed to meet the needs of the learner, but to cover subjects.  Bowen ends the write-up of this challenge with: "We have to address the basic architecture of the industrial-era model of schooling built more than a century ago" (p. 5).  Everything we know to be true about a traditional school day, a traditional learner, and "factory-style bell schedules" must be addressed.

Challenge four is that change must be achieved within existing resources.  Our budgets are decreasing, not increasing.  We need to maximize what resources we have available (and in my own opinion that means to leverage the incredible brain power of the great teachers in the system).

How will this plan be able to accomplish its goals for the five core priority areas while facing these challenges?  According to Bowen's introductory essay, change will come through instructional practices, effective teachers and school leaders, multiple pathways to student achievement, a comprehensive network of school and community supports, and careful alignment of the entire educational system.

The document then goes into detail of each core priority area with goals, objectives, and action steps for each area.

Here are the core goals.  There is a lot more information in the report--take the time to read it--find it here.  It's 36 pages long, so not really lunch-break reading, but definitely worth the time to sit and digest the proposed goals.  I think in a few years it will be interesting to see where we are at with them.

Effective, Learner Centered Instruction

Goal: A variety of instructional materials aligned with the Maine Learning Results, which include the Common Core standards, are readily available and support the instructional practice of Maine educators.

Goal: Learner-centered instructional strategies are in place in all Maine classrooms.   

Goal: All Maine teachers have access to modern, 21st-century assessment systems and use assessment information to inform instruction. 

Goal: Maine's educators have ready access to helpful data and regularly use it to tailor instruction and improve student outcomes.

Great Teachers and Learners

Goal: Educator preparation, training and evaluation are informed by a common understanding of effective teaching and leadership/

Goal: Maine educators are consistently supported through high-quality training and professional development.

Goal: Highly effective teacher evaluation systems are in place in every Maine school district.

Goal: Maine's educators participate easily and often in statewide sharing of instructional best practices and professional development opportunities.

Multiple Pathways for Learner Achievement

Goal: All Maine students learn in a proficiency-based model that allows them to move at their own pace and advance when they have mastered learning outcomes.

Goal: Learner-designed assessments are used in schools across Maine, making students active participants in setting and meeting expectations.

Goal: A wide variety of learning opportunities and settings gives all students access to educational options that work for them.

Goal: All Maine learners actively participate in digital learning opportunities that engage them and allow self-directed, self-paced learning.

Comprehensive School and Community Supports

Goal:  All students with special learning needs have access to efficient, effective and appropriate services that help them succeed.

Goal: Coordinated health and wellness programs contribute to a healthy school environment that helps learners make the most out of school.

Goal: Schools and districts are engaged in unprecedented partnerships with families and the broader community as a way to expand learning opportunities for students.

Goal: Students commonly access internships, apprenticeships, and other opportunities to learn in workplace settings, apply academic lessons, and explore potential career fields.

Coordinated and Effective State Support

Goal: Maine students are able to move easily through a learner-centered educational system fully integrated from early childhood to adulthood.

Goal: Maine's students are supported through adequate and effective state resources.

Goal: Information and instructional technologies are supporting instructional practice and efficient school system operations.

Goal: An effective school and district accountability and improvement system helps Maine's schools meet the needs of all learners.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

new goals

When I completed my master's program, it took months to sink in that School was Over.  Full time school is intense.  I had a semester off once... (and did things like DR2010--some break), but for the most part I was in school continuously for three years.

It's done and over with.  I am at the next level.  I am doing something absolutely stimulating with my brain and it's not for a grade but a paycheck.

I don't think I am done with school, however.

In order of priority:
1.Spanish (not a master's, but something to bring me to Superior according to ACTFL-I think two or three grammar and conversation courses will help me get there)
2. Certificate of Advanced Studies in Curriculum (found here)

Writing it down helps me focus.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Benefits of nature: Factsheet

I found a great downloadable fact sheet on the benefits of nature.  Click here to download it.  Much of what I am reading about nature-deficit disorder is on this fact sheet.

Chawla, L., & Cushing, D. F. (2007). Benefits of nature for children's health, Fact Sheet #1, April 2007. Children, Youth and Environments Center for Resarch and Design. Retrieved January 18, 2012 from

Click here for much more research on place-based education.

Notes on Wiscasset session of Science Dine and Discuss regarding the National Academies Report entitled A Framework for K-12 Science Education

How's that for the longest title ever?

Last night I attended a Dine and Discuss session to unpack the current state of science standards in my fair state of Maine.  The session was led by a science specialist from Wiscasset, Shari Templeton, who kept us laughing as she explained, in part, the lengthy document known as "A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas".  (Want to download a free copy?  Find it here.) Let's call it "the Framework" to keep things simple. And kudos to Shari for running an informative meeting while maintaining a sense of humor and making us feel at ease.  Information and feeling informed is empowering, and I appreciate the state's effort to help keep science teachers and those interested in science in the loop while these changes are being implemented.

Some background: Maine has been chosen as a lead state in the development of new science standards.  The Framework is a guiding document, not the standards.  The standards are in process by an organization called Achieve, Inc.  (Side note: I had the opportunity to get on board with them when I was knee-deep in OER stuff--but declined due to content/time commitment--I could have been right on the pulse of this stuff if only I had jumped on that train!) The idea is that the folks at Achieve will use the Framework to guide them as they develop new standards that will be less "wide" and more "deep".  Maine adopted the Common Core standards for math and English language arts in 2011, and these new standards developed by Achieve (called the Next Generation Science Standards) will be ready by the end of 2012 for adoption.  For all intents and purposes, these Next Generation standards will become the Common Core for science.  Maine is definitely going to adopt them.

So, what is this Framework all about?  As Shari led us through the practices and crosscutting concepts, she assured us (a crowd of mostly practicing science teachers) that the information presented is not really new, it has definitely been covered in previous standards.  However the way that it is presented is much more integrated, includes engineering practices, and has some new vocabulary.  It is designed to get kids thinking deeply about science across the k-12 continuum. From the foreword: "The framework highlights the power of integrating understanding the ideas of science with engagement in the practices of science and is designed to build students' proficiency and appreciation for science over multiple years of school."

We looked at the 8 Science and Engineering practices and the Crosscutting concepts in the session. Shari started our session by saying it was no secret that Engineering is now front and center along with Science in terms of the standards.  In the state of Maine, we have more engineering jobs than engineering grads.  Simply put we need more people to think of engineering as a viable course of study, and it will now be part of the curriculum.

Here are the 8 Science and Engineering practices:
1.  Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
2.  Developing and using models
3.  Planning and carrying out investigations
4.  Analyzing and interpreting data
5.  Using mathematics and computational thinking
6.  Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
7.  Engaging in argument from evidence
8.  Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Here are the Crosscutting concepts:
1.  Patterns
2.  Cause and effect; Mechanism and explanation
3.  Scale, proportion, and quantity
4.  Systems and system models
5.  Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation
6.  Structure and function
7.  Stability and change

We touched on the Disciplinary Core Ideas in the four areas of Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Earth and Space Sciences, and Engineering, Technology, and the Applications of Sciences.  We looked at grade bands--the Framework is set up to say "by the end  of grade 2 students the end of grade 5 students the end of grade 8 students will...." meaning that these core ideas are presented over time in an integrated way.

One teacher present asked for exemplars or models of how this integration over time will occur.  She, like many good teachers, makes a lot of her own lessons and units, and exemplars will certainly help with that. She made the point that inquiry based learning, while the richest, takes the longest, and that working with other content areas that have different expectations can also take a long time--science teachers and English teachers really want different kinds of writing from their students. Since the standards are not ready to look at yet (Spring 2012 is the expected date to put eyes on them) there is no clear answer to the exemplar question yet.  Textbook companies, when the standards go live, will certainly be re-tooling their work to re-align. Shari also informed us that there will be a lot of overlap with math and ELA Common Core standards.   Maine assessments, assuming everything goes smoothly, will transition by 2015.

There are several guiding assumptions of the Framework which are worth sharing.  Children are born investigators and are able to build progressively more sophisticated explanations over time.  The Framework focuses on a limited set of core ideas in order to avoid the coverage of multiple disconnected topics.  Another assumption is that understanding develops over time and students need sustained opportunities to work with and develop the underlying ideas and to appreciate those ideas' interconnectedness over a period of years rather than weeks or months.  Also, science and engineering require both knowledge and practice -- "the theories, models, instruments, and methods for collecting and displaying data, as well as the norms for building arguments through evidence, are developed collectively in a vast network of scientists working together over extended periods".  It is important to connect to students' interests and experience, as research suggests this is critical to learning.  And finally, the idea of promoting equity is so that all students have high-quality opportunities combined with rigorous standards to engage in significant science and engineering learning.

Shari led us through an experiment designed to illustrate how implementation might occur with new standards.  We divided into groups and were asked to make a claim, show evidence, and then show reasoning for our claim.  This was a water based experiment and it was messy, hands-on, and everyone in the room became engaged with the experiment. (We filled a glass with water and put an index card over it.  We flipped the glass upside down and the water did not come out, it was capped by the card).

Our group made a claim, shared our evidence, and presented our reasoning--however we were not correct in our claim as to how the card and water stayed intact with the glass.  In fact, no one got it right--someone eventually Googled it which made us all laugh because we all know that is what the kids would do.  The point was, we were all involved.  We were all engaged.  And by the end, we all wanted to know WHY.  It opened up a different way of looking at the experiment--instead of a cookbook approach (step one, two, three--) it was more of a sandbox approach with lots of questions why and lots of experimentation.  I found I did not have the vocabulary to make sense of it--the ultimate answer had to do with molecular attraction, a concept I was not familiar with (I am a Spanish teacher, remember)--but that I was deeply curious after playing with the experiment.  The claim, evidence, reasoning piece made a lot of sense.  Teaching students to "argue" or defend their claim is central to the Framework.  Engaging them is also central--there is the idea that kids are naturally curious and we have to tap into that to engage them.

Long story short--the new standards are not ready yet, but the Framework is what will guide their creation, and the changes are designed to help Maine students reach their science and engineering potential over time.  As a non-science teacher I found the approach to creating new standards via this long report done by several professionals and research institutions an adequate/appropriate method.  I am excited at the prospect of creating integrated curriculum that engages students and helps them discover their world.


National Research Council. A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2011.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Being out of the classroom is -- well, it takes getting used to.  I have a lot of time to think about how I teach, excuse me, taught.  It's given me the room to step back and see things differently.  I feel very much on the right track with the amount of oral, face-to-face, person-to-person, laugh-out-loud, social interactions I require of my students.  I also know the ease with which I can grade oral work is thanks in whole to the 1 to 1 computer program at my school--kids can use Garageband and email to send me work.  The video components required for assessment are so easy to make and grade with Vimeo and Keynote.  Zambombazo, the world's best Spanish culture website, is still free.  And the access it gives my students to pop culture is non pareil.

I feel less satisfied with the grammar.

My mission to go to DR to improve my grammar was a complete failure.  The environment I was in demanded English.  The Spanish I heard was a delightful mix of many foreigners trying to speak Spanish.  The high point was the absolute delight expressed by the kids when I used my "teacher voice" in Spanish.  Kids marveled at that--their eyes lit up with understanding.  But they also ignored my mistakes because my accent was correct.

Stateside, when I returned from the DR and visited my old students and old classroom, I received feedback.  My top student in Spanish 4 told me that I focused more on culture than on grammar.  He said having a grammar-oriented teacher (my sub) was the perfect complement to my style.  He said this very diplomatically and generously. 

I realize he is right.  For me, Spanish is a means of telling a story.  I love a cultural lens to lessons because I love the stories.  For me, the rules are important but vague.  My strictest teacher, Luisana, from days of old in the city of sun, Valencia--her strict reprimands and my host brothers who laughed at me outright and fixed my grammar with a smile--those days are gone.  Far behind.  My best education in Spanish grammar is...19 years old.

venezuela 1993

I know I need to focus on grammar.  Testing myself with the many free online placement tests puts me at B2/C1 or advanced mid/advanced high.  How can I get to that elusive superior rating without some serious grammar work?  How do I fix the foundation?  There seems to be no other choice but to go back to school and really try to fix this thing.  It will make my teaching a lot better.  I still want to focus on the stories, but I want to do it with perfect grammar.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Notes on "Last Child in the Woods" Part III

Louv, Richard (2005, 2008).  Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. New York, NY: Workman Publishing Company.

Part III The Best of Intentions: Why Johnnie and Jeannie Don’t Play Outside Anymore

Time and Fear
p. 111 “Our lives may be more productive, but less inventive.  In an effort to value and structure time, some of us unintentionally may be killing dreamtime.”
p. 112 “It takes time--loose, unstructured dreamtime--to experience nature in a meaningful way.”
p. 120 “We can now look at at this way: Time in nature is not  leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health.”
p. 121 “By taking nature experience out of the leisure column and placing it in the health column, we are more likely to take our children on that hike--more likely to, well, have fun.”

The Bogeyman Syndrome Redux
p. 123 “Fear is the emotion that separates a developing child from the full, essential benefits of nature.  Fear of traffic, of crime, of stranger-danger, and of nature itself.”
p. 124 “Stephen Kellert, professor of social ecology at Yale, and a leading thinker on biophilia, describes how experience in the surrounding home territory, especially in nearby nature, helps shape children's cognitive maturation, including the developed abilities of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.”

Don’t Know Much About Natural History: Education as a Barrier to Nature
p. 133 “Practitioners in the new fields of conservation psychology (focused on how people become environmentalists) and ecopsychology (the study of how ecology interacts with the human psyche) not that, as Americans become increasingly urbanized, their attitudes towards animals change in paradoxical ways.”
p. 133 “To urbanized people, the source of food and the reality of nature are becoming more abstract. At the same time, urban folks are more likely to feel protective of animals--or to fear them.”
p. 135 “If educators are to help heal the broken bond between the young and the natural world, they and the rest of us must confront the unintended educational consequences of an overly-abstract science education: ecophobia and the death of natural history studies.”
p. 137 “Public education is enamored of, even mesmerized by, what might be called silicon faith: a myopic focus on high technology as salvation.”

Where Will the Future Stewards of Nature Come From?
p. 148. “Pergams and Zaradic warn of what they call “videophilia”--a shift from loving streams (biophilia) to loving screens.”
p. 159 “”If children do not attach to the land, they will not reap the psychological and spiritual benefits they can glean from nature, nor will they feel a long-term commitment to the environment, to the place.”
p. 159 “Passion does not arrive on a videotape or a CD; passion is personal.  Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along the grass-stained sleeves to the heart.  If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Notes on "Last Child in the Woods" Part II

Louv, Richard (2005, 2008).  Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder.  New York, NY: Workman Publishing Company.

Part II Why The Young (and the Rest of Us) Need Nature
Climbing the Tree of Health
p. 43 “A widening circle of researchers believes that the loss of natural habitat, or the disconnection from nature even when it is available, has enormous implications for human health and child development.  They say the quality of exposure to nature affects our health at almost cellular level.”
p. 45 “the idea that natural landscapes, or at least gardens, can be therapeutic and restorative is, in fact, and ancient one that has filtered down through the ages.  Over two thousand years ago, Chinese Taoists created gardens and greenhouses they believed to be beneficial for health.”
p. 45 “Beginning in the 1870’s, the Quakers’ Friends Hospital in Pennsylvania used acres of natural landscape and a greenhouse as part of its treatment of mental illness.”
p. 46 “...Roger Ulrich, a Texas A&M researcher, has shown that people who watch images of natural landscape after a stressful experience calm markedly in only five minutes: their muscle tension, pulse, and skin-conductance ratings plummet.”
p. 47  “In the United States, children ages six to eleven spend about thirty hours a week looking at a TV or computer monitor.”
p. 48 “The physical exercise and emotional stretching that that children enjoy in unorganized play is more varied and less time-bound than is found in organized sports.”
p. 49 “Nature is often overlooked as a healing balm for the emotional hardships in a child’s life.”
p. 51 “Wells and colleague Gary Evans assessed the degree of nature in and around the homes of rural children in grades three through five.  They found that children with more nature near their homes received lower ratings than peers with less nature near their homes on measures of behavioral conduct disorders, anxiety, and depression.  Children with more nature near their homes also rated themselves higher than their corresponding peers on a global measure of self-worth.”

A Life of the Senses: Nature vs the Know-It-All State of Mind
p. 56 “Nature is beautiful but not always pretty.”
p. 58 “ human beings we need direct, natural experiences; we require fully activated senses in order to feel fully alive.”
p. 63 “Why do so many Americans say they want their children to watch less TV, yet continue to expand the opportunities for them to watch it?  More important, why do so many people consider the physical world no longer worth watching?”
p. 65 “Dewey argued a century ago that worship of secondary experience in childhood came with the risk of depersonalizing human life.”
p. 65 “In 1998 a controversial Carnegie Mellon University study found that people who spend even a few hours on the Internet each week suffer higher levels of depression and loneliness than people who use the Net infrequently.”
p. 67 “Much of our learning comes from doing, from making, from feeling with our hands; and though many would like to believe otherwise, the world is not entirely available from a keyboard.”
p. 68 “Not surprisingly, as the young grow up in a world of narrow yet overwhelming sensory input, many of them develop a wired, know-it-all state of mind.  That which cannot be Googled does not count.  Yet a fuller, grander, more mysterious world, one worthy of a child’s awe, is available to children and the rest of us.”

The “Eighth Intelligence”
p. 72 Howard Gardner “More recently he added an eighth intelligence: naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”).
p. 73 “However, the impact of nature experience on early childhood development is, in terms of neuroscience, understudied.”
p. 73 “Gardner’s designation of the eighth intelligence suggests another rich arena for research, but his theory has immediate application for teachers and parents who might otherwise overlook the importance of natural experience to learning and child development.”

The Genius of Childhood: How Nature Nurtures Creativity
p. 86 “As an expert in the design of play and learning environments, Moore has written that natural settings are essential for healthy child development because they stimulate all the senses and integrate informal play with formal learning.  According to Moore, multi-sensory experiences in nature help to build ‘the cognitive constructs necessary for sustained intellectual development,” and stimulate imagination by supplying the child with the free space and materials for what he calls children’s ‘architecture and artifacts.’”
p. 87 “Nature, which excites all the senses, remains the richest source of loose parts.”
p. 87 “The loose-parts theory is supported by studies of play that compare green, natural play areas with blacktop playgrounds.  Swedish studies found that children on asphalt playgrounds had play that was much more interrupted; they played in short segments.  But in more natural playgrounds, children invented whole sagas that they  carried from day to day to day--making and collecting meaning.”
p. 89 “Taylor’s and Kuo’s research demonstrated that children have greater ability to concentrate in more natural settings.”
p. 89 “What happens when creative children can no longer choose a green space in which to be creative?”
p. 92 “Nature offers a well from which many, famous or not, draw a creative sense of pattern and connection.”
p. 97 “The Japanese, said Hirshberg, recognized that American creativity comes largely from our freedom, our space--our physical space and our mental space.  He offered no academic studies to support his theory; nonetheless, his statement rang true, and it has stayed with me.  Growing up, many of us were blessed with natural space and the imagination that filled it.”
p. 98 “Nature presents the young with something so much greater than they are; it offers an environment where they can easily contemplate infinity and eternity.”

Nature-Deficit Disorder and the Restorative Environment
p. 100  “Ironically, the detachment of education from the physical world not only coincided with the dramatic rise in life-threatening childhood obesity but also with a growing body of evidence that links physical exercise and experience in nature to mental acuity and concentration.”
p. 102 “Children’s Hospital in Seattle maintains that each hour of TV watched per day by preschoolers increases by ten percent the likelihood that they will develop concentration problems and other symptoms of attention-deficit disorders by age seven.”
p. 104 The fascination factor associated with nature is restorative, and it helps relieve people from directed-attention fatigue.  Indeed, according to the Kaplans, nature can be the most effective source of such restorative relief.”
p. 104 ‘In a paper presented to the American Psychological Society in 1993, the Kaplans surveyed more than twelve hundred corporate  and state office workers.  Those with a window view of trees, bushes, or large lawns experiences significantly less frustration and more work enthusiasm than those employees without those views.”
p. 105 “In 2000, Wells conducted a study that found being close to nature, in general, helps boost a child’s attention span.”
p. 108 “More time in nature--combined with less television and more stimulating play and educational settings--may go a long way toward reducing attention deficits in children, and, just as important, increasing their joy in life.”
p. 109 “An expanded application of attention-restoration theory would be useful in the design of homes, classrooms, and curricula.”

Notes on "Last Child in the Woods" Part I

Louv, Richard (2005, 2008).  Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder.  New York, NY: Workman Publishing Company.

Part 1: The New Relationship Between Children and Nature

Gifts of Nature
p. 7  “Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it.”
p. 10 “The woods were my Ritalin.”

The Third Frontier
p. 16  “In the space of a century, the American experience of nature--culturally influential around the world--has gone from direct utilitarianism to romantic attachment to electronic detachment.”
p. 19  “Not yet fully formed or explored, this new frontier is characterized by at least five trends: a severance of the public and private mind from our food’s origins; a disappearing line between machines, humans, and other animals; the invasion of our cities by wild animals (even as urban/suburban designers replace wildness with synthetic nature); and the rise of a new kind of suburban form.”
p. 23 “We can no longer assume a cultural core belief in the perfection of nature.”  On scientific development such as “critter on a chip” or the ear on the mouse.
p. 25 “Today sprawl does not guarantee space.”

The Criminalization of Natural Play
p. 28 “Countless communities have virtually outlawed unstructured outdoor nature play, often because of the threat of lawsuits, but also because of a growing obsession with order.”
p. 28 “Most housing tracts, condos, and planned communities constructed in the past two to three decades are controlled by strict covenants that discourage or ban the kind of outdoor play many of us enjoyed as children.”
p. 30  “If endangered or threatened species are to coexist with humans, adults and children do need to tread lightly. But poor land-use decisions, which reduce accessible nature in cities, do far more damage to the environment than do children.”
p. 30  :The US Department of Agriculture projects forests declining from 767,000 in 1982 to 377,000 in 2022.”
p. 30 “The cumulative impact of over-development, multiplying park rules, well-meaning (and usually necessary) environmental regulations, building regulations, community covenants, and fear of litigation sends a chilling message to our children that their free-range play is unwelcome, that organized sports on manicured playing fields are the only officially sanctioned form of outdoor recreation.”
p. 33 “Another British study discovered that average eight-year-olds were better able to identify characters from the Japanese card-trading game Pokemon than native species in the community they lived: Pikachu, Metapod, and Wigglytuff were names more familiar than otter, beaver, or oak tree.”
p. 33 “In Israel, researchers revealed that  nearly all adults surveyed indicated that natural outdoor areas were the most significant environments of their childhood, while less than half children ages eight to eleven shared that view.”
p. 34 “...In Amsterdam, a study compared children’s play in the Netherlands in the 1950’s and 1960’s to child’s play in the first years of the 21st century: Children today play outside less often and for briefer periods; they have a more restricted home range and have fewer, less diverse playmates.”
p. 34 “In the United States, children are spending less time playing outdoors--or in any unstructured way.
p. 34 “Also, children spend less time playing outdoors than their mothers did when they were young, according to Rhona L. Clements, a professor of education at Manhattanville College in New York State/  She and her colleagues surveyed eight hundred mothers, whose responses were compared to to views of mothers interviewed generations ago: 71 percent of today’s mothers said they recalled playing outdoors every day as children, but only 26 percent of them said their children played outdoors daily.”  
p. 35 “Clearly the childhood break from nature is part of a larger dislocation--physical restriction of childhood in a rapidly urbanizing world, with nature experience a major casualty.”
p. 35 ” studies suggest that exposure to nature may reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and that it can improve all children’s cognitive abilities and resistance to negative stresses and depression.”
p. 36 “Nature-deficit disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.”

Notes on "Becoming Teddy Roosevelt"

Vietze, Andrew (2010). Becoming Teddy Roosevelt:  How a Maine guide inspired America's 26th president.  Camden, ME: Downeast.

The Nature of New York
p.20 “...they discovered that both were constantly astonished by the poetry of the natural world. “  (an observation on Sewall and TR’s relationship)
p. 21 “If  he was reflective at all during the latter part o this Maine sojourn, it was not about the death that had so weighed on him just before his arrival, but about how much loved being in the woods.”
p. 21 on Maine routines “They would have harvested the garden, begun to ready their houses for the weather ahead, prepared for another season of cutting trees, and gotten back into the affairs of the town they were building out in the woods.”
p. 24 “‘I made up my mind that I must try to learn so that I would not again be put in such a helpless position.’”  On bullies on the train up to Maine.
p. 25 “With an ocean out one door and the woods out another, these summers were full of magic for the imaginative naturalist, who would happily take off by himself, traipsing in the bushes or down close to the grass.” On his summers in the country.
p. 26 “After discovery, for Roosevelt, came the desire to understand his findings, and then share that understanding with the world.” On observing a dead seal.
p. 28 “She spent hours reading him stories of larger-than-life men and feats of heroism, both fiction and non-fiction, books about knights and sailors and soldiers.” on TR’s mother’s role in his life.

Pine Tree Pioneers
p. 32 “This was the last frontier of New England, a place where stands of spruce stood majestic and tall, never touched by an ax or blase.”  Describing Aroostook County in the 1820’s.
p. 33 ….”the Bloodless Aroostook War or the more colorful Pork and Beans war.”  on establishing the official boundary line between Maine and New Brunswick.
p. 37 “Working ceaselessly Sewall was able to ease the circumstances of the family little by little.  Under is tutelage--and that of a Penobscot Indian neighbor--David and Sam Sewall became fairly expert woodsmen.”
p. 38 “The academy of nature proved to be his favorite classroom, though, and he learned much simply by following his father and older brothers around.”  Bill Sewall’s education
p. 39 “..he brought a gif to his little brother--a compass.  The small instrument gave the boy even more self-confidence than the canoe and the gun had earlier.”  Bill Sewall’s education.
p. 41 “Bill donated his share to and Island Falls man  who had a family to support and no income.  ‘That was the way the old-time people dealt with their neighbors up here in the woods,’ he late explained.”  Bill Sewall’s character
p. 42 “Like so many Mainers then-and even now-life was a seasonal cycle, and every couple of months brought a new occupation.”  Reality of rural Maine life.

A Grander, More Beautiful Sight
p. 48 “‘I have never seen a grander or more beautiful sight than the Northern woods in winter.’” TR on Maine
p. 50 “Dow was able to find the animal’s prints, and they crept along the trail even though it dragged them through cedar swamps, over hardwood ridges, through hemlock woods, and across cranberry bogs.” Will Dow on hunting with TR.
p. 50 “‘The reason he knew so much about everything, I found, was that wherever he went he got in with the right people.’” Sewall on TR’s ways of acquiring knowledge.
p. 51 “‘He said he could read about such things, but here he had first-hand accounts of backwoods life form the men who had lived it and knew what they were talking about.’” Sewall on TR’s ways of acquiring knowledge

Tough as a Pine Knot
p. 59 “‘If I follow my own natural bent I will be a naturalist, for you know how I love nature, the woods, birds and plants and the rough Arab life of the big woods.’” TR on what he would do if he didn’t enter public service
p. 59 “‘...”I don’t know a better or more intelligent race of men than the shrewd, plucky, honest, Yankees--all of them hunters, lumbermen, or small farmers.’” TR on Yankees

Harvard Cool
p. 65 “And enthusiasm, of course, was the trait that all but defined Theodore Roosevelt.”  On his not fitting in at Harvard.
p. 66 “Roosevelt took to college like he did most things--with a zeal that bordered on the manic.”  
p. 67 “Working in a basement lab with a stiff white coat was the last thing Theodore Roosevelt wanted to do.” On his naturalist leanings.
p. 67 “To TR, the wonders of science--its future and frontiers--were out in the fields and forests and sea awaiting discovery.”

Playing the Frontier
p. 75 “‘It was listening to those talks after supper in the old shack on the Cannonball that I first came to understand that the Lord made the earth for all of us and not just for the chosen few.’”  TR out West

Light Comes In; Light Goes Out
p.  83 “...Mary loved the window the Sewall House gave her on the wider world.  This came both from her husband’s unending quest for knowledge and from the many guests who stayed with them.  Bill was keenly interested in the goings-on beyond the limits of Island Falls.  He read the newspaper daily, and both he and Mary regularly visited the community library, which was in Dave Sewall’s house, on the hunt for new books.”  On life and learning in rural Maine.
p. 87 “...his sister Sarah told him to go make his fortune and then ‘return and live in his real home.’” On Sewall’s Maine roots and Western adventure.

Badlands Babies
p. 94 “Bill Sewall was forever impressed by the gumption Roosevelt showed in such situations, describing him as ‘afraid of nothing and nobody’”.  On how they dealt with other people claiming their land out West.

The Beef
p.  111  Bill Sewall on losing money out West.  “‘...Roosevelt did not pretend to be a businessman.  He never cared about making money and he didn’t go to Dakota for the money he expected to make there; he came because he liked the country and he liked the people and he liked the wild, adventurous life.’”

Futures and Fame
p.  145 Bill Sewall on progress. “‘Many changes I have seen during my eighty odd years of life, but I do not believe people are any happier now, for all the improvements and new ways, than we were back in the old days.’”

Czar of Aroostook County

p. 157 “He may have become famous, but he still rose early and worked to make something of each day.”  On Bill Sewall’s work ethic
p. 160 “Somehow Sewall found the stamina to do it all--customs collector, sheriff, guide, logger, farmer, hotelier.”  On his many duties.
p. 162 TR’s achievements.  “TR Came to conservation via his passion for hunting, and Sewall, of course, was his greatest hunting mentor.”
p. 163 “During his tenure, Roosevelt worked tireless at protecting the nation’s natural heritage, saving some 84,000 acres a day. He was actively involved in the creation of 150 national forests, 5 national parks, 4 national game preserves, 18 national monuments (including the Grand Canyon), 24 reclamation projects, and 51 federal bird preserves (including the first, on Pelican Island, Florida).”

Friday, January 6, 2012



What is a Quest?
1. "Questing is a place-based education model of creating and exchanging treasure hunts in order to collect and share your community's distinct natural and cultural heritage -- your special places and stories." From
"A quest is a community treasure hunt that guides people through -- and teaches them how to see -- a unique community treasure." From
"Each Quest would be made up of three parts: clues, which teach visitors how to see—or read—a community story; a map guiding them along a specific route; leading to a particular “treasure” and treasure box, complete with a story about the site, a sign-in book, and a hand-carved stamp featuring a symbol for the site." from 
"Commonly written in rhyming verse, a Quest contains movement clues that get you from one spot to the next. (A Quest usually includes a site map as well.) The features at these spots illustrate the story. Quests also have informational clues, that interpret the meaning of the features and their place in the story – maybe an old mill site, a beaver dam, an eroded bank, or a low salt marsh." from
2. Originated in England 150 years ago and is called letter-boxing there

Why do it?
1. To learn deeply about a local place
2.  To work with community members and involve the community in teaching and learning about a place
3.  Map community assets
4.  Foster sense of place and community

How is a Quest made? (adapted from the site)
1. Pick a spot that that is special in your community.
2. Ask permission to make a Quest
3. Visit the site 2 or 3 times to begin to understand it,and start to think of how to form a Quest that fits the location
4. Look for the experts: people in your community who can teach you more about your location. Ask them to join you at the location.
5. Be a researcher and take notes on what those experts tell you!
6. Choose a strategy.  Be creative.  How will you create the clues?
7. Draw rough maps of your site. Also sketch or note the unique features that would make good clues.
8. Make a rough draft of your Quest strategy with the clues.
9. Field test the rough draft with lots of people and make changes to make it better.
10. Write a description of what makes your Quest location unique. A few paragraphs is fine--be sure to state why your location is special. This will go in your Quest box.
11. Draw final Quest Map.
12. Make a stamp to use for stamping Quest passports.
13. Get a  box to use as a Quest Box (plastic food containers work well). Waterproof the introduction to the site and attach it securely to the inside cover of the box. In the box: a log book; pencil/pen; stamp; ink pad; pencil sharpener.
14. Hide the box.
15. Make sure the box will be monitored long term.

What are potential challenges? (from teacher evaluations in 2009)

1. Finding enough planning time
2. Maintaining student engagement
3. Creating a good work flow


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