Neighborhood Heroes

While looking through one of the many cardboard boxes she has from me and my brother’s time at home, my Mom came across a questionnaire that was part of a sixth grade homework assignment: Reading this brought up many questions for me. Shouldn’t I want to be a baseball player, an astronaut, a rock star or a firefighter? When did I learn about architecture and that it could be a job? Why did it appeal to me at such an early age? Why did I so quickly say, “I hope to go to a school” after the question clearly states, “ when (you) graduate”? But the most important question for me is: How was I able to actually follow through with my dream and become an architect*? This is a difficult question to answer, even in hindsight. My earliest memory of architecture is one of a guest speaker who came in and presented house plans he had designed for some […]

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Are We Trying to Make Better Students or Better People?

Did John Wooden, the most successful coach in college basketball history focus on winning? He did not – winning was the byproduct not the goal. He once said, “A coach’s primary function should be not to make better players, but to make better people.” So, what was his goal? For his players to be incredible teammates, to have strong work-ethics, to be true to themselves, and to be respectful and kind young men. Sounds amazing, right?! Now, let’s add an education twist – A teacher’s primary function should be not to make better students, but to make better people. And the teacher’s goal? For her students to be incredible collaborators, to have strong work-ethics, to be true to themselves, and to be respectful and kind young people. Is that the focus in our school communities? Are we trying to make better students or better people? By letting teachers lead the way, more of our young people could learn and practice […]

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My Wish : “We Are, Portland Public!”

They all wore bright yellow. Every student. Every teacher. Every staff member. They beamed with pride as they marched chanting “We are, Portland Public! We are, Portland Public!”  They began their march on the Eastern Promenade heading up and then down Munjoy Hill to Monument Square. The people of Portland lined Congress Street, clapping and cheering, celebrating the students, teachers, and staff members of our city’s schools.  Years ago the people of Portland started noticing the students wearing yellow. They saw them in our city’s parks or at retirement homes. They saw them in the blustery cold or the blazing heat. They saw them by the ocean or near our city’s streams and ponds. Always during the school day. Always wearing yellow. When the people looked close, it seemed like the students were shining. Maybe it was their bright yellow attire, but most think it was because their eyes always beamed brightly.  Their bright eyes beamed because they were serving […]

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You’re a Food Innovator!

Tiny kindergarten hands pushed the mayonnaise out of its packet. Its creamy white contents squirted onto the top of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the Longfellow Elementary lunch room. Pickles were added next, then concealed with a second piece of bread. I stood there at the edge of the lunch table watching in amazement after helping the kindergarten student open the mayonnaise packet. “That’s a first,” I chuckled to myself.  “Enjoy your sandwich,” I said enthusiastically to the student and went back to my usual spot near the recycling bins close to the lunchroom doors. A few minutes later the student ran up to me with a big grin on her face, “It’s good!” she exclaimed and ran back to her seat. I strode over to her table and knelt down beside her. “You know, you’re an innovator,” I said. “Do you know what that means?” She shook her head no. “An innovator is someone who creates something […]

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LBJ + Ed Muskie + Portland

Have you ever been inside Riverton Elementary School in Portland, Maine? It’s different than most schools you’ll walk into thanks to LBJ and Maine’s late great Senator Ed Muskie. So, what did they do to make it so unique? Well, back in 1966, during the Johnson Administration, federal dollars were spent to support Great Society initiatives and Portland was designated one of their Model Cities. Some of this funding went to building schools that functioned as community centers too. Riverton was one of those schools and it included a public library branch, swimming pool, health center, and community gym. They believed schools could be neighborhood hubs; places where not only kids connected and grew, but helped everyone live healthier, happier, more fulfilling lives. It’s a vision that’s more relevant than ever. Wouldn’t you agree?

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What Role Can a Volunteer Play in Your Neighborhood School?

There are many roles volunteers can play in improving your neighborhood school while supporting, engaging, and inspiring its students. Here’s a short list to get you thinking about how you can help. Answer Student Questions : Students have questions, a lot of them, right?! This volunteer opportunity could be answering a student’s question by email, phone, or in-person. Classroom Helper : Elementary school teachers are always on the go! An extra pair of hands to button coats, sharpen pencils, and make photocopies, are a few of the many things this volunteer could do that makes a huge difference. Math Volunteer : You can help students with math concepts at whatever level you are comfortable with. Literacy Volunteer : Support elementary-school students by reading to them and listening to them read to you; help with writing, vocabulary and other skills a student might need to strengthen. Expert Panelist : Speak to a class, club or other group about your area of […]

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What was your Most Memorable Learning Experience in High School?

What was your most memorable learning experience in high school? Do you remember? Larry Rosenstock, Founder, and CEO of High Tech High has been asking this question to teachers and parents for years, and the answers he gets are almost always the same. 1. It was a project. 2. It involved the community. 3. It had a fear of failure and recognition of success. 4. It had a mentor. 5. It had a public display of student work. Were you thinking of something similar? Larry built his school around these factors, making student engagement the centerpiece of his learning model. On the flip-side, a 2017 Gallup Poll surveying one million U.S. students found that half of them were disengaged from school. It suggested that engagement drops as students age because older students feel less cared for by adults and see less value in their work. Does that sound about right, too? So, what can you do about it? Start a […]

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Casco Bay High School + SchoolSquare

I don’t know about you, but when I imagine schools of the future, I see students learning by being active participants in making their communities better. Currently, there are a small group of schools leading this change and a few of them can be found right here in Portland, Maine! SchoolSquare is thrilled to be partnering with one of these schools, Casco Bay High School, to help them better connect their teachers and students with the caring adults of the Greater Portland community! Casco Bay High School is an Expeditionary Learning School So, what is an Expeditionary Learning School? An E.L. School and its curriculum are rooted in project-based learning expeditions, where students engage in collaborative, rigorous study of captivating topics. Students work in groups, frequently out in their community with assessment coming through cumulative products, public presentations, and portfolios. As they put it- “When students and teachers are engaged in work that is challenging, adventurous and meaningful, learning and […]

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Helping Students See Themselves as Artists!

Last time we connected we were about to put our platform in the hands of a small group of teachers at Longfellow Elementary School in Portland, Maine with the goal of saving them time while finding the perfect volunteer to support their classroom needs. So, what happened? Well, to make a long story short, it worked! Here’s an example! Emily Serway, Longfellow’s amazing art teacher needed a helping hand (literally) hanging student artwork throughout the school. So, this is what she did: She logged onto her SchoolSquare profile and filled out a Volunteer Request Form. Then, with a simple click of a button, she sent the “request” to the email addresses of her students’ parents. Within a day, six parents notified her via ScholSquare of their interest and before she knew it had the assistance needed in helping her students’ artwork shine! Emily put it perfectly- “when students see their art in the halls, they see themselves as artists”. We […]

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Touch, See, & Do! How to Prepare an Amazing Elementary School Presentation!

You said…“Yes”! That’s wonderful news! Having a caring adult like you come into your neighborhood school and share your interests, passions, and profession can be such a meaningful experience for the students you visit, and it’s super fun too!

 Now, how do you prepare for your classroom visit? Yes, you might know how to keep your children engaged at home, or High-5 the neighborhood kid, but how do you capture and hold the attention of 20 squirmy kiddos?

 Well, we’ve got a few tips to point you in the right direction!

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