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Education Commissioner Makin Visits Katahdin Elementary School and Explores Outdoor Learning Spaces

Education Commissioner Pender Makin visited Katahdin Elementary School this week to meet with students and staff and experience the growing outdoor learning opportunities at the school.

Commissioner Makin was joined by Superintendent and Katahdin Elementary School Principal Dr. Marie Robinson, who proudly introduced her staff, many of whom are graduates of the Katahdin schools. The sense of pride and community was evident throughout the building, as well as the commitment to a supportive and fun learning environment. Ms. Jaide Berry joined on the tour of the school and talked about the ways in which she uses the outdoor spaces to connect with students as part of their social and emotional skill building activities. Katahdin Elementary School has created a space where students and staff learn about restorative justice practices, including understanding how the brain works, and how to communicate effectively as valued members of the school and classroom communities.

As she greeted pre-k students on their way into afternoon classes, and learned about another class’ outdoor investigation to find signs of spring, Commissioner Makin had the privilege to thank the teachers of Katahdin Elementary School for all of their hard work and dedication to their students. After a quick tour inside, it was time to put on snowshoes and head out to investigate the amazing learning spaces on campus. The school has snowshoes, skis, and a clothing supply closet that students can access, ensuring that with the right gear, all weather is good weather for learning!

Joined by grade 2 student Bentley and grade 5 student Abbie, Commissioner Makin got to check out outdoor learning spaces, including a shelter built by grade 5 students with the volunteer assistance of a school board member, who used his military training to design a cozy and dry space, and a pond where a game camera caught the exciting adventures of a beaver family and their hut.

With a commitment that began in 2016 to getting students outdoors more, Katahdin Elementary School has developed a campus with trails, a weather station, raised garden beds, and even their own apple orchard. As schools shifted to outdoor learning spaces over the past two years as a prevention method for the spread of COVID-19, the school expanded their own offerings, and used federal relief funds to build large outdoor learning pavilions, and RREV (Rethinking Responsive Education Ventures) funds received through the Maine Department of Education for other outdoor spaces.

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