Thursday, November 24, 2016

Celebrating FLOW 2016

The third annual "FLOW Reception" was held at Bath City Hall on Thursday, 11/17. The idea for this culminating event originally came from our partners at Chewonki who recognized what a powerful experience FLOW is for the kids and the community at large, and knew that it warranted a celebration. Now, in our third year of FLOW, the reception seems more important than ever.

FLOW is not just a canoe camping trip -- it's a pivotal experience that opens the door to deep, contextual learning in every content area. And it also helps kids build skills in crucial areas that fall outside the traditional content strands: strengthening relationships with peers and teachers, increasing self-reliance, practicing compassion, promoting stewardship and appreciation of nature, and experiencing the value of perseverance, quality and effort.

The event has been well attended each year, and is always catered by Katie Winglass from Mae's CafĂ©. The food is delicious and beautifully displayed, and Katie brings a helper with her -- her daughter Mae. Mae, now a sophomore at Morse High School, was in the first group of students to ever attend FLOW in 2014. Out of the corner of my eye I watched Mae as she occasionally paused from setting out food to look around the room at the photographs and student work displayed on the walls. I imagined she was reminiscing about her own week out on the Sheepscot River with her classmates. We hope that kids hold onto the powerful memories from FLOW, and draw on them as a resource as they continue to grow up, developing and clarifying their sense of self. 
RSU 1 Superintendent Patrick Manuel speaking to the audience.

The Bath City Hall is a wonderful venue for a gathering like this. It's so meticulously maintained that it feels like a time capsule. This is where important city meetings take place. This is where citizens of Bath vote. This is where we celebrate our students and their community for another year of successful FLOW trips.

This year's students all wrote as part of their trip. One group wrote "vignette memoirs," another group wrote narratives, and another group wrote creation myths in the tradition of the Wabanaki tribe that once lived throughout the Sheepscot River watershed. Seven students presented excerpts of their work at the gathering. On the back wall of the room, students' paintings and pop-up books were on display. 

BMS Humanities teacher Adele Carter explaining student projects.

WCS Social Studies teacher Leann Fisher introducing her students who read vignette-memoirs.

BMS art teacher, Jackie McKeon, was incredibly excited to be a chaperone for FLOW this year. She dove right in to the experience with ideas for integrating art. Students created sketches and watercolors while out on FLOW, and then spent time back at school developing those ideas into paintings. The landscape/still life paintings depict moments in time from FLOW.

This is the kind of high level student work that becomes possible when teachers see the potential in educational opportunities like FLOW. Jackie knew the experience would elicit strong feelings in students, and she harnessed those emotions to help them create these extraordinary works of art.

Another project that Jackie created was a visual and tactile complement to the myths students wrote in the Wabanaki tradition. Each student created a 4 panel pop-up book combining artwork with excerpts of their myth. The students were captivated by the work--  it was fun, challenging, and exciting.  It too required concentration and perseverance. Approaching concepts from different perspectives using multiple disciplines is a way to cement learning in students' minds. 

On Friday, November 18th, Bath Middle School held its first all-school CREW assembly. This was a chance for each of the six houses in the building to share some highlights from the start of the school year. Following a slideshow of photographs from FLOW, The 8th grade students presented posters they had made celebrating their favorite moments of the trip.

Programs like FLOW don't just happen. So many talented and dedicated people collaborate for the success of this program. Thank you to everyone who played a role in this year's trips. And thanks especially to the teachers who gave up a week of their lives to go explore our local wilderness with a bunch of 8th graders:

Barb Mills (BMS P.E.)
Elizabeth Rattey (BMS Foreign Language)
Rick McGuire (BMS Math)
Leah Heyman (BMS Science)
Don Seymour (BMS Computer)
Adele Carter (BMS Humanities)
Monica Wright (BMS Science)
Kyle Beeton (WCS ELA)
Leann Fisher (WCS Social Studies)
Nancy Riggs (WCS Special Education)
Denise Friant (WCS Science)
Lawrence Kovacs (RSU 1 GT)
Theo Lucas (WCS Ed. Tech)
Brent Luchies (BMS Science)
Jackie McKeon (BMS Art)

We are already excited and looking forward to FLOW 2017!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Year #3 Fieldwork Wrap Up

The overall structure of FLOW changed in some important ways this year. The trip itself was run from Tuesday to Friday as opposed to Monday to Friday, and Chewonki offered us the chance to return to their campus two weeks after the trip for a day of team building activities and initiatives. This was a targeted effort to give groups the chance for closure and final debriefing about FLOW. Ideally, our hope was that students would be able to identify learnings from FLOW that they could draw on as resources and apply to their lives.  It was a GREAT idea!

Kids were excited to get back out to Chewonki Neck. This time -- without sleeping bags or a week's worth of clothing --it felt like a homecoming or reunion of sorts. It was great to see the smiles as groups were reunited with their Chewonki instructors and hustled out to the field for a brief round of big-group games.  After this we broke up into our FLOW groups and headed into the woods.

One of the most striking things I noticed was the level of focus our group displayed right from the start -- it was far beyond what I saw on day #1 of FLOW. Each of the FLOW groups had two or three kids join their group for this day who had not been able to go on the trip. The FLOW veterans made quick work of setting a positive tone of productive collaboration for the newcomers. This was a small snapshot of the amazing potential that exists in harnessing key experiences to promote transformational growth in kids.

The level of challenge in each of the activities ramped up as the day progressed. It was important to remind the group about the importance of quality when collaborating to complete a task. It took many tries to get everyone across the "islands" pictured here.

The value of any experience is affected by the ways we reflect on it. After each activity we talked as a group to identify successes and areas for growth. Lessons like these, mixing physical, emotional and intellectual challenge, are more likely to be cemented in our memories. As these kids continue their journey through middle school and beyond, they will have the memory of these experiences to use as tools to help them succeed.