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Launching the Marine Studies Pathway

posted Aug 17, 2012, 5:10 AM by   [ updated Aug 17, 2012, 5:12 AM ]
Link to the Marine Studies Pathway Website:

In December, Deer Isle-Stonington High School was approached by a parent and community who was a member of both the district’s Strategic Planning Team and the board of Penobscot East Resource Center, who was wondering if the recently passed Innovative Schools legislation might provide an impetus to the development of marine-related curricula at DISHS.  Because the high school was simultaneously re-examining its local Marine Trades program in light of recent staffing adjustments and the district was engaged in a strategic planning process, it was quickly evident that this would be a great area to investigate further.  Since January, several high school staff members have been meeting with representatives from PERC, Maine Maritime Academy, and an increasingly broad range of individuals and groups interested in developing what we are now calling a “Marine Studies Pathway” at Deer Isle-Stonington High School.

Throughout the spring of 2012, the core planning team met regularly to try to pull together a vision of what such a program might look like.  The result was this Vision/Planning Document. The Vision and Planning Document describes what the Marine Studies Pathway might look like when it is fully implemented. Central to the entire initiative will be the following Programmatic Goals for students in the Marine Studies Pathway:

The Marine Studies Pathway will:

  • Use marine related issues to engage students in academic learning and “learning how to learn.”
  • Expose students to a wide-range of both known and emerging marine related careers, as well as other careers that can be made possible by a marine-related education.
  • Provide students a diploma which meaningfully prepares them for any post-secondary option.
  • Develop future citizens and leaders who can speak for themselves, especially graduates who will stay in or return to this community.
  • Help sustain the local fishing economy and way of life in response to economic, climatic, regulatory, and technological changes.

In order to achieve these goals, teaching and learning at Deer Isle-Stonington High School will need to be "re-visioned" and include the following critical components:

  • Prepares all students for college and career; it is not an either/or.

  • Students earn a proficiency-based (standards-based) diploma aligned to both state and national standards.

  • Integrated, interdisciplinary, marine-themed curricula delivered via community- and project-based learning activities and lessons.

  • Personalized learning opportunities engage students in authentic and meaningful work.

  • Students work side-by-side with teachers and community experts.

  • Utilizes a wide range of community experts to partner with teachers to deliver high quality, authentic learning experiences.

The Marine Studies Pathway is an incredibly important initiative for DISHS.  The school has made quite a few gains in student achievement over the past several years, the result of a tremendous amount of effort from the entire staff to engage and support students.  However, there is still a significant percentage of students who are not engaged in their own learning.  Plateauing NWEA results are an indication of this- the school is approaching the limits of traditional academic programming being able to reach 100% of its students and prepare each of them for a variety of post-secondary options.  If DISHS is to continue to make gains, it is going to need to create more active engagement in the educational process from its students by personalizing the learning to meet their aspirations and experiences- to provide a better and more immediate answer to the eternal question “why do we have to learn all this stuff?”

It is also important to note that the Marine Studies Pathway is part of a broader strategic framework at the high school (outlined in this “Big Picture” document), which is in turn aligned with community feedback from the strategic planning process, the draft strategic planning goals, the goals of the New England Secondary Schools Consortium/League of Innovative Schools, and the Maine Department of Education's “Education Evolving” strategic plan.  Specifically, during the community forums that were part of the strategic planning process last spring, the following themes emerged from parent and community comments:

  • Graduates are prepared for college or a job; have the skills necessary to succeed.

  • Students have a broad view of the larger world to understand career and life options.

  • Students have the confidence to learn, love learning, and think critically.

  • More flexible grouping of students (not just by age).

Additionally, the following draft goals from the still-in-progress Strategic Plan are directly supported by the Marine Studies Pathway and similar initiatives:

  • DIS students graduate from our schools prepared for and aspiring to succeed in college, careers and citizenship. Our students acquire skills, experiences and attitudes that support their trajectories into an unpredictable future.

  • DIS students attain reading, writing, and math skills at or above their grade level, and make at least a year’s growth in a year’s time.

  • DIS students are critical thinkers, effective communicators and creative problem-solvers.

  • Personalized learning plans allow students voice and choice in their learning; students use multiple and flexible learning pathways which all lead to a college- and career-ready diploma.

  • Technology is integrated into teaching and learning so that DIS students…

    • experience equitable access to educational resources,

    • acquire and apply 21st century skills,

    • can learn “anytime, anywhere,”

    • and teachers are provided professional resources / collegial networks.

  • DIS schools welcome, benefit from and rely on engaged parents, local businesses, and all community members.