Education Commissioner Makin visits Katahdin Elementary School and explores outdoor learning spaces


Education Commissioner Pender Makin visited Katahdin Primary School this week to meet students and staff and learn about the growing opportunities for outdoor learning at the school.

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

As she greeted kindergarten students as they headed to afternoon classes and learned of another class’s outdoor investigation for signs of spring, the commissioner Makin had the privilege of thanking the teachers at Katahdin Elementary School for all their hard work and dedication to their students. After a quick tour inside, it was time to strap on some snowshoes and head out to explore the incredible learning spaces on campus. The school has snowshoes, skis and a clothes closet that students can access, ensuring that with the right equipment, any weather is good for learning!

Joined by 2nd grader Bentley and 5th grader Abbie, Commissioner Makin was able to tour outdoor learning spaces, including a shelter built by 5th graders with the volunteer help of a school board member, who used his military background to design a dry space and pond where a game camera filmed the exciting adventures of a family of beavers and their lodge.

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

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