A Busy Season for Teacher Workshops at the Abbe!

Raney Bench, Curator of Education

The spring teacher workshop season has just come to an end; since January I have conducted six teacher workshops, working with teachers from many grade levels and school districts. We launched a new focus in our training- teaching Wabanaki content thematically, encouraging teachers to break away from the standard “Indian unit.” We are also trying to stay in front of the transition to National Core Standards for assessment, moving away from the current state learning results. Our workshops are helping teachers develop new ways to include Wabanaki content into multiple disciplines, making it less stressful and time consuming, but also being more holistic and inclusive of Wabanaki content, which is more reflective of the history and identity of Maine.

The year started with a Skype workshop with five teachers from the outer Islands, which included Matinicus, Frenchboro, Swans, Isle au Haut, and Isleford. This was new ground for the Abbe Museum, both in terms of the use of technology to “beam” me out to the Islands during a blizzard, and working with several new teachers who were not familiar with the Abbe before. We were able to conduct an in-depth workshop focused on geography that was inspiring for me because I was able to think about training other teachers about how to teach Wabanaki content thematically. The teachers were inspired by the amount of new resources they learned about, and received some constructive feedback on the lessons they were developing. I am now following up with this group to do a distance learning program with the students over Skype, which will be another first for the Abbe!

I also was invited by the DownEast Educational Partnership (DEEP) to host three workshops, one in Bucksport, one in Ellsworth, and one at the Abbe. We concluded those workshops here at the Abbe last week, and all were very successful. I was introduced to new teachers, many of whom had not been teaching Wabanaki content and were introduced to the resources and the Museum for the first time.

In March, the Abbe hosted our annual teacher workshop, which featured John Banks, Penobscot, Director of Natural Resources, who discussed historic and contemporary environmental management practices of the tribe. This provided teachers with content to apply in science units, reinforcing our promotion of teaching thematically. During the afternoon session Linda Mejia from the Whale Museum, and Carrie Graham from the Dorr Museum, joined me for an overview of the collaborative program we’ve developed, looking at the theme of adaptation from multiple perspectives. The following week I was back in Bucksport doing training for the district in a full day workshop for area teachers.

So, the total of teachers we’ve reached through workshops and trainings this year exceeds 85 individuals, from schools in Hancock, Waldo, Washington, Penobscot, Knox, Somerset, and Piscataquis Counties!

Image 1: John Bear Mitchell leads a past teacher workshop at the Abbe Museum.