The Abbe Goes Back to School

Raney Bench, Abbe Museum Curator of Education and students at the touch table.
Each year the Abbe works with thousands of students and teachers throughout Maine, developing critical thinkers and building a more respectful and inclusive society. Hundreds of students visit the museum in downtown Bar Harbor each year to explore exhibits and investigate artifacts, creating memorable experiences that shape how they think about Native American history and culture.

Teachers come too, for workshops, resources, and support from our staff. But our education work extends far beyond Bar Harbor. Abbe education staff and volunteers travel throughout the state, working with schools and teachers too distant to make a day-trip to Bar Harbor. Our artifacts travel, reaching children from Cumberland to Aroostook.

Twelve years ago, the Maine legislature passed a mandate, LD291, requiring teachers at all grade levels, kindergarten through diploma, to include Wabanaki history, government, and culture in the Social Studies curriculum.  Maine is one of only a handful of states requiring such a comprehensive approach, yet the state has never provided funding for this mandate. The Wabanaki tribes have been instrumental in developing a set of essential understandings  to guide teachers and students in their studies, and they have created resources and teacher training opportunities.   The tribes agree that many hands make light work, and in order to successfully reach a state-wide audience, education partners like the Abbe Museum are essential.

Students explore the touch table.
Recognizing the need to support teachers, students, and the Wabanaki, the Abbe applied for and received a grant to expand our educational outreach from the Institute for Museum and Library Services in 2012. Partnering with the tribes and the state Department of Education, the Abbe is in the process of creating new multi-disciplinary lessons for students at all grade levels. These lessons will be available on-line for free through our website, the Department of Education's site, and the tribal sites. In addition, Curator of Education, Raney Bench, will coordinate 16 free teacher workshops in every county, with a goal to reach 800 teachers with these new resources. Each workshop will include networking opportunities between teachers and Wabanaki educators and artists to encourage connections that will last beyond the workshop.

“The other thing you taught me is that you can tell something about someone by what they used and what they left behind. I thought that was the coolest thing I’ve ever learned. I usually never pay attention to anything, but everything about the Abbe Museum was interesting; there was nothing boring about it.” – Student Visitor