Category Archives: 2017

Cultivating perseverance and a ‘growth’ mindset

Sitting down with Christine Miller to talk about what it means to be an Expeditionary Learning (EL) school, it doesn’t take long to realize that the St. George School is not a typical K-8 educational institution. For one thing, Miller, who is the school’s Instructional Coordinator, has a job that involves responsibilities that many school principals would recognize—among them facilitating instruction and focusing on curriculum and performance—but the St. George School doesn’t have a principal.

“We went to a shared leadership model [when we withdrew from Regional School Unit 13],” Miller explains, “so we don’t have a principal anymore. To have the teachers working in teams—K-2nd grade, 3rd-5th grade, 6th-8th grade, unified arts and special services—and being trusted with the freedom to collaborate with each other to figure out how to do what’s best for their age group is definitely not common.”

Miller adds that, unlike with the usual principal’s role, the unique piece of her role is that she has the opportunity to work with students more directly and with teachers more directly. “I don’t have to worry about things like the budget—that’s the superintendent’s job.”

That the school’s superintendent—and not its principal—is responsible for its budget is also unusual, Miller points out. “It is not really common for a school to be its own Municipal School Unit, so it is very rare to have a superintendent full time in the building. In addition to carrying out his administrative responsibilities, Mr. Felton is in classrooms and working with kids and is very involved in everything.”

Choosing to become an EL school also sets the St. George School apart from other schools. “There are only a few EL schools in Maine and only one other elementary school,” Miller notes. The St. George School is now in its second year of the five-year process involved in getting certification as an EL school.

If the “expeditionary” in Expeditionary Learning sounds like this type of education involves pith helmets and adventure, that is not far off the mark. EL, in fact, is a nationwide organization that started with Outward Bound, the outdoor education organization which aims to foster personal growth and social skills in young people through challenging experiences.

Herring Gut teacher Ann Boover assists 2nd graders with their investigations into lobsters.

“EL works well for us because we are trying to be innovative and to think about learning outside of the classroom,” Miller notes. She cites last year’s 2nd grade class and its “expedition” on lobsters and lobstering. “They looked at lobstering in our community, at how our community depends on lobstering, on what we can do to keep lobstering here. They went to Herring Gut to study the lobsters, they monitored a web cam placed in a trap, they talked to lobstermen, they produced a video about lobsters and lobstering, they created placemats about lobstering and sold them to local restaurants.”

Unit teaching, Miller admits, is nothing new, but she says EL is more focused and concentrates on specific standards appropriate to the topic. In the case of the 2nd grade lobster expedition, that meant teaching the students how to convey information about lobsters and lobstering through writing, how to read informational material, and how to use math and science skills when collecting scientific data at Herring Gut. The students even read a book about lobstering in French during French class. Most important, Miller emphasizes, the EL experience makes learning “authentic” because it is rooted in meaningful, real-life enquiry and has a goal of coming up with a valuable final product that can be shared with the community. “The kids get an understanding of why they need to know how to write, of why they need to know science.”

Given the Outward Bound genesis of EL, it is also not surprising that a key feature of the EL approach to education is that students are expected to take strong ownership of their learning.

“In just about everything our students are self-assessing their learning,” Miller explains. “So rather than parent/teacher conferences, we have student-led conferences. The students know what is expected of them, what the learning targets are and the steps to take to become proficient in meeting those targets. They know that they all won’t necessarily be able to ride a bike the first time they get on a bike, that it takes multiple opportunities to try riding, that it takes practice. So for the student it is more about what can I do as a learner—I may not know how to do this but I can try in different ways and if that doesn’t work there are multiple opportunities to try again. We’re focused on teaching perseverance and a ‘growth’ mindset across the school.”

In this regard, the thing that most obviously reflects the St. George School’s perseverance and growth mindset is that no student becomes pigeonholed as, for example, an “A” student or a “C” student. Instead the students are evaluated in terms of “meeting standards,” “exceeding standards,” “partially meeting standards” and the like. Everyone, Miller says, is expected to meet the standards, but it’s not that they have just one shot, just one test in which to do so. “We have multiple measures of what success looks like. And no matter where our kids are we have good data to support that they are growing. Meeting kids where they are is what we do.”

For the school’s teachers, meeting students where they are, along with working collaboratively in teams and focusing on interdisciplinary “expeditions,” presents a significant challenge.

“The teachers all had to buy into this goal of becoming an EL school,” Miller stresses. “We all had to say we know it’s a lot of work—it’s a new way of looking at the way we’ve always done things. It’s incorporating all the content areas together for different lengths of time rather than just saying math is from 9am to 10am, writing is from 10am to 11am. It’s collaborating with other teachers, whereas in the past teachers were used to just being in their classroom with their class. This is more interdisciplinary, which takes more time to plan, to find the time to get with other teachers to discuss learning objectives and goals.”

Miller says there is also a lot of extra professional development involved. “Each teacher chooses two professional goals each year. An example might be learning how to incorporate technology into their literacy instruction. My job is to help them find professional development opportunities or to find resources for them or to support them by coming into their classroom and doing an observation to give them feedback. The teachers have to be willing to constantly change and improve. What we ask the kids to do we have to do ourselves.”

In some ways, Miller adds, teaching today is different than it used to be. “Maybe we are more aware of needing to meet the needs of the whole child. I think that is something we’re really doing well here. Our school is small and tight enough to feel that we really know the students well. We are very in tune with the whole child in front of us.”

Miller, who grew up in St. George (a Jacobson, her great grandfather came here from Sweden to work in the quarries), also believes it is not possible to talk about how the St. George School’s innovative approach to education is benefitting students without acknowledging the support the larger community provides. “There’s something about this community that we really care about one another. The school has an open campus in a way—we get extra support from the town’s Recreation Department, the Jackson Memorial Library, Blueberry Cove Camp, Herring Gut Learning Center, math camp and sailing camp in the summer. And the kids just eat it up!”—JW

PHOTOS: Top, Julie Wortman, bottom, courtesty Herring Gut Learning Center

Inside the Makerspace: a place for learning Yankee ingenuity

by Tucker Adams, Liam O’Neal, and Gavin Young    by Tucker Adams, Liam O’Neal, and Gavin Young   

Mr. Paul Meinersmann

A Makerspace is a place where people with shared interests, specifically in computing and technology, can go to share or work on projects with others. In the St. George School library, there is such a place. Maintained by Mr. Paul Meinersmann, the school’s technology director, it’s an exciting new space. Classes work in the space when they are ready to create projects that match what they’ve learned in class. Recently for example, 5th graders etched designs inspired by Native American art into pieces of slate with the laser cutter. Middle-level kids can go there during lunch recess on Wednesdays and Thursdays to work on and share projects.

Our small group of three reporters went to the Makerspace to ask Mr. Meinersmann some questions about just what he does up there. When asked about what tools he has in the Makerspace, he replied,  “Here in the Makerspace we have two large tools. Last year we were given the 3D printer by the Perloff Family Foundation, and we’ve used it for a variety of projects. This year, with some money that was donated, and then some matching funds that we’ve raised, we purchased a laser cutter. Now, the laser cutter is a pretty amazing tool, because we can cut paper, fabric, wood, acrylics, engrave glass or stone, or on wood, on fabric, and so there are a variety of things with that.”

We then asked him what projects were happening in the space now. “Well, we just wrapped up a laser-cutting project with the 2nd grade where each of those students who are studying a different animal this year drew an animal, and we went through a few iterations of them. So they did a first draft, and we cut it out on the laser cutter and gave them some feedback, and they did a second draft. So ultimately each kid has their drawing, and then cardboard cutout, and then the final wood cut-out. I think they’re going to paint them up and make shoebox dioramas using those animals they’ve been studying.”

The next question for Paul was about what tools were his favorites. “Well, the laser cutter’s pretty amazing, with the number of things we can do in terms of taking flat objects like those kids did with the drawings, and also look at how we can do three-dimensional drawings. But then there’s also more advanced things we can do. For example, the marsh alewive project is looking at how we can take the topography of the watershed of the marsh and break that down into different layers and cut each layer out in the laser cutter and assemble it as a three-dimensional map of the watershed.”

Mr. Meinersmann was then asked what he wants to see in the future for the space. “It’s not so much what’s in the space, but I’d like the students across the curriculum, across the school, utilizing the tools in the space that ultimately end up producing a final product. The challenge is getting it involved in more classes. I also want to have kids come to me and say, ‘Hey, I want to build something,’ and then work with me to come up with how to make that happen.”

Afterwards, we tested some of the things inside the space, like the BeeBots. The BeeBots are $75 tools for teaching young people programming. There are a number of buttons on top of the little machines, like forward, backward, left, right, and go. You basically program it to go on a path. After playing with those, we asked him to tell us anything he may have missed. “So, we talked earlier about the BeeBots, as a way to make this space accessible to the younger kids. We also have things like the Arduino, the Sparkfun Inventor Kit used to control sensors, or motors, or servos, to collect data and control a vehicle or a robotic arm. Then we’ve got little pieces we can loan out. For example, Mrs. England (St. George’s science teacher) currently has a thing called a pocket lab, to capture data that’s happening right at the moment, while it’s being created. Then you can download that data to measure a variety of things, like different types of force as you throw the object, acceleration, temperature, etc.  It’s an amazing tool that I think has been used with the 6th grade recently.”

Some of us 7th graders also go to the Makerspace on Wednesdays and Thursdays to use something called a Raspberry Pi. It is a $35 computer that can be used to learn programming and algorithms. It really is a good deal, because it comes installed with your normal computer things, plus a Raspberry Pi exclusive Minecraft Pi Edition.

Mr. Mike Felton, the school’s superintendent says about the Makerspace, “The Makerspace is both an innovative force and something that helps us return to our roots.  Students learn about new design software and how to transform ideas into reality using a 3D Printer and laser cutter.  However, at its heart, the Makerspace is about tinkering, inventing, and Yankee ingenuity—characteristics of every strong Maine community.”

Yes, the Makerspace is a wonderful place for all ages, and we would love to see it grow and expand across the many years to come.

Dontae’s buffalo etching

(Adams, O’Neal and Young are 7th grade students at the St. George School.)

PHOTO: Liam O’Neal

Rare Wyeth print donated to Lighthouse Museum

Bob and Jay Sierer (center) present the signed Wyeth print to Diana Bolton, Chairman, and Nat Lyon, Curator, of the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum.

This past December Robert and Betsy Webber donated a rare, signed Andrew Wyeth print entitled “Marshall Point Light” to the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum committee in honor of Bob and Jaye Sierer for their longtime service and dedication to the museum. The Sierers made the presentation on behalf of Robert and Betsy Webber.

Betsy’s mother, Elsie Lowell Green, originally purchased the print at Senter-Crane Department Store in Rockland, Maine in 1940. Elsie and Andrew Wyeth became friends while spending summers on Horse Point Road in Port Clyde. Their friendship lasted many years and in 2004 Andrew Wyeth signed the print for Elsie.

Andrew Wyeth painted the original watercolor in the 1930s, while still in his twenties. In 1940 Ketterlinus Printing Company of Philadelphia, which also printed works by his father, N. C. Wyeth, printed a calendar which contained the “Marshall Point Light” print. It is believed to be one of the first Wyeth watercolors to be released as a print. Not long after the production of the calendar Ketterlinus lost its building to fire, which destroyed most of the Wyeth calendars. Few remain and the print that was donated to Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum may be the only known signed print of “Marshall Point Light”.

The signed Andrew Wyeth print will be on display when the museum opens to the public in the spring of 2017.

PHOTO: Laura Betancourt

Winter pursuits

By Bryson Mattox

Addie McPhail tries out cross-country skiing.

On February 17th, all of the students and teachers of St. George School got to participate in Winter Pursuits Day. We had big snow storms earlier that week, so there was lots of snow and the temperature was comfortable. It was a perfect day to play outside.  Mr. Theriault, 3rd-grade teacher, thought of the idea, organized the activities, and rented the supplies from Maine Sport so that everyone in grades K-8 could try out a new sport.

Everyone had a choice of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. For cross-country skiing, we went down to the soccer field and played around with the skis.  After maybe a half hour, we went on the nature trail for a little while, then we went in to heat up.  The parents’ group provided hot chocolate for us.

For snowshoeing we hiked and packed down snow on the nature trail.  It was packed full of fun and adventure and was a good workout, too. Kindergarten kids got to do winter ecology games with Ms. Palmer.  Everyone got to play in the snow and go sledding.  Overall, we had a ton of fun at Winter Pursuits Day.

(Mattox is a  5th grade student at the St. George School.)

PHOTO: Alison England

February SGBA meeting

On Tuesday, February 28, The St. George Business Alliance sponsored “Pulling on the Same Line: The Impact of Commercial Fisheries and Marine Activities on St. George.” Panelists were Josh Miller of the Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Coop, Glen Libby of Port Clyde Fresh Catch, and Ben Martens of Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association. For more information about the meeting, the new visitors/newcomer’s guide and the 2017 Business Expo/Job Fair, visit

PHOTO: Betsy Welch

Dartmouth and Maine honor a lifetime commitment to social justice and the environment

On January 26, St. George resident Leonard Greenhalgh was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from Dartmouth College, one of the social justice awards associated with the school’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration. Specifically, the award honors Greenhalgh’s pioneering work in developing executive education programs for minority, women and Native American business owners.

Greenhalgh is better known in St. George for his work transforming the old John Meehan Quarry (later the Alfred Hocking Quarry) on the Clark Island Road into a wildlife refuge that he eventually named the Wheeler Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Coincidentally, Greenhalgh was also notified last month that he has been awarded a 2016 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for that 30-year environmental restoration effort, which he financed almost entirely at his own expense.

Greenhalgh readily admits that in neither case did he set out to make a lifetime commitment to the work for which he is now being honored. Speaking of the Dartmouth award, he says, “That is how my career has been. It hasn’t been carefully planned but my heart has always gone out to women and minorities and poor people.” And, as he notes on the Sanctuary’s website, “I didn’t start out looking for an environmental restoration and preservation project.” In fact, he says, a chance—and at that time rare—encounter with an osprey carrying a fish in the summer of 1986 led him to a nest in the middle of a flooded quarry on the Clark Island Road. “As I was leaving I saw a small For Sale sign by the old quarry office. My only thought was that this unique nesting site had to be protected.”

Greenhalgh was born and spent his early years in a working-class neighborhood of Manchester, England. His parents had an opportunity to emigrate to the United States for work in 1959. “And then the whole world opened up to me,” Greenhalgh recalls. “In England they decided I had a future as a scientist so I was way ahead in science when I got to America. But I had no idea about colleges.”

On the advice of an adult mentor he applied to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a vague idea of pursuing a degree in chemical engineering. But almost as soon as he got there he realized that field wasn’t for him. “I went to a Jacques Cousteau movie that was showing on campus. There was this guy swimming around a coral reef with this woman in a bikini. So I said I wanted to become a marine biologist—anything would be better than being a chemical engineer! A distant relative said that the University of Rhode Island (URI) was a good school for oceanography so that is where I went.”

Greenhalgh’s time at URI went well academically, but the civil rights movement was also front-and-center during those years. “So it’s the 1960s and college campuses were caught up in the civil rights movement. I spent some time in the deep South with a roommate and I realized how bad people were being treated—whites-only drinking fountains and all the rest. I just thought this was wrong.” But at this point that conviction implied no particular vocational path. Then a car accident just before graduation from URI left him temporarily confined to a wheelchair, so he took a desk job with a corporation.

He did well in the corporate world and was rapidly promoted. One of his old URI professors suggested he should capitalize on this success and return to URI for a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree, which he did, using his business experience and the MBA to launch a career as a business consultant. “That’s when I first realized just how much the system was rigged against women and minorities.”

Eventually Greenhalgh burned out on business consulting. “I was good at it, but it began to be boring.” A friend who was a senior professor at Cornell University invited him to come there to get a PhD in business, with a focus on labor relations. “Basically I worked on civil rights projects,” Greenhalgh notes.

One such project was aimed at helping disabled people become integrated into mainstream workplace environments. Then the school’s dean gave him a job working with people who were going to lose their jobs as the State of New York closed its mental hospitals. “Nobody had ever studied job insecurity. In my travels interviewing people around the state I found that the people who were having the hardest time were blacks, hispanics and women. These were the people most recently hired and so were the first to be forced to leave in a layoff. Discrimination made it difficult for these people to find re-employment. So I got heavily involved with the employment risks for women and minorities.”

After earning his PhD in 1978 he was offered a faculty position at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. The next year the federal government’s Small Business Administration began talking to Tuck about the increasing proportion of minorities in the United States who needed to have jobs and needed to be incorporated into the country’s business system. “Minorities were starting up businesses but they were failing—they didn’t have the background because they had always been kept out of business ownership. So, given my experience at Cornell, I was asked to teach in the program.”

It wasn’t until Greenhalgh was faced with a decision about whether to take a job at another business school that he came to Tuck’s dean with a proposal to make Tuck’s small, once-a-year minority business program into a year-round part of the curriculum. He officially became director of Programs for Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises in 2002 and Director of Native American Business Programs in 2003. This year there are at least 11 short courses scheduled. “I’ve also been working with veterans and other communities—if anybody has faced historical discrimination I’m there to help. My portfolio has become more national over the years.”

Unlike with business consulting, Greenhalgh has never been bored by his civil rights work. “Every time I run a program, I learn like crazy.” His work with people in Indian country is a case in point. “Their language is different, their culture is different, every reservation is different and it starts with mistrust because there have been 550 treaties that the United States has signed with Indian tribes and the United States government has broken every one of them, all 550.”

Greenhalgh’s civil rights work and his environmental interests—even while at Cornell he was deeply involved with rehabilitating endangered species through the Peregrine Fund—have run a parallel course for more than 40 years. His environmental restoration work at the old quarry on Clark Island Road took up his summers and weekends, and eventually led him to sell his home in Hanover and make St. George his primary residence. “Most of the civil rights stuff I do is intellectual and somewhat intangible,” he says. “So physically building a new pond gives me a tangible sense of accomplishment. And I don’t have to go to a gym to keep physically fit.” On a more serious note he adds, “Here, the animals are my community. And my other community is the handicapped, the women, the minorities, the native people who I try to serve.”—JW

PHOTOS: Top, Julie Wortman, bottom, Jocelyn Paquette

A tale of ‘some serious mid-life rehab’

By Kevin Curtin
 Recently I found myself on the lower level of the Jackson Memorial Library practicing Chi Gong (Qi Gong) with 10 others, led by our instructor Tim English. I immediately felt the good energy and camaraderie of this circle. Why hadn’t I discovered these sessions sooner? To answer that, let’s recap the previous winter of 2015-2016. I had been teaching college English, and building stone walls all spring, summer, fall, and on towards Christmas time. The cold and the long season were starting to tell on my body and energy reserves. Home one evening, I felt a strange knot sticking out of my back that shouldn’t have been there. I thought, “I don’t want to finish every season stove up like a hunchback–another ex-waller forced to retire because their body’s given out.”

“Self,” I said, “You’re 58 years old and its time for some serious mid-life rehab.” So I went to that shelf of my library with all the yoga, accupuncture, Feldenkrais, Feng Shui, and meditation books—my wife calls it the “Weirdness Section.” I started with “cat stretches” each morning, 10 short Feldenkrais exercises that reconnect you with better movement and alignment. A lot of these exercises open up the back, hips, legs, feet, neck, etc. It was a start on the way back.

My next step towards curing the ogreish back and finding a younger me was crucial:  joining a weekly indoor tennis group. Over the years I had gotten away from tennis as walling jobs increased, laying on the couch weekends instead of getting aerobic exercise. With tennis, you cannot show up as a stiff hunchback and play with any pleasure—you have to be quick of foot, loose, and limber.  Indoor tennis also requires speed of hand and eye. I found I still could run better than my hitting partners, but once I got to the ball, it could get ugly. Timing and technique were way off. Enter Seth Meyer, hit-group and tennis guru. He gave me some lessons  to re-shape and shorten my forehand swing, and kept up constant encouragement and whispered tips as I struggled against better hitters. One day I was surprised that we were picking up the balls to end the hour—I hadn’t been watching the big clock over the courts at all. I was beginning to move like an athlete again, not some gasping gargoyle.

That inner voice inside me started clamoring, “I want to get better, I have to get better.” I wanted my old youthful energy back for good. Slowly, that knot sticking out of my back slipped back into its proper place. I began walling again, keeping my one weekly tennis session. Then,  I discovered a book about the health benefits of five Shaolin Chi Gong stances. I began practicing the stances and other Chi Gong swings each morning and night, which I credit for keeping me injury-free this past year—my busiest walling season to date.

From the Chi Gong tradition I also learned about “setting a gong,” 100 days when you vow to practice or discipline yourself with small things. It’s like New Year’s resolutions, but with lasting results. My gong was pretty simple: Practice Chi Gong in the morning and before bed; forego alcohol and caffeine. I picked these things to work on because my two-beer-a-night habit was slowing me down; and caffeine often made my hyper nature too jittery.

Starting in September, that was it. I got through the 100 days pretty easily. I substituted herbal teas for Starbucks, and “near beer” for I.P.A.s.  I started seeing the ball better in tennis, and I had more and more energy at work and play.  At the end of the gong, I realized that I didn’t miss the alcohol or caffeine, that my body and nerves performed much better without them—though now I am a wicked fan of non alcoholic beer spiked with fresh lime.

So it was many things that got me to Tim England’s Chi Gong class at the Jackson Memorial Library this winter. Sometimes it just takes a huge knot sticking out of your back to give you resolve. After class, all the people leaving have light in their eyes, many smiles, and the bubbling energy of an hour well spent raising the Chi with our guide.  I sense we are all glimpsing a way back to our birthright—good energy in abundance to share with the world.

Curtin, who lives on Hart’s Neck Road, builds stone walls and teaches college English for a living. A feature on his walling work, “When a love of language is the driving force behind a Waller’s art,” appeared in the November 3, 2016 issue of The St. George Dragon.


On Saturday, January 21, a word-of-mouth gathering of about 60 adults and young people marched from the St. George Town Office to the Post Office and back as part of the Women’s Marches occurring that day throughout the United States and world in support of women, the environment, civil liberties and justice for all.

PHOTO: John McConochie

Girls middle school team crowned Busline League champs

Both championship girls and boys teams

By Sophia Vigue

Friday, January 20, both St. George 8th grade boys and girls teams went to the Busline League middle school small school division title championships. The boys played against Lincolnville, and the girls against Hope.

The girls’ 8th grade players were: Seanna Montgomery, Grace Cody, Leah Cushman, Jordan Beal, Grace Young, Ruby Long, Kaylee Soto. The team’s three 7th grade players were: Cassi Evans, Sophia Vigue, and Noelle Delano. The coach was Chris Mills.

Earlier that week, both teams had claimed southern division championships. The girls played at home against Nobleboro, taking the lead with a final score of 42-32. The boys had an exciting southern division championship game at their hardest competition, Woolwich. The game was close for a long time, but St George took the lead. At the end of the game, they won 70-67.

After both teams were crowned as southern division champions, they went to the Busline League Championships at Wiscasset Middle/High School, where they played against the northern division Champions (Lincolnville boys and Hope girls).  The crowds from St. George were big and loud and very supportive. Lots of community members, parents and classmates were there.

At the end of the day, both teams had hard games, but were now Busline League champs, and got a police escort home by Pat Polky and Jeremy Joslyn. When they crossed the St George town line, they were joined by firetrucks and ambulances driven by R.J. Polky, Chris Leavitt, Ben Caron, Candy Davis, and others. Our school’s head of maintenance, Mr. Randy Elwell, arranged all of this for us. So if you heard some sirens late that Friday night, it wasn’t a fire… it was two victories for St George!

“It was a great season with great teammates, and we were all happy we won the championship game,” said Jordan Beal. “We had some hard games, and easy games, but we made it through with a 15-0 season! GO DRAGONS!”

“This season was the best season ever!” Grace Young exclaimed. “We played great and I wish it never had ended!”

“Thanks to Chris and my teammates, we learned lots of skills and teamwork we used in the games (which is why we were undefeated, of course). We had so much fun!” Kaylee Soto told me.

“I’m very proud of our undefeated team. It’s been a great season with lots of improvement from everyone,” said Leah Cushman.

Next year, the 8th graders will go to their choice of high schools and we will split up, so winning the championship was a great way to end their middle-school basketball experience and most will never forget it.

(Vigue is a 7th-grade student at the St. George School.) 

PHOTO: Patricia Conrad