Making a Student’s Dream Come True with TREE in Milbridge

by Hazel Stark

If a child came to you with a dream about “someday,” wouldn’t you want to help make that dream come true? Cobscook Community Learning Center’s Transforming Rural Experience in Education (TREE) program is working on accomplishing just that by listening to local students and helping weave their voices into the academic goals of their classrooms through their “Somedays” project. TREE realized when a Milbridge Elementary School 3rd-grader announced her wish for an outdoor shelter at school that Maine Outdoor School could help make that dream come true, so TREE provided the funding for Maine Outdoor School to lead a two-part program for her whole class of  Milbridge 3rd-graders.

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Part one of this shelter-focused series prioritized developing student teamwork and collaboration skills through a short challenge followed by small group projects. For their projects, students built small shelters with found natural objects for a local animal of their choice in order to determine the qualities of a good shelter. At the conclusion of part one, students shared that the most important part of shelter-building was communicating well with each other so that they could collaborate and stay safe. They also shared a list of criteria of a good shelter, including the need for it to be sturdy, comfortable, and weather-proof.

TREE and MOS leaders then gathered materials that would meet the students’ criteria and allow students to put together their own portable outdoor classroom: a lean-to shelter made out of a canvas tarp, two long poles, stakes, rope, and a wooden mallet. Prepared with these materials, part two involved the whole 3rd-grade class working together to set up their very own shelter. Everyone had a job that made sure the process would be safe and effective: scribes, safety students, canvas caretakers, stake-stickers, and pole putter-uppers. The girl whose idea it was in the first place had the honor of pounding in the last stake, formally transforming the pile of wood, canvas, and rope into an outdoor learning space. 

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With ropes tightened, safety checked, and shelter ready, the whole class went into the shelter and talked about how they would like their school to use this portable outdoor classroom in the future. “We could read stories in here!” “We could quietly observe nature in here!” “We could sleep in here!” “We could have any class in here instead of in the classroom!”

We can’t wait to see how Milbridge Elementary uses this portable outdoor classroom in the future and are grateful for TREE’s collaboration with MOS and, more importantly, their support of student voice!

Do you know someone who would be interested in MOS programming? Learn more about our Educational Programs and contact us! You can also learn more about Transforming Rural Experience in Education (TREE) here.
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