Fresh Catch - Friday 13 September 2013
This is School by John D’Aneiri – If anyone was still wondering what Harpswell Coastal Academy is all about, our Thursday excursion to Stover’s Cove would have provided some answers. Sixty students and six staff members, almost all of whom walked at least half of the 1.25 miles, converged on one Harpswell’s cherished shoreline spots. The students, armed with only one piece of paper, a pencil, and a ruler (thanks, Mike!) were charged with two things:
- gathering an individual data set – fancy language for counting something – that would help us develop an understanding of the Stover’s Cove ecosystem. Some counted rocks, seeweed, crab claws, shore birds, rope remnants.
- collaborating with two other students to make observations that would enable an accurate map of Stover’s Cove to be created back in the classroom.
Our two hours on Stover’s Cove produced enough data – and enough curiosity – to focus student work for the rest of Thursday and Friday and well into next week as we draft, redraft, and redraft some more our maps, our headlines (“Three teenage boys make shocking discovery at Stover’s Cove!”) and our short articles.
Like almost all our planned learning experiences over the first three weeks, the Stover’s Cove field work is designed to help build our school culture more than it is to accomplish particular curriculum goals. We’ve already introduced our students to concepts such as restorative justice, Habits of Work and Learning, and student work teams.
On Friday afternoon, if you drove by HCA between 2 and 3:30 you would have seen students hands waving at the windows – not waving at cars, but holding rags as they cleaned windows that had not been cleaned in a long time.
Our staff has been amazing – flexible, tireless, creative, compassionate – but over and above everything else, calm. There are plenty of things that will take us some time to figure out and put into a reliable system, like transportation. But despite the start-up glitches and way too much time spend on the phone, our staff projected the kind of calm competence that students pick up on. By Friday, I think we were all pleasantly surprised at how easily our young people seemed to by setting into some unconventional or unfamiliar routines.
The fact that we were able to start so strong and know that we’ll be resilient as we face start-up challenges has a great deal to do with our Board of Directors, our Advisory Committee, our Founders, and our colleagues at MSAD 75. Many members of this community took a stand, came to a meeting, called a friend, wrote a check, or in many other ways “built” this school.
We’ll be seeing the results over the course of the year and in years to come, but I’ve already lost count of parents who’ve said to something to the effect of, “This is the first time my child has ever actually looked forward to (felt safe in, not hated) school.” We all still have a ton of work to do follow through on the promise, but that’s a pretty good place to start – much thanks to everyone who made it possible!
Tuesday Fresh Catch blogger is Micah Depper