Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins met with a group of students and teachers from East Grand School in Danforth, Maine, who were selected as finalists for the 2019 State Education Technology Directors Association’s (SETDA) Annual Student Voices Award. SETDA recognizes K-12 schools that have leveraged technology to dramatically improve educational experiences and achievement. This year’s theme was “The Future of Work,” and finalists were selected based on their innovative approaches to preparing students for careers. East Grand School was nominated for developing a project-based learning curriculum that empowers students through hands-on learning by blending innovative uses of technology with engagement in the school’s outdoor environment and local community.
The East Grand students were in D.C. to share their projects with educational technology leaders from across the country and world during SETDA’s Annual Leadership Summit. They were able to show how even in a rural and isolated area they have many opportunities to gain skills that will position them well for the future and how a school can be created so that all students have voices that matter. With the school’s project-based learning curriculum, which intentionally integrates technology, educators have seen students become more willing to take risks, be more persistent when challenged by learning, show empathy, encourage others more readily, and communicate more efficiently when working in groups.
“I was such a pleasure to congratulate this impressive group of students from East Grand on their achievement as one of only five finalists in SETDA’s annual competition,” said Senator Collins. “East Grand’s entire school community worked hard to create a truly unique learning environment, which inspires confidence, promotes team building, and encourages the pursuit of knowledge. The project-based curriculum’s focus on integrating technology will prepare these students for a bright future.”
The group included 9th grade students Emma Davis and Madison Napoli and 7th grade students Nathan Frye and Lucas Potter. The students were accompanied by East Grand Principal Margaret White; teachers Jill Plummer, Kim Gray, and Jennifer Fronczak; and Maine Department of Education Digital Learning Specialist Amanda Nguyen.
During their meeting, the students presented Senator Collins with a 3D-printed ornament they made featuring their school’s mascot. 3D printing is an example of one of the skills students learn in their project-based program. East Grand’s 3D printer was purchased through a grant provided by the Perloff Family Foundation, a Maine-based charity created by Dave and Sandy Perloff to foster STEM education in schools across the state. The Perloffs have donated 500 3D-printers for PreK-12 schools in Maine over the past three years and continue to support educators with professional learning opportunities.
SETDA, founded in 2001, is the national non-profit association representing the interests of U.S. state and territorial educational technology leadership. The organization’s mission is to build and increase the capacity of state and national leaders to improve education through technology policy and practice.