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Principal reports success in first week of 8th-grade experiential learning

With the first week of the 2019-2020 school year behind them, eighth-graders at Cape Elizabeth Middle School are reporting success with their new experiential learning program.

Principal Troy Eastman told members of the School Board that the first part of the program would focus on aquaculture, and that it's more than a day at the beach. "This isn't a field trip. It's really field work and getting that message across, it's really been exciting to watch and see how they're doing with that," Eastman said at the board's meeting on Sept. 10, 2019.

He introduced the program to the board last winter as part of his budget plan for fiscal 2020. No staff was added, but a team of teachers already working seventh-graders developed the program for what would be a relatively large (approximately 150 students) class of eighth-graders.

"It's really set up to try and get a lot more engagement going on in our school," Eastman told the board back in January. "This is a way I think that we can start to do that, and to demonstrate how we can be hitting our curriculum in different ways," he said. "It's at no additional cost, it's just a matter of how you choose to use your resources."

A first experience for the students was deciding on classroom design. They brought in an interior designer from the community to help with that process and to listen to their pitches, Eastman said.

"This is changing how school's happening for them right now, and it seems like it's a pretty good success," he said.

At a Future Search event held this spring, "Creative Experiential Learning" emerged as an example of the "Out of the Box Instruction and Assessment" envisioned for the schools as they develop a strategic plan for the next five years.