Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category


In Today’s News

November 27, 2020

Music teacher taking action about hunger in Maine

Michael Arell, the director of music for Veazie Community School, is doing something in response to something he heard on the radio during his morning commute. At least 12 percent of Maine households were food insecure in 2019, higher than the national average, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

So what is Arell doing? He has self-recorded a Christmas Album and is selling it for $10 on his website. The proceeds will go to the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

Michael Arell, the director of music for Veazie Community School, plays the piano during a graduate recital in 2019. Arell is pledging to donate profits from his self-recorded Christmas Album to the Good Shepherd Food Bank.

READ the entire article from the Bangor Daily News. Thank you Michael!

Arell’s Christmas Album is available for streaming on Youtube, Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music. People can purchase a digital copy of the full album for $10 on his website.


Morse High School Theater

November 25, 2020

On the lawn performance

Our Town was performed by Morse High School students in October outside on the school lawn. Kevin O’Leary teaches drama teacher, 9th grade English and is responsible for the drama program at Morse High School.

Kevin explained the situation for performing this fall.

We had five platforms, distanced 14 feet apart (think of the black dots on dice). When an actor was on the platform, he/she/they removed the mask. When the actors were on the periphery, they kept their mask on. In a word, all masks stayed on until the actors stepped onto the platform. No actor was ever closer than 14 feet from platform to platform. We allowed only 25 audience members per show. All audience members (4 or 5 per side of the squared acting area) were masked and were at least 14 feet away from the unmasked actor on the platform. It’s a good thing we did the show prior to the new guidelines. We would not be able to do this now. Here’s to better days ahead.

I couldn’t agree more with Kevin – better days ahead! If you have questions for Kevin please email him at


Steel Pans

November 24, 2020

Such a sound they make!!

This blog post is an interview with John Kollman, music teacher in the Hermon School District. John’s passion for steel pans is alive and enthusiastic! His students in Hermon are fortunate to have him as a teacher!

John grew up in Bar Harbor and played drums and sang all through school.  He got my music performance degree from U Maine and music education credits from USM. He went into music because I really have never been interested in anything else. John has have taught at all three schools in Hermon at various times for the past 14 years including General Music k-5, Choral Music 5-12, and Guitar and Steel Pans 9-12. He currently teaches guitar, choir, and five sections of steel pans at Hermon High School. John lives in Bangor with his wife and four children.

How did you get started with steel pans and providing a program at the schools in Hermon?

It all started when my wife and I were attending the Robinson Ballet’s spring show in Bangor in 2005.  The high school-aged steel pan band from Blue Hill “Planet Pan” was providing accompaniment for a few of the dance numbers plus playing a few on their own.  When I heard the band playing this music I felt a musical joy that I had not yet experienced in my life.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  The music was so exciting and new to me.  I was floored.  I instantly knew that I had to be a part of it.  A few weeks later we attended a street-dance featuring “Flash in the Pans”, the community steel band also based in Blue Hill.  We danced all night and had an amazing time.  Later that summer, I contacted the director of “Flash in the Pans”, Carl Chase, and he pointed me toward an adult beginner class happening at George Stevens Academy.  Playing the music was even more fun!  I purchased my own set of pans and joined “Flash in the Pans” the following spring. Playing in a big steel pan band with hundreds of people dancing in front of you is like no other musical experience that I have ever had. And 15 years later I can say, it never gets old!  The power and raw sound of a steel band is unmatched. Needless to say, I really wanted to start a steel pan program where I taught music in Hermon so that these musical feelings could be spread far and wide. So I pitched the idea to our newly formed arts boosters organization and we quickly got working on it and put together a proposal. I’ll give some strategies on how to do this a little later.

Tell the blog readers about the steel pan program you’ve established.

We were lucky enough to start our program in 2009 with 14 sets of pans.  It started as an after-school program for four levels, 3rd and 4th grade, middle school, high school, and adult.  The following year we were able to offer it as a regular high school class for a fine arts credit.  Since then we have been able to add instruments (all from after-school lesson fees and gig donations) and we can accommodate 25 players.  The first high school class started with one class of eight players and has since grown to five sections with around 125 students involved each year.  The after-school programs continue to thrive as well (temporarily on-hold for obvious reasons).  Our community band, PanStorm, plays parades, festivals and dances throughout the greater Bangor area.

What are the benefits of providing the program?

       Steel pan music is the only form of music that I have ever seen small children, teenagers (always a hard group to please), and adults of every age dancing together and having a wonderful time. The music seems to speak to everyone from all kinds of different backgrounds. Another key element is the accessible nature of the instruments. You can take a group of people that have never played an instrument or sang in a choir before and have them playing something that sounds pretty good in about an hour. People have a good time and gain confidence quickly. Especially at the high school level, I have seen lots of students who never got involved in the traditional ensembles (which I also love, don’t get me wrong) having a lot of success in a pan ensemble. On the flip side of that, I have been able to get students into my chamber choir from the pan program who normally would have never thought of it before.  Steel pans reach some of the students who were not reached by the traditional paths which equals more kids involved in music.

John Kollman on the left in this photo next to his son

Describe a moment or opportunity when the value of the program was made clear.

Early on in the program, our elementary groups performed at the regular elementary school concert.  Afterwards, I was approached by an audience member who said he was amazed that students that young could actually play music at such a high level.  He was bracing himself beforehand and then couldn’t believe how good they sounded. The value of the program is clear when you look on the faces of the players and the audience members and see pure joy.

Are there connections to be made beyond the school for students?

       A lot of students that started playing in school are now in the community band playing at festivals and parades. Pans also have a rich history coming from the island of Trinidad deep in the Caribbean that can be explored. Steel pan bands are emerging all over the world. It is a fast-growing art form.

What are your suggestions for others who are considering starting a program?

First I would say, you definitely should!  What we did in Hermon was:             

  1. Have a steel band perform for the school, a concert and a workshop (nowadays, a video presentation might be the only option).             
  2. Circulate a petition and have students who might be interested in playing sign it (with no firm commitment, you get a lot of signatures).             
  3. Put together a proposal using video and signatures.  I pitched it as financially self-supporting due to after school lesson fees and gig donations after the initial cost (and this has turned out to be very true).

What are the costs to start a program?

The initial cost can be a little daunting because all pans are hand-made by a highly skilled craftsperson and the cost reflects that.  You can find pans for $800 to $1500 depending on the kind and quality.  You can start with just a few sets and get it rolling that way.  People love to play them and love the sound.  They sell themselves if you can set it up right.  If anyone is interested in starting a program and needs help or ideas, please feel free to email John Kollman at  Below is a video of the PanStorm community steel band performing in the July 4th parade, 2019.    


Support the Theatre

November 20, 2020

I LOVE this and hope you will also love this! Filmed London’s West End the song is from The Greatest Showman and is reminding us that the theatre community needs our support.


Samantha Smith Challenge

November 19, 2020

Guidelines available

The guidelines for Americans Who Tell the Truth‘s (AWTT) Samantha Smith Challenge are posted on the website ( Connie Carter, Education Director, from AWTT hopes that you and your students will take this opportunity to engage in this challenge as we work collectively to find creative and powerful ways to make our society stronger.


The Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) is a dynamic educational program for Maine middle and high school students that uses art to to build a bridge between the classroom and the world to create curious, courageous, and engaged citizens. SSC projects teach students that, no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see around them.  

Maine student, Peace Activist, 1972-1985

SSC 2020-2021: Show US Who You Are

As Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) reflects on the past year and looks forward to the months ahead, we are asking students this year to focus on one of three critical themes – racial equity, climate change, and health care. The SSC asks students to use their voices on one of these topics, take action, and Show US Who You Are. AWTT portrait subjects model how the beliefs, voices, and actions of youth can influence important social justice issues. Check out: 

Kelsey Juliana
Zyahna Bryant
Claudette Colvin
Becci Ingram
Rachel Corrie
Barbara Johns
LeAlan Jones
Nicole and Jonas Maines
Chloe Maxmin
and, of course, Samantha Smith

There is no deadline for registering unless you want to have a virtual visit Robert Shetterly and Connie. Please contact Connie Carter at with question or if you’d like to connect with any of the living portrait subjects about your projects.  

A warm message from Connie: “Thank you all for being phenomenal educators in a time that demands so much.  Your students are very fortunate to have you!


Watershed Resources

November 18, 2020

New resources are now available about finding, processing, and creating with native Maine clay. With support from the Maine Arts Commission and the Anonimo Foundation, Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts education team has created resources for teachers, students, and makers interested in working with clay found in Maine’s great outdoors. Follow the link below to access videos and tutorials on digging and processing glacial marine clay.  

The videos feature Watershed and Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist Malley Weber.

The Maine Clay Tutorials are interesting and creative, I’m sure you and your students will learn from them and enjoy them.

Artist Malley Weber

Teaching and Learning Outside

November 17, 2020

You in or out or ?

During the last few months we’ve been hearing about moving the classroom outside since it is safer than being inside during the pandemic. Many teachers patched together how to teach online in the spring, the summer studying how to teach online and simultaneously with students in person. Many are holding their breath that the pandemic doesn’t worsen so they are forced to go full time online once again and I see in the news this morning that is happening in some schools across the state of Maine.

In the Maine Sunday Telegram this past weekend an article was included written by Rachel Ohm about what many Maine school districts and teachers are doing to move learning outdoors. The benefit to students learning visual arts outside are numerous. Close observation for drawing, painting, sculpting and actual experiences with a variety of textures are just two examples that make the curriculum more authentic and engage learners at a deeper level.

PORTLAND, ME – NOVEMBER 13: Katie West teaches an outdoor art class to third graders in the woods at Lyseth Elementary School in Portland on Friday, November 13, 2020. (Staff Photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer)


The article includes how art teacher Katie West is using an outdoor classroom at Lyseth Elementary School in Portland. As long as her students are safe she plans to continue teaching outside. Her classroom includes a tarp with waterproof cushions and stumps for students to stay appropriately space. I’m sure some of you are wondering about the winter elements and learners being prepared with the clothing to keep them warm. Fortunately the school district is using some of their relief funds to purchase clothing for students; 500 hats and 1,000 pairs of gloves have been distributed to students. Six-hundred pairs of snow pants are expected to arrive after Thanksgiving. An order of fleece will be cut up into blankets and neck warmers. Katie has received a $1,000 grant to start a gear exchange for the students at Lyseth.


South Portland Schools have created over 90 outdoor learning spaces across eight schools for outdoor instruction to take place. The grades K-5 students in Freeport have the option for remote learning with the Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment. In Alna the the PK-grade 5 Juniper Hill School has been teaching and learning outside since it was established in 2011 with the school’s focus on nature. At Sweetland School in Hope (where I teach) over the summer a gazebo was built so teaching and learning can take place in a location protected from the elements. Along with the gazebo they have a greenhouse complete with a wood stove that is used for another outdoor learning space.

PORTLAND, ME – NOVEMBER 13: Third grader Gianna Meas works on her painting of a tree during an outdoor art class in the woods at Lyseth Elementary School in Portland on Friday, November 13, 2020. (Staff Photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer)


About a year ago Kate Ehrenfeld Gardoqui wrote an article that was published in Education Week called The Irrefutable Case for Taking Class Outside. She told a story about being at a Teacher of the Year event when someone made this comment to her: “Oh, you do the nature stuff, right? That sounds so fun!” As visual and performing arts educators we can relate to that type of comment, right? Kate works with the Great Schools Partnership and is the cofounder of White Pine Programs, a nature-connection organization in southern Maine. She was a finalist for the 2011 Maine State Teacher of the Year. Needless to say Kate is no slouch when it comes to teaching and learning. She included in her article that teachers who simply don’t know what is taught and learned in outdoor education can’t possibly understand the potential of the curriculum. Her story drives the point home about how we not only have to education children but adults as well.

I heard from Kate yesterday and she said how inspiring the work that Maine schools are doing opening the door to incorporating outdoor learning throughout the school day. She shared information about three schools.

  • Kingfield Elementary, where teacher Selina Green Warren has spearheaded a vibrant gardening program, and principal Johanna Prince has supported many teachers in exploring the possibilities of outdoor learning. LEARN MORE. Selina’s work was started before the pandemic; when teachers at her school started searching for ways to bring learning outside, they realized what an amazing asset Selina’s garden was.
  • Great Works School in South Berwick has also been doing some amazing work on building year-round environments for outdoor learning. Here is an article about LEARN MORE.
  • Kate recently published a blog on the Great Schools Partnership page about some other programs that have been inspiring her. LEARN MORE.


” On the whole, my deepest wish is that one legacy of this pandemic is that more teachers will recognize the incredible value of learning experiences that don’t happen inside classrooms. There’s been so much loss, but I’m hoping that this might be one silver lining.

There’s plenty of resources available for those considering ‘taking your classroom outside’ I certainly agree with Kate and in addition I know that quality education programs in the Arts are not only providing deep meaningful learning but holding the hope in our hearts and minds that we will get through this pandemic and be better people for it!


Power Washing Art

November 13, 2020

Now this is a fun video to end your school week. Check out the awesome work of art that Ron Burkett created on his driveway using a pressure washer. While he was quarantined early this year he made this artwork. It took Ron about seven hours spread over two days to create this cool outdoor scene. I love the wildlife that he included in the driveway art. If you enjoyed this video you might also like to see a Remarkable Tree Stump Artist using a chain saw to turn a stump into a work of art. 



November 12, 2020

Global collection announced

Last week in Helsinki, Finland during the HundrED Innovation Summit 100 leading innovations in K12 education from around the world were announced. These free resources are part of the 4th Collection. The goal is to inspire a grassroots movement by helping pedagogically sound, ambitious innovations to spread and adapt to multiple contexts around the world.

Unfortunately, the in-person summit had to be adapted this year to an online opportunity. Luckily this didn’t get in the way of providing inspirational speakers, panels, and discussions for all participants. Educators were invited to share their creative ideas with an audience from around the world.

HundrED partnered with Lego to release a Spotlight Report on Creativity answering the question: How can we effectively nurture creativity in education? The report highlights that there are no shortages of ideas around the world that are scalable and impactful. You can access the report and read what was learned. I’m sure it will be important information for you navigating education at the local district and community level.


The Show Must Go On

November 6, 2020

Virtual choir

I learned in a Mindshift article about theater programs that continued throughout the summer. I came across this virtual choir including ‘All-Star Thespians’ from across the globe. Their performance saved in this YouTube video kicked off the first-ever Virtual International Thespian Festival. The virtual choir features 90 students from 38 states and 3 countries, plus Broadway performers Jason Alexander, Norbert Leo Butz, Joshua Colley, E. Clayton Cornelius, Janine DiVita, Matt Gumley, Sam Harris, Annabelle Kempf, Analise Scarpaci. I was moved by their performance “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman…and hope that it brings a smile to your face on this Friday.

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