Archive for the ‘Resources’ Category


Americans Who Tell the Truth

November 10, 2017

Samantha Smith Challenge – Register by January 15, 2018

“If we could be friends by just getting to know each other better than what are our countries actually arguing about? Nothing could be more important than not having a war if a war could kill everything”. ~Samantha Smith

Samantha Smith

Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT), partnering with Maine Association for Middle Level Education (MAMLE), and the Center for Innovation in Education (CIE) at Thomas College, is excited to launch the Fourth Annual Samantha Smith Challenge. The Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC), a dynamic educational program for Maine middle school students, promotes social justice through the arts. It is designed to build a bridge between the classroom and the world and 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.

At the depths of the Cold War, when hot war between the Soviet Union and the United States seemed likely, a frightened young girl from Maine did something about that grim situation. Samantha Smith began by asking “Why?”. She went on to advocate for open communication and peace. A compelling storyteller, Samantha left us a legacy and an inspiring challenge: What can each of us do to make the world safer, healthier, and more fair?

Samantha was a narrative activist. By telling HER story she changed THE story-definitely a creative art! The power of the arts to deliver a message or to invoke action is indisputable. Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) combines art and other media to inspire a new generation of engaged Americans who will act for the common good, our communities, and the Earth. Over thirty of the AWTT portrait subjects have used the creative arts to inspire action and are located on the AWTT website.

The SSC is about identifying important community and world issues, understanding them, and making a compelling argument in an effective medium. After doing extensive research and engaging community members and experts, student participants in the SSC will make their case for positive change. They may paint a portrait of a truthteller in their community, create a dramatic production or tell a compelling story about their issue, or write music that makes us feel braver and less alone. They may write an essay that makes a powerful argument for why we should all join in their effort to make the world a better place. Some students may choose their medium while others may be working in a specific class that teaches drawing or painting, theater or filmmaking where the teacher will define the medium.

The SSC asks, “How/why can creative arts and writing inspire action on serious issues?” All participants in this year’s SSC will gather at Thomas College on June 4, 2018 to showcase and celebrate their work.

Use the arts to showcase and bring attention to your issue, your findings, and your actions.  FOR MORE INFORMATION about the program or contact REGISTER by January 15, 2018.


Growth Mindset

November 7, 2017

Growth Mindset

A great big thanks to Melanie Crowe, Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teacher Leader for collaborating to make the Twitter Chat on October 30 on Mindset possible. It is clear that the topic is not just being looked at closely in Maine schools but across the country.

Interestingly enough a day before the Twitter Chat Education Week provided several articles on the topic. They did a thorough job of providing information and resources on the topic. I have included the information from Education Week on the topic. The articles and research provide food for thought in support and opposed to Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset work. I encourage you to continue learning on the topic.

Growth Mindset articles from Education Week:

  • Carol Dweck provides a Commentary called Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’. It includes her thoughts on the research that she did for her book Growth Mindset that set this topic in motion. READ MORE.
  • Why a ‘Growth Mindset Won’t Work – John Hattie’s research shows that growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset has an effect size of .19 which is below the Hinge Point, and the biggest reason why the growth mindset may not work is in the classroom. Written by Peter DeWitt.  READ MORE.
  • Mindset in the Classroom: A National Study of K-12 Teachers. This one is based on results from a national survey conducted by the Education Week Research Center. The report examines the concept of growth mindset as well as key misconceptions that could undermine its effectiveness. READ MORE.
  • A Growth Mindset May Counteract Effects of Poverty on Achievement, Study Says written by Evie Blad. A growth mindset may buffer students from the effects of poverty on academic achievement, Stanford researchers concluded after studying test scores and survey results for 168,000 Chilean students. READ MORE.
  • Teachers Seize On ‘Growth Mindset’, But Crave More Training written by Evie Blad. As enthusiasm about “growth mindset” spreads across schools, researchers who popularized the idea are concerned that teachers might not have the resources or understanding to use it effectively in their classrooms. READ MORE
  • Mindfulness in the Classroom: A How-To Guide written by Teacher Linda Yaron shares what elements she incorporates into her curriculum to help strengthen student opportunities for success. READ MORE.

Practicing My Way Back

November 6, 2017

Tom Luther

Tom is a piano player working at the Midcoast Music Academy and a new Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teaching Artist Leader. In September Tom had, not one stroke, but two. In line with Tom’s incredible positive attitude he is an amazing example of growth mindset.

Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for himself he decided to take advantage of his condition and document what he is doing as part of his rehab. Each week he creates a video that provides what and how he is doing for his students (and others).

His videos are located on his YouTube channel spheremusik. To date he has 7 videos in the series called Practicing My Way Back. If you are a music educator, I am sure they will be of special interest to you. All educators will find these fascinating and there is a good chance you will want to share these with your students for multiple reasons.

Tom can be reached at

Tom did an interesting project that was included in a blog post in February called 1,000 Musicians Follow-up and a post in June about a course he was teaching called Live Coding Using Sonic Pi.


Who Are They? Portland Stage – Part 6

November 1, 2017

The Education Team and What We Value

Portland Stage, located in Portland, Maine, offers vital theater arts education to learners ages 4-18 through our In-Theater and In-School programming. All classes and workshops are taught by professionally trained Teaching Artists and focus on literacy, cultural awareness, collaborative play, and creative thinking. Our teaching philosophy highlights process over product, deepening students’ ability to analyze, synthesize, and think critically while making connections to the thoughts and ideas behind the written word. This is one of a series of 6 blog posts outlining who we are and what we do, brought to you by Hannah Cordes, Education Manager, and Julianne Shea, Education Administrator. These posts will appear September 27 through November 1, 2017, on Wednesday’s.

Education Artist in a workshop Photo by Aaron Flacke

As Portland Stage’s education program has grown over the years, so has our educational aesthetic. Thanks to the continuous work over the years by a delightful, curious, joyful, caring, and silly team of educators and administrators, our program has developed into what it is today.

All of our classes are process-based. The work is focused more on having an experience with theater rather than on the final product. Our text work is focused on bringing the text alive. We make time for scavenger hunts and theater games because we believe that these activities build theatrical skills as well as encourage collaboration, creative play, and communication.

Students drive the work that happens in the classroom. We honor and celebrate the ideas they bring to the table. For example, we talk to them about what characters and stories excite them. At the end of a class we ask them what they would like to share in their open studio. In our PLAY in Schools program, we ask students to come up with a simple movement to bring particular words in a poem to life and those become the actions we use to tell the story. In our Directors Lab program, we invite students to take ownership of Shakespeare’s language. We are always searching for ways to increase student investment and creative ownership.

Whenever possible, we work with a co-teaching model. This allows for us to have multiple people in the room cheering for each student and championing their experience! When we co-teach, we increase the likelihood that students will find a way to connect with a teacher and find an entry point into the work. As teachers, we work together and model the collaboration and problem-solving that we ask young people to participate in.

Hannah Cordes in a workshop Photo by Aaron Flacke

We consistently celebrate each other’s work! We devalue competition and focus on fostering ensemble. We invite greater and greater levels of participation in students’ work. We celebrate each seemingly small but monumental acts of bravery that are present in each classroom we enter.

The people you are most likely to see at a Portland Stage workshop are Hannah Cordes, Julianne Shea, and our two education interns. We love reading picture books, playing theater games, exploring texts, and working with young people. We are also lucky enough to have a whole team of over 35 education artists. These education artists have trained at theater companies across the nation, many have B.A.’s or B.F.A.’s in theater, others have Masters Degrees, and others teach at academic institutions. All of the people you find working in Portland Stage’s programs are practicing artists. The work they create both through Portland Stage and with other companies in Maine’s rich artistic community informs their work in the classroom. They personally know the thrill of creating art and the vulnerability it calls for. This practice allows them to excitedly create a supportive environment for students to learn about theater themselves. They understand the risks they are asking students to take because they often take risks in their own creative projects. We also make time to continue to learn new things about theater and about teaching. Notably, Portland Stage’s education team gets together one weekend every year to engage in training. For the last three years we have had Kevin Coleman, the Director of Education at Shakespeare & Company, lead our educators in a teacher training intensive. It is important for all of us to learn new skills and reinforce concepts we value. We also cherish the fact that this training allows for us all to be in the same room at the same time asking questions, getting curious about teaching practice, and sharing stories (both successes and failures).

As our program develops and we collaborate with more and more artists, we continually gather feedback and implement that into our process. We strive to learn and grow. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with so many strong educators.

Interested in learning more about this program? Email or call 207-774-1043 ext. 104.



October 31, 2017

Halloween poems

Poetry Out Loud is organized nationally by The National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation and administered at the state level by the Maine Arts Commission. The program is underway in high schools across the country. It begins in Maine’s schools where school champions are selected to compete in two regional finals at which ten students are ultimately selected to recite at the state finals. One student, the state champion, moves on from the state finals to represent Maine at the national finals in Washington D.C., where students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico will compete for a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends for the purchase of poetry books.

To learn more about the program in Maine please go to the Poetry Out Loud home page. The Poetry Out Loud registration deadline for high schools is November 6.

On the Poetry Foundation website you can find several poems for Halloween.

Halloween Party

We’re having a Halloween party at school.
I’m dressed up like Dracula. Man, I look cool!
I dyed my hair black, and I cut off my bangs.
I’m wearing a cape and some fake plastic fangs.
I put on some makeup to paint my face white,
like creatures that only come out in the night.
My fingernails, too, are all pointed and red.
I look like I’m recently back from the dead.
My mom drops me off, and I run into school
and suddenly feel like the world’s biggest fool.
The other kids stare like I’m some kind of freak—
the Halloween party is not till next week.
“Halloween Party.” © 2005 by Kenn Nesbitt. Reprinted from When the Teacher Isn’t Looking (© 2005 by Kenn Nesbitt) with permission from Meadowbrook Press.
Source: When the Teacher Isn’t Looking (2005)

Who Are They? Portland Stage – Part 5

October 25, 2017

In-Theater Program

Portland Stage, located in Portland, Maine, offers vital theater arts education to learners ages 4-18 through our In-Theater and In-School programming. All classes and workshops are taught by professionally trained Teaching Artists and focus on literacy, cultural awareness, collaborative play, and creative thinking. Our teaching philosophy highlights process over product, deepening students’ ability to analyze, synthesize, and think critically while making connections to the thoughts and ideas behind the written word. This is one of a series of 6 blog posts outlining who we are and what we do, brought to you by Hannah Cordes, Education Manager, and Julianne Shea, Education Administrator. These posts will appear September 27 through November 1, 2017, on Wednesday’s.

Photo by Aaron Flacke

Our In-Theater programming is particularly close to my heart because of the students who come back year after year and class after class, taking in every Portland Stage experience that they can find. This is my third season at Portland Stage and even in that small amount of time, I have been able to see the students grow as actors, collaborators, and creators. We offer classes and intensives for middle and high school students, vacation and summer camps for all ages, and dramatic readings and workshops of children’s books for ages 4-10.

At Portland Stage, we take After School to a whole new level. We devise haunting pieces for our All Hallows Eve Conservatory in the fall and tackle the humor and drama of Shakespeare in the spring. Our students are delightfully outspoken, endlessly creative, and admirably dedicated. What I enjoy most about working with these young people, however, is how much they make me laugh. Their quirky uniqueness never fails to create an eventful class each week. For example, when we brainstormed our company name in last season’s All Hallows Eve Conservatory, some of the suggestions they came up with included: “The Tell-Tale Kidneys”, “Trainwreck”, “The HallowTWEEN Company”, “The Ghosts of the Purple Floor” (our Theater for Kids space has a bright purple floor), and, the name they ended up selecting, “The Democratic Grim Society of Hauntedness”. On day one of our spring Shakespeare Conservatory last season, we asked the students what they loved most about Shakespeare and storytelling. Of course, their first answer was “the intensity and the mass death scenes”. Armed with that information, we created a Shakespeare mash-up of the utmost intensity that ended in a mass death scene where each student dramatically died not once, but TWICE.

Photo by Aaron Flacke

This past summer, we ran 13 summer camps and welcomed nearly 200 students into our building. All of our camps are based on a book or play, so we got to play with spectacular stories such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Macbeth, and Ramona Quimby. Each student picks which characters they want to explore and then are given a scene and a speech to work on throughout the week. The students become an ensemble of actors who work together to tell stories, solve problems, and create theater. At the end of the week, we invite family and friends into our space to share what we have been working on. The bravery these students exhibit by stepping up in front of other people to share their work and the pride they have in each other creates for a beautiful end to many fantastic weeks of camp.

Our Play Me a Story program (PMAS) is a dramatic reading series that takes place on Saturday mornings. Professional actors perform picture books and poems for an audience of 4-10 year-olds. After the reading, teaching artists lead the students in an active workshop where the students become the actors. They explore their actor’s tools (voice, body, and imagination) through games, activities, and performance. This program is an absolute blast for our actors and teachers, as well as the kids! One element of our job in the education office is reading tons of picture books in order to select books for both PMAS and our PLAY In Schools program. Julianne and I are what you might call picture book aficionados. Any time someone in the office needs a smile or a pick-me-up, we will get out one of our favorite picture books and do an impromptu reading. In fact, on the new education interns’ first day, we all read one of our favorites (Drew Daywalt’s Legend of The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors, highly recommended!) in a circle and it was absolutely magical. Moral of the story is: we love this program and picture books and all of the joy they bring to both adults and children.

At Portland Stage, I have met a wide array of students who teach me more than I could ever teach them. They teach me to be brave with my creativity, fearless in the face of any challenge or prompt. They teach me to be kind and supportive of one another, reinforcing each other’s successes and courageous attempts. They make me laugh uncontrollably and cry unapologetically. Most importantly, they remind me of the importance of theater education and the agency, confidence, and independence that it can give to young people.

Interested in learning more about this program? Email or call 207-774-1043 ext. 104


Arts Education Network

October 11, 2017

Opportunity to connect

Heather Martin from Arts are Elementary in Brunswick

On Friday, October 6, representing organizations, institutions, and schools almost 40 people gathered at the Farnsworth Art Museum for the Maine Arts Commission Arts Education Network.


The purpose was to meet and learn from each other by sharing information and resources, exchanging ideas about education programs, and collaborative thinking.

Hannah Cordes, Portland Stage Education Manager listens while Julianne Shea, Education Administrator introduces herself

It was a great opportunity to NETWORK!

The first part of the agenda included the opportunity to hear about the statewide arts education census that was conducted during the 2015-16 school year. Julie Richard, the Maine Arts Commission executive director shared highlights.

Julie Richard, Executive Director at the Maine Arts Commission reviews what we learned through the state wide census in Arts Education conducted during the 2015-16 school year

Andrea Curtis shared information about the Farnsworth education programs. Teaching artist Alexis Iammarino provided the background information on the murals she has created with students that are located throughout Rockland.

All participants introduced themselves and answered What drives you? Why do you do what you do?

Chrissy Fowler from Belfast Flying Shoes and Joshua McCarey listen while Jessie Davis the Executive Director of the Strand introduces herself

The second part of the day, the participants were in four groups to discuss the following audience questions and vision questions.


  •      With whom do you currently collaborate?
  •      With whom might you like to collaborate?
  •      Who are your programs currently reaching?
  •      Which demographic would you like to engage more?


  •      If there were no constraints on your resources (i.e. time,   staffing, funding), what would you do?

ridget Matros from Waterfall Arts listens while the Arts Education Exchange participants share information about their work in arts education

Small groups shared with the entire group. Participants were invited to visit the Midcoast Music Academy, the Strand Theater, CMCA, the Farnsworth, or the murals they had learned about earlier in the day.

Notes were taken in each group which will be collated and shared with the participants and the 20 others who were not able to join us. If you are part of an art organization, institute, or school and have an arts education arm and are interested in connecting please email me at

Ian Bannon from Figures of Speech and Celebration Barn documenting participants comments

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