Posts Tagged ‘Camden Hills Regional High School’


MAEA Fall Conference Keynote

October 1, 2015

Sharing her presentation –  Carolyn Brown

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 3.12.59 PMCarolyn teaches Visual Arts at Camden Hills Regional High School and is the Maine Art Educator of the Year for 2016. The award is presented by the Maine Art Education Association. Below is the presentation she gave at the fall conference at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.

Ripple Effects

I made about a hundred versions of this presentation. Should I use the latest research on the relationship between the arts and cognitive development? Should I give a play-by-play history of my long teaching career, the ups, the downs, the crying in the storage closets? Or tell you how important it is for each of you to be strong advocates for arts education, so we can prevent losing ground in the face of budget cuts and pressure to conform to standards? Should I explain, with a diagram and the latest educational lingo, how to write a compelling…. assessment rubric? Instead, I decided to just let this write itself.

I’m going to start with a poem. I spent most of my childhood and teenage years hunched over my desk writing for hours on end, and making little paintings and drawings. Finally, in high school, I had my first real art class, and my teacher, Bruce Elfast, changed everything. He held the orange for me, as the character in the poem does.

By Denise Duhamel

I just didn’t get it—
even with the teacher holding an orange (the earth) in one hand
and a lemon (the moon) in the other,
her favorite student (the sun) standing behind her with a flashlight.
I just couldn’t grasp it—
this whole citrus universe, these bumpy planets revolving so slowly
no one could even see themselves moving.
I used to think if I could only concentrate hard enough
I could be the one person to feel what no one else could,
sense a small tug from the ground, a sky shift, the earth changing gears.
Even though I was only one mini-speck on a speck,
even though I was merely a pinprick in one goosebump on the orange,
I was sure then I was the most specially perceptive, perceptively sensitive.
I was sure then my mother was the only mother to snap,
“The world doesn’t revolve around you!”
The earth was fragile and mostly water,
just the way the orange was mostly water if you peeled it,
just the way I was mostly water if you peeled me.
Looking back on that third grade science demonstration,
I can understand why some people gave up on fame or religion or cures—
especially people who have an understanding
of the excruciating crawl of the world,
who have a well-developed sense of spatial reasoning
and the tininess that it is to be one of us.
But not me—even now I wouldn’t mind being god, the force
who spins the planets the way I spin a globe, a basketball, a yoyo.
I wouldn’t mind being that teacher who chooses the fruit,
or that favorite kid who gives the moon its glow.
When I started teaching, in 1984, I was the “first ever” art teacher in the whole district of Lisbon and Lisbon Falls. No art room. No sinks in the classrooms. I unfolded tables at 6 a.m. in the mornings when I taught in the cafeteria, and folded them back up before gym class. I carried buckets of water to the classrooms for cleaning paintbrushes.  In one of the five buildings I taught in, this was up two flights of stairs. I was about a thousand years younger then.

Fortunately, I had something- some people- who made it possible to continue.  The first grader who asked for “mascara” to put on the eyelashes of his mask. (I handed him a black marker.) The fifth grader who said he wanted to be an artist because he now knew it was okay for a boy to like drawing.
I also had a teacher mentor. She was a classroom teacher-turned G/T teacher, who was assigned to be my mentor in a pilot program that year. Because of her, I stayed in teaching.

Because of some of you acting as mentors, others have stayed in teaching. Because of you, some of your students found their voices by learning about art, and using their minds and hearts to make things that matter. Those are little ripples you make in the world. The edges of those ripples are too distant for you to see, because the effects are endless.

Looking back through my teaching career, at Mt. Ararat School in Topsham, at an International School in Tokyo, in the new schools in Poland, Maine, and Rockport, a few things come to mind. One is that teaching, really teaching, is exhausting. With the younger grades, there are questions to answer, runny noses to wipe, displays to organize, sinks to scrub, not to mention lessons to plan, assessments to write, and so on.

With older students, there are still questions to answer, of course, and big questions to ask of them; sometimes I think that half of the task of teaching high school students is to get them to take risks like kindergarteners do every day.

Any of this is a big task. The most important job in the universe is teaching. To be able to do this, you have to have something deep, and sensitive, and joyful, and knowledgeable, and persistent, and brave, and amazing inside of you. I am convinced that to be a good art teacher, you have to be humble, as well as somewhat confident, but humble enough to be open to new learning. You have to be quiet, as well as “breathing from the diaphragm” when you speak to your class. You have to be able to listen with sensitivity, as well as talk. You have to keep changing, and growing.

If you teach the same lesson, the same way, to every class, year after year, you might have successes: the carefully but imperfectly shaded portrait of Jimi Hendrix, Rest in Peace; the painting of a lighthouse a thousand miles away, from some 1990’s calendar, that Grandma can put on her fridge; but you won’t have any surprises. To be an excellent teacher, you have to take risks. Put yourself in the position of your students: try something new. Hold onto the bungee cord, hold tight, but jump, look at the magnificent rushing river underneath your dangling feet, and look back up at your colleagues at the top of the bridge- whoo hoo!

One of the weirdest and most exciting teaching experiences I ever had was at Mt. Ararat. One of my classes was a 3D Design class. I was really into installation art at the time, and we had a huge entryway to the school that I found all sorts of ways to mess up. One year, I invited the sculptor Michael Shaughnessy to work with the class. We brainstormed together ourselves, and then with the students, to come up with some ideas for installation sculptures based around themes of the students’ choice. The largest and most exciting piece was conceived by all of us collaboratively. The students decided to use the theme of the interactive process of teaching and learning. We gathered all the extra desks and chairs from a storage room, and arranged them in a giant spiral in the main lobby, about 20 feet across. We lined the top of each desk with potting soil, and planted seeds in the dirt. We suspended lights from the ceiling to represent the light of knowledge, and teaching. Slowly, over a couple of weeks, the seeds sprouted and grew lush green grass. The remarkable thing about this was that this weird sculpture, in the main lobby of the school, was not damaged or vandalized. This was before security cameras were routinely installed in hallways. In fact, at the end of the two weeks, students wanted to keep it there. They loved how it changed every day, how they understood the metaphors we tried to communicate, and that they grew to find more meaning in it, from their own experiences. It was a sad day when we had to dismantle it.

That project was one of the most memorable and exciting because it was a risk. We had to plan extensively, we had to negotiate with the principal, communicate with the Fire Marshal; we had to be willing to accept that for some students and parents, this might just be too bizarre and conceptual to accept. Because the students were integral to every part of the process, however, it was valid for them. It was their project. That was crucial, and I think it’s important to remember that, as we work at creating lessons tailored to meet specific district and state standards. It has to be their projects, their ideas, their learning.

We are among the luckiest art teachers in the world, I think, in that we have so many amazing opportunities in Maine. We have a beautiful natural world to observe. Immersing oneself in nature is a critical aspect of being a sensitive human steward of the world. Nature teaches by example, if you take time to be still and watch, and listen.

We also have a strong tradition of the arts, and arts organizations. When we gather here at Haystack, we have the energy of many hands, many minds, many voices coming together. Some of us find we grow much more in the single weekend here at Haystack than we can in a month on our own at home. The challenge is to hold onto that energy, keep it vibrating, keep it rippling, keep it flowing when we return to our classrooms, and ordinary lives next week. How do we take this sacred creative time, in this sacred special place, and transport it back to share with our students, and our colleagues, while keeping it fresh and whole for ourselves?

The next bunch of slides are some of my own artwork- done during the past few years- I have been  fortunate to take workshops and classes at Haystack, Waterfall Arts, and Maine College of Art, and have been influenced by my time working in Tokyo)

Studies demonstrate that practice in the arts stimulates cognitive growth- the prolonged concentration needed for in-depth problem solving and creating with our hands actually makes new neural connections in our brains. It is this paying attention, in the real world, in real time, that is crucial to our jobs as teachers, as creative artists, and as caretakers of our planet.

I will close with a short poem by Wendell Berry, titled

The Vacation              
By Wendell Berry

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.
I ask you all to go out, back into the night, back into your studios here at Haystack, and be in it. Absorb the positive ripples sent out in your workshop. And back in your real lives, back in your classrooms, spread the ripple, and be in it. Hold the orange, the world, in your hand, and be in it.


Camden Hills Regional High School

December 12, 2014

Winter Choral Concert

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 6.10.25 AM


Potter Visits Camden Schools

February 21, 2014

The following article is reproduced from the Courier Publications’ Village Soup on February 10,   Editor Dagney C. Ernest.

DSCN0420ROCKPORT — Potter/artist Tim Christensen is working with Carolyn Brown’s Advanced Drawing and Painting class and the after school Art Club of Camden Hills Regional High School.

Christensen is a professional potter who currently works with the sgraffito technique on porcelain. He creates thrown and handbuilt forms and uses the ancient technique of sgraffito for surface design. This technique entails coating the clay with black clay slip or underglaze, and scratching through to reveal white clay underneath.

Christensen has demonstrated his working technique and discussed his sources of inspiration. He uses the medium of clay to tell stories about the natural world and our relationship with nature. He explained that he typically starts a piece with the beginning of an idea in mind, and draws intuitively with a freehand technique directly on the clay. During the process of drawing on the clay, the full “story” of a particular piece develops. The idea from one piece may lead into another, until the entire story emerges in a series of clay forms.

Students began their projects working with sgraffito on flat, leather-hard tiles, drawing into the underglaze with a variety of tools. Christensen is meeting with students several times and will develop the project further with handbuilt and manipulated slab forms with sgraffito.

This artist residency is sponsored by Youth Arts and the CHRHS Art Club with advisor Brown. For more information about the artists, visit

student tile


Camden Hills Regional High School

November 6, 2013



Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Suzanne Southworth

June 11, 2013

This is the 36th in a series of blog posts telling arts teacher’s stories. The first 19 were told last year by the phase I Maine Arts Assessment Initiative teacher leaders. The series continues with the stories from the phase II teacher leaders. These posts contain a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

IMG_0135Suzanne Southworth started teaching in NY where she grew up and has now taught for 15 years in Maine Public Schools. Currently, Suzanne is at Camden Hills Regional High School where she has been for the last 6 years. The courses she teaches change up from year to year but she always teaches the Jewelry classes and usually teaches the Advanced Art Portfolio class. This year the IA teacher and  Suzanne piloted a course that they call Metal Sculpture where students learn basic welding techniques and learn to use those skills to design beautiful metal sculptures.

“The thing I like best about being an art teacher is that it gives me the opportunity to help students learn to work with their hearts, hands, and minds together as well as the ultra focus it takes to be a successful artist. In today’s busy world it is so important to teach subjects that engage students this way. I also really like the ever-changing subject matter and the excuse to constantly search for my own inspiration in order to share the joy of the art making process with my students.”

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

It doesn’t take much to run an art program but if you want a really good successful program you need to have organization, dedicated art professionals who work hard in the classroom, advocate for the program and exhibit student work, and a community who supports.

I was involved in the MAAI this year and found that after learning so much I realized how much I still need to learn. In my short career everything has changed so much and I find myself digging my heels in, refusing to update my way of thinking. I think I still do to some degree but the change is happening. What it has done for me is to see how the arts have never been more important to the well being of our next generation. As a parent and a teacher there is not so much of a buffer from a child’s environment to do what is right so, it is up to us to arm ourselves with the knowledge to protect and educate our youth at the same time.

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

I feel that through well crafted assessments we can engage students and make learning personal and relevant. My favorite assessment is a written reflection. I find that having regular assessments in the classroom to be a useful tool in keeping both teacher and student in check. I also like the idea of keeping teachers accountable for good teaching practices and students engaged in their own learning process.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

Being a part of the Arts Assessment Initiative has made me so much more visible in my school and Regional area. It has been so nice to really know what the new ideas in education are and not be left in the dark during staff meetings and workshops. The best thing I got out of it though was the networking. Art Educators are generally pretty dynamic people. Just being around other conscientious Art teachers is a real boost to my attitude toward teaching and provides me with a lot of inspiration.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of the results I see in my students work and being there when they make a breakthrough in their work and their individual ideas and watching them go through the stages from directed work to independent.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

The thing I find most difficult about my teaching is the number of hours outside of the school day needed to do a good job and the multitude of other aspects of my teaching assignment.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

One of the things about teaching art that looks easy from the outside but takes a great deal of skill is to create an environment in the classroom that is conducive to “thinking” and creativity. Where there is a balance of “free thinking” and guided structure. I think this is a gift that you either have or you don’t but that it can be developed and improved regardless of the level of talent in this area.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

If I were to give advice to other teachers I would say to keep updated on what is going on in art education. It is amazing how much voice we have here in Maine and we are fortunate to have people watching our backs at every level. Those people need our help in understanding the concerns of the classroom. Without our everyday art teacher input the decisions and initiatives won’t work to cater to the needs of our very real programs.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

If I were given $500,000 I would hire a team of top-notch educator’s who would write curriculum complete with the core standards, assessments, and technology and any other requirements. The team would write curriculum and build a library of lesson plans and boxes filled with non-consumable tools and materials to support the lessons that could circulate per request of the teacher throughout the State of Maine.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

Years from now I think I would look back and be really proud of the number of students who went on to continue with creative pursuits but I would also think that perhaps I did not get the concept of “Don’t sweat the small stuff so well and that I had a darn good job!

Thank you Suzanne for sharing your story!







Annual Student Exhibit

May 4, 2013

Center for Maine Contemporary Art

Over view CMCA show

On Saturday, April 27 the opening for the Annual Student Exhibition at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport was held. The CMCA staff worked with Camden Hills Regional High School art teacher Carolyn Brown to organize arts activities for children and families which saw around 330 guests! Student volunteers from CHRHS helped with the activities for younger children.

at CHRHS display

This year the show includes student work from Appleton Village School, Hope Elementary School, Lincolnville Central School, Camden-Rockport Elementary School, C-R Middle School, Camden Hills Regional High School, PeoplePlace Cooperative Preschool, Ashwood Waldorf School, Riley School, Children’s House Montessori School and the Community School.

The exhibition will be open until May 12, Thursday -Sunday, 1-5 pm.


Camden Hills Travel to VA

April 25, 2013

Camden Hills Receives High Marks at Music Festivals

Virginia Beach trophiesOn April 3rd, 140 Camden Hills Regional High School Band and Chorus students and 14 chaperones boarded three Cyr coaches to travel to Virginia Beach to take part in the Fiesta-val Music Competition.  Despite the 17 hour bus ride, the students were excited to have the chance to sing and play at a National music festival.  A last minute change in plans by the Fiesta-val company to change the festival location from Virginia Beach to Williamsburg, actually became a boon for the ensembles; as they were able to also take part in a concurrent music festival in Williamsburg, hosted by Heritage festivals.

Friday, April 5th began with a 6:30 AM departure for one bus load of students.  The CHRHS Chamber Singers and Women’s Choir, plus a few loyal supporters, climbed on board for the lengthy ride to Williamsburg to sing before a panel of three judges at the historic Kimball Theater.  While there, the students had a chance to hear choirs from other schools, with fine performances by Lakeland High School from northern New Jersey.  The choral ensembles finished their performing and quickly boarded the bus, with some students changing outfits into Band uniforms, in order to meet the other two buses of students at WarHill High School for the Fiesta-val portion of the day.

The CHRHS Jazz Band performed first, and students quickly grabbed gear and instruments from beneath the bus in their efforts to set up the Jazz Band in time for their warm up and competition performance.  The schedule continued with the CHRHS Concert Band performance, followed by the three CHRHS chorus ensembles: Chorale, Women’s Choir, and Chamber Singers.  Lunch was a dizzying dance of schedules in between the performances, with some students changing outfits from Band uniform to Choral formal wear.

Finally the last leg of the full performance day was near: three buses were scheduled to travel to Heritage High School in Newport News, VA for the Concert and Jazz Band Heritage Festival performances.  Unfortunately, it was at that time that a major snag hit the stream-lined plans.  One bus broke down, refusing to move from the War Hill HS parking lot.  Suddenly, students, instruments, and chaperones were juggled to allow all instrumental students and gear to load on to two buses to quickly travel to the next performance destination.

While the busload of students left behind relaxed in the parking lot, another unforeseen calamity occurred. A major traffic emergency stalled the two functioning buses for over an hour on the freeway- delaying the performance times of the two CHRHS instrumental ensembles. Finally, with determination and goodwill by all; the stranded students were picked up and the 140 students, instruments, and chaperones squeezed onto two buses to make the last leg of the journey back to the hotel in Virginia Beach.

On Saturday, the students had a chance to relax and ride at Busch Gardens and the day culminated in two Award ceremonies. At the Fiesta-val Award Ceremony, schools were graded on a national scale of standards with awards of  Superior, Excellent, Good and Fair.  We are happy to say that Camden Hills students swept the awards:  The CHRHS Chamber Singers, Women’s Choir and Chorale received Superior awards and the CHRHS Concert Band and Jazz Band received Excellent Awards with the Concert Band being only a tenth of a point away from a Superior Award.  Special recognition was given to the Jazz Band as they received the “Outstanding Brass Section Award.”  Judges’ Commendation Awards were given to four individuals: Rebekah Johnson, soprano; Aidan Kaczynski, tenor; Alex Crans, tuba and Camilla Walker, French horn.  The Chorale received a Champion award in their category, and the Concert and Jazz Bands swept the competition with 1st place awards, the Grand Champion Award, and a Highly Distinguished Conductor Award to Nancy Rowe.

Later in the evening, the Heritage Festival Awards were announced. Again, CHRHS proved that they could perform well, even under the pressure of a long and arduous day. The CHRHS Women’s Choir and Chamber Singers both received Gold Awards with Women’s Choir placing 2nd and Chamber Singers placing 1st. Aidan Kaczynski was again recognized for his solo with a Maestro Award. Both chorale ensembles received invitations to next year’s Heritage Festivals of Gold and Carnegie Hall. The CHRHS Concert and Jazz Bands received Silver Awards, with the Jazz Band receiving special recognition; and Orion Krause received the Maestro Award for his solo in “Mr. G. K.”

The musical travelers arrived safely home on Sunday, April 7th, with many thanks to the chaperones and the bus drivers. Ms. Rowe and Mrs. Murphy would like to thank the Five Town Community for their support of the Band and Chorus students.


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