“For all of us have our loved places; all of us have laid claim to part of the earth; and all of us, whether we know it or not, are in some measure the products of our sense of place”Alan Gussow, A Sense of Place: The Artist and the American Land, 1971
This ebook is an online resource for middle or high school teachers that provides interdisciplinary curriculum units centered around the arts and Maine Studies. Using examples from Maine that speak to the concept of a sense of place can improve students’ mental health by developing a positive connection with their communities and their state. If you are home schooling your child, teaching an after-school program, or just looking for ways to draw inspiration from the State of Maine for your own creative endeavors, this website has plenty to offer you too!
The activities are meant as suggestions and ideas for creating unique works of art. To develop artistic techniques, you can buy a book about drawing a cat or follow a video tutorial online. In contrast, the focus here is about inspiring creativity, so the activities can easily be adapted to suit any age group or skill level. The topics are interdisciplinary in nature to inspire teachers from other disciplines such as history, social studies or the sciences to include art in their curriculum, or to join forces with an art teacher to encourage deeper cognitive experiences for students through increased creativity.
Interdisciplinary content and chapter structure
The main content covers seven themes: Maine Maps, Wabanaki Baskets, Maine Wildlife, Maine’s Botanical Heritage, Maine’s Industrial Heritage, Maine’s Lighthouses and Rocky Coast, and finally, Maine’s People and Stories. The chapters can be accessed by the drop down menu under the Table of Contents tab, and each is divided into four sections. The first section is a summary and discussion of interesting aspects of the theme. The second section introduces a Maine artist who exemplifies this theme in some way. The third section is a theme-specific art lesson. The fourth section is an example of a service-learning project that connects the students to their local community. Finally, a separate drop down tab will present a curriculum design on each of the seven themes for teachers to utilize in their own classrooms, including interdisciplinary learning standards.
Section 1: Theme
The information that I introduce is meant to be a stepping stone for you to build upon. As you read the summaries and interesting tidbits that I have included in the first section of each chapter, consider what you already know, and what more you can learn. As teachers and as people, we have different backgrounds and strengths that we can draw upon. What are some things that you know about the topic that could enhance the way you would present this material to students? Or who in your school or community could you talk to who would know more? Can you incorporate more than one teacher into the mix? If you are a Maine resident, perhaps there is a similar story that is directly related to your particular community or locale. If you are really interested in a topic, where could you find more information? Sometimes teachers forget that there is always more to learn and experience as we share this information with our students. As a working document, I am excited to add more information to this website as I discover it.
Section 2: Inspiring Maine Artist
In the second section I introduce a Maine artist whose work or life speaks to the theme. Looking at other artists and art works is an important piece of learning and offers a well of inspiration as we create our own art. How did they do that? What were they trying to communicate? Why were they drawn to this particular subject? Or even just “wow!” Perhaps you know about a different artist who covered this subject matter who wasn’t from Maine, but was inspired by it. For more advanced discussions about Maine artists, you could pose the question of what qualifies an artist to be categorized as a “Maine artist”? If you are not an art teacher, reach out to your colleagues and ask their opinion on some ways to introduce the work of other artists to your students.
Section 3: Art Lesson
The art lessons are a tool to explore your inspiration about a unique aspect of Maine. As a high school art teacher, I have designed these projects to apply to any middle or secondary school student. I recommend trying them out for yourself first. Ask yourself what worked and what didn’t. What media could I incorporate into this lesson? How could I change this to make it more challenging, or less challenging for my particular cohort? Art is interpretive and I will have a website to showcase all of the different ways that people have interpreted these art activities.
Section 4: Community Connections
My intent is to help educators assist students in developing a more positive relationship with their local communities and to start to think about themselves as “Mainers” in the larger sense of things. My students light up when they hear stories or see artwork of places familiar to them. Building these relationships and generating more positive connections with local communities not only benefits the students, but it benefits all of us. In these sections I describe some of the service-learning projects that I have done with my students in our own neighborhood. Every community is unique and each has something different to offer. I hope that these stories inspire you to create an interdisciplinary experience for your students in your own community.
The final component of this ebook is a traditional curriculum design When I was a new teacher, I was desperate for meaningful lessons that I could offer my students. By offering teachers a finished curriculum design, they can focus on how they will teach the lesson rather than spending hours digging up appropriate learning standards. I am not a curriculum specialist, and for those who like to plan their lessons in a more traditional structured format, you may add sections and take whole sections out.
To accompany the ebook, I am looking forward to adding a blog or other pages where teachers who have used this resource can offer up examples, suggestions, and constructive criticisms on any of the content on this website.