St. George Municipal School Unit among semifinalists for prestigious Yass Prize
St. George MSU has been named one of the 33 semifinalists
TENANTS HARBOR, Maine (WABI) - A tiny school on Maine’s MidCoast is making a name for themselves while inspiring their students to get involved in the trades.
“The vision is to sort of bring together the traditional trades with new technologies and skills,” explained Mike Felton, superintendent for St. George MSU.
St. George School is partnering with Mid-Coast School of Technology in Rockland to develop a Career Technical Education program and build a CTE/Makerspace building.
It’s bringing the trades, technology, and innovation back to public education.
“They’re really trailblazing and showing people what could happen in education and not just what it should look like, in my opinion.” said Robert Deetjen of Mid-Coast School of Technology. “I think it’s just going to take off from here. You’re going to see more school districts looking into this model in the future because it is what’s best for kids.”
“When they are able to build and use their hands and minds together and we can incorporate reading, writing, and math, they’re much more engaged and it makes learning more fun for both of us,” explained 4th grade teacher, Jaime MacCaffray.
In 8th grade, students can use 3D printers to build objects that will help them collect data.
“It’s fun to experiment with different designs and find something that works the best,” said 8th grader, Miles Bartke.
In 2nd grade, they’ve worked hard to construct these birdhouses.
“I just loved drawing and giving it to Mr. Paul, making the details, and just putting it all together,” said Addie Anderson.
Students in 1st grade are strapping on their tool belts and building wood toolboxes.
“To keep our kids engaged, we have to do this,” Felton said. “Kids need hands-on, minds-on work that is connected to career and community, so they see the meaning. A different part of a kid’s brain lights up when they get to use their hands and their minds to build and create.”
The school is outgrowing their space.
In the spring they’ll break ground on the new shop space that will be used for woodworking, metalwork, boatbuilding, as well as A Makerspace with 3D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, and more.
“During the school day it will serve students, but we also want to open it up to the larger community for workforce training, adult education courses, and space for local businesses and entrepreneurs to use the tools,” Felton explained.
To date, they’ve raised $2.4 million for construction costs through grants, private donations, fundraisers, and contributions from more than 20 business sponsors.
Local contractors and businesses like Steel-Pro Inc. in Rockland are taking notice of the groundbreaking work the school is doing. Their hope is these kids become inspired and want to fill gaps in the workforce.
“It’s creating innovators. It’s creating problem solvers. It’s going to promote a good work ethic and really help build a stronger community,” said Thomas Kennedy, director of business development at Steel-Pro.
“It’s great what their energy does for it, bringing in these young people to grow into it because my field is graying out, just like I am,” said Chip Bauer, owner of Harbor Builder Associates.
This small, rural school district has been put on the map on a national scale.
St. George MSU has been named one of the 33 semifinalists for the national Yass Prize.
For that, the school will receive $200,000 to support the construction of the CTE/Makerspace building.
They also qualify for a $1 million grand prize. The winner will be announced on December 13th.
“We think we’re building a transformational program here and obviously we need more resources to get it off the ground,” said Paul Meinersmann, the school’s Makerspace technology director. “Having the building, getting over that fundraising push allows us to stop putting energy into fundraising, and allows us to put more energy into program development and how do we make this really impactful.”
With the help of MCST, the district hopes to develop a curriculum that will help other schools promote trade, technology, and innovation in their classrooms.
“We want to show that you can do it,” said Felton. “You can do CTE in early elementary and all the way through. You cannot wait until high school to talk to kids about CTE and career. It has to start from day one.”
The school is also up for a Yass Parents Choice Award which will allow them to receive an additional $100,000. You can vote online every day from now until November 25th.
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