Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By LUKE SHORTY
Maine is abuzz with opportunities for students to explore science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, from the newly chartered Maine Academy of Natural Science to the STEM academies in Bangor and Falmouth high schools. Nestled in Aroostook County, the Maine School of Science and Mathematics is a public residential magnet school in Limestone and a leader in STEM education since its creation 17 years ago.
Last week, Dr. Jonathan Farley wrote a Maine Voices column in which he states that Limestone is too far away to adequately serve students throughout the state of Maine and I would just like to take a second to set the record straight.
MSSM proudly serves students from across Maine with a passion for science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics through advanced courses, exceptional teaching, and unique co-curricular opportunities. Our students can earn college credit, not only by sitting for the Advanced Placement Exams, but also through an agreement with the University of Maine in Presque Isle which awards college credit for many of our college-level courses.
Each fall, students from as far away as Kennebunk, Eastport, Vinalhaven and Bingham make the trip to Limestone. They do so to become part of a truly exceptional community of learners, united by their passion for STEM, and to take advantage of MSSM's unique offerings.
Paramount to the MSSM's success has been its partnerships with research organizations across the state. Each January, our students can participate in two-week internships with organizations across Maine, from hospitals and universities to private research laboratories. Throughout the year, we host themed weekends, the most recent of which introduced our students to researchers from the National Park Service, Jackson Laboratory, Bigelow Laboratory, and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute at a two-day trip to the Schoodic Education and Research Center in Winter Harbor.
The cornerstone to our school is our exemplary faculty and instruction. We not only have an exceptional math and science department but a truly dedicated humanities department that challenge and inspire students. MSSM hires exemplary teachers who have a strong background both in their content area and in the classroom.
For example, we just hired Dr. Mark Rhodes, a former visiting professor at both Colby and Bowdoin, and Dr. Clint Givens, who will come to MSSM from teaching at the John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth program this summer and whose research focuses on cryptography.
In addition to our strong academic program, our residential program forms a community of dedicated and passionate students. As an alum who graduated in 1998, I can speak personally to the long-lasting friendships that are forged up in Aroostook County and then span the state, the country, and even the globe.
Beyond our school-year program, MSSM also runs four weeks of summer camp for boys and girls in fifth through ninth grade. Our summer camp attracts a diversity of kids from throughout the state. This year, we expect to have 400 campers representing the full spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds and Maine communities (urban and rural).
MSSM awarded more than $20,000 in financial aid, as well as numerous scholarships contributed by Maine businesses, to help ensure that all students could attend camp. In addition, we provided a school bus to travel up and down I-95 for pickup and drop-off of campers in an effort to make transportation more feasible and affordable for Maine families.
The success of our summer camps inspired us to also offer a free, week-long professional development camp for educators across the state. We are expecting 80 educators to attend our STEM Collaborative this year. They will have the opportunity to work with leading STEM instructors from Maine, as well as have time to meet and collaborate with one another.
Our hope is that the learning and collaboration that occurs at this free, week-long event will have a positive impact on hundreds of students across the state next year as teachers return to their classrooms in the fall.
MSSM is excited to continue partnering with STEM organizations, researchers, and teachers all over the state and country in order to provide more opportunities for Maine students who are curious, excited, or inspired by science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Luke Shorty is executive director and academic dean of the Maine School of Science and Mathematics.