Our achievement goal in the Portland Promise, the Portland Public Schools’ strategic plan, commits us to preparing and empowering our students for a productive postsecondary path to college and career. The compelling STEM curriculum in our schools serves as a great example of how our achievement goal is realized in the classroom.

Melea Nalli is the interim co-superintendent of Portland Public Schools and can be reached at superintendent@portlandschools.org.

Over the past few years, teacher teams from all school levels have worked collaboratively to develop a PPS Science Vision, a Math Vision and a Computer Science Vision to guide decisions around curriculum, professional development for teachers and overarching structures that support the implementation of this work.

Our Science Vision sets a path for the district to provide our students with a thorough and engaging science education that enables them to become scientifically and ecologically literate, as well as technologically capable problem solvers. Our Math Vision centers on the belief that all students are capable of knowing, doing and enjoying math. We strive to create a math community where students grapple with rigorous and meaningful problems and engage in productive discourse with their peers to construct a deep conceptual understanding of math. The goal of our Computer Science Vision is for our students to develop a foundation of computer science knowledge and learn new approaches to problem solving that harness the power of computational thinking to become both users and creators of computer technology.

Engaging math and science learning goes on at all school levels. Here’s some examples:

Aaron Townsend is the interim co-superintendent of Portland Public Schools and can be reached at superintendent@portlandschools.org.

In our elementary schools, we launched the Mobile Makerspace in September, a mobile lab that provides STEM learning opportunities for the students. Our makerspace is so unique that Maine Commissioner of Education Pender Makin visited in November to see it in operation – observing fifth graders learning to program Micro Bits for their electric guitars. This winter, Makerspace teacher Karen Shibles helped run Hour of Code activities in our schools and is supporting a robotics rollout. The makerspace visited six of our elementary schools this fall and will visit the other four this spring.

At Lyman Moore Middle School this fall, seventh graders raised monarch butterflies, learned about their life cycle and migration, and released them. Students also partnered with the Wild Seed Project to plant monarch meadows in school garden beds. After learning about the relationship between monarchs and native plants, students planted asters, goldenrod and milkweed so the school’s courtyard will attract monarchs returning from Mexico, according to science teacher Hazel Cashman.


Seventh graders in our schools used their math learning about proportional relationships and percent change to analyze a societal issue: whether systems around minimum wages and tips for restaurant servers are fair. Students considered four servers, each at different restaurants, making a range of pay. Students worked in groups to determine the server’s weekly pay based on wages, hours worked, average number of tables served, the amount of the typical bill and average tip. With a referendum in Portland this past November about fair wages for servers, the lesson was timely and engaged middle schoolers in their favorite topic: “What is fair?”

At Portland High School, students in teacher Dan LeGage’s ocean science class recently learned about kelp farming from 1994 PHS graduate Nathan Johnson, who owns Shearwater Ventures. Johnson harvests kelp, recently recognized as valuable to Maine’s marine economy. He detailed the kelp farming process and shared kelp food samples.

These are just a few highlights of the rigorous and engaging STEM learning in our schools – you’ll find more examples on our website. They all help prepare and empower students to achieve.


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