A Day at Breakwater - Toddler through 8th

Often, we’ll hear a wonder from parents, grandparents and even teachers - about what kind of person they might have become had they been lucky enough to be a “Breakwater Kid.” Breakwater’s special blend of academic, social emotional support and curriculum, hands-on child-centered learning, outdoor education, emphasis on arts and humanity, community and connection is pretty unique. We know that the effects are far reaching after speaking with alumni about how Breakwater had a hand in their confidence, continued love of learning, academic goals and the ability to weather through challenges. (Stay tuned for an alumni spotlight coming soon!) We are limitlessly proud of the learning community that we build together. In case you don’t spend your days at Breakwater (and even if you do!) we wanted to share what a typical day might look like for our students. These adventures and activities all took place yesterday, November 7, 2019 for all our students - toddler through eighth grade. Enjoy!

Toddler

Students in the toddler classroom enjoyed a hike to the Fore River Sanctuary. They chose walking sticks, climbed hills laced with leaves and mud, adventured through towering trees and over stones, sang songs, listened to Señor J.’s Spanish words, and marched heartily to a good walking beat. Others spent time on their playground, painting with natural items, interacting with life-size scarecrows they built by hand, and constructing with building materials. They then had lunch and fell asleep for rest time on that cozy, rainy November day with adventuring and playing in their tired bodies (and probably in their dreams, too).

Preschool

Preschool students spent time with their third and fourth grade learning buddies, reading together, running and climbing together and spending time in the garden. They checked on the baby seedlings in our new hoop house, challenged each other in running and chasing games, dug in the dirt together and made confectionary delights from mud, leaves and sand. (The sand was sprinkles, not spices - we were told).

Kindergarten

After some big questions were generated from children after reading some books, Kindergarten spent the afternoon making art based around concepts of diversity and inclusivity. They read, “Shades of People,” by Shelley Rotner, “The Colors of Us,” by Karen Katz and “The Other Side” by Jacqueline Woodson. They spoke about different skin shades and colors and used paints to determine their own personal shade. There were several valuable conversations and insights about the different shades of people, and what it means to be an inclusive member of a community.

First and Second Grade

In art class, students in first and second grade studied the work of William Mize and his use of line and shape in his art. Students had previously been studying shapes in art class and are moving now to lines. To demonstrate, they used marbles and paint in a box to create lines from the spheres. They will then use the resulting art to add to their individual monster pieces to demonstrate an understanding of shape and line.

Third and Fourth Grade

Recently, students met with a neighbor to discuss their study of the history of Nason’s Corner Park. They have been fascinated by the change in land, buildings and neighborhood. They learned so much from that visit including stories that revealed how Jewell Falls got its name, why our neighborhood is called Nason’s Corner and city rules about why our field must always remain a field. Yesterday, they spent time doing more research on our neighborhood and Portland’s history. They worked in four research groups: Farming, Wabanaki History and Culture, Trolley Cars and Canals. Julie Larry, from Portland Historic Landmarks, came to speak about this important work. During Showcase Week, they will share all the knowledge they’ve gained through their research with our community.

Fifth and Sixth Grade

Fifth and Sixth grade students spent the morning at Portland’s Gulf of Maine Research Center to learn more about climate change and the Gulf of Maine. They learned how scientists use certain indicators to learn about even a slight change in temperature, like the presence of black sea bass. Students broke up into groups and visited learning stations to collect data and then organized that data so that they could interpret it and make conclusions. They then were able to share their work with Marissa, a marine biologist, to see how closely their findings compared with hers. Each research group used information taken from their digital field notebooks to make a video. These videos will be shared with students and families at home so that students can share and reflect their study.

Seventh and Eighth Grade

Seventh and eighth grade students climbed White Horse Ledge in North Conway, NH.

A note from Fitz: “In order to help us recognize and face challenges in our lives the 7/8 embarked upon a difficult climb to the top of White Horse Ledge in North Conway. The weather worked against us as we blazed our way forward. In the end we all sumitted together, enjoyed each others' company and the views for lunch. Afterward we stumbled, at times literally, back down the trail. We all left in high spirits, confident that we can face the challenges and adventures ahead.”

It was a wonderful day at Breakwater - full of so many of the elements we love and thrive on here: Learning outdoors, multi age discovery, overcoming challenges and taking risks, inquiry based learning and research, and care and compassion for the people you are growing and learning with. It’s good to be a Breakwater Kid!

Earth Week 2019!

Earth Week 2019!

Breakwater has been celebrating Earth Week for over 30 years. What began as spark of hope and a desire to teach children how to love and care for our planet, quickly turned into a week long (read: lifelong) journey of exploration, education, sun, mud, and joy. Back in 1987, Sari Lindauer (former science and tinkering teacher) brought the idea to a handful of Breakwater educators after studying the work of Steve Van Matre and his book, Sunship Earth. That group of teachers, which included both Cheryl Hart (current 5/6 teacher) and Alex Johnston (current EC essentialist), were immediately taken with the idea and Earth Week, as we now know it, was born.

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Meet Patrick "Fitz" Fitzgibbons - Breakwater Science and Adventure Essentialist

Meet Patrick "Fitz" Fitzgibbons - Breakwater Science and Adventure Essentialist

At Breakwater we want for our students to explore the world confident in themselves, with a sense of purpose and compassion, belief in their own agency, and the resilience to embrace mistakes. We affirm the integrity of childhood by placing high value on play, balancing the education of the heart and the mind equally. Breakwater's ability to succeed in this is made possible by a talented, enthusiastic, and loving faculty who live these same aspirations in their everyday lives. Our teachers and staff are recruited and retained based on their professional skills, their willingness to model our mission in every respect, and their commitment to professional and personal growth. Check back every month to learn more about our amazing Breakwater faculty

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Middle School Visits Camp Agawam

Middle School Visits Camp Agawam

It has been a tradition for the last decade or so for Breakwater middle school students to visit Camp Agawam in the first few days of school. The purpose for this adventure trip is simple: Let students engage and bond in a beautiful Maine environment to start their year off strong. While at Agawam, students learn and grow together by participating in team building activities, making meals for and with each other, swimming, hiking, climbing on the ropes course, and simply spending time together. They go on night walks to appreciate the stars and morning hikes to appreciate the sunrise. They spend their nights in cabins to continue growing their independence. Agawam is a special trip because students in 5th-8th grade establish themselves as this year’s Breakwater middle school with all the excitement, anticipation, and wonder that pertains to that title.

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Meet Katie O'Toole - Breakwater First and Second Grade Teacher

At Breakwater we want for our students to explore the world confident in themselves, with a sense of purpose and compassion, belief in their own agency, and the resilience to embrace mistakes. We affirm the integrity of childhood by placing high value on play, balancing the education of the heart and the mind equally. Breakwater's ability to succeed in this is made possible by a talented, enthusiastic, and loving faculty who live these same aspirations in their everyday lives. Our teachers and staff are recruited and retained based on their professional skills, their willingness to model our mission in every respect, and their commitment to professional and personal growth. Check back every month to learn more about our amazing Breakwater faculty

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Garden Letter Making with Preschool

Garden Letter Making with Preschool

It was such an exciting time in the garden! Students were abuzz talking about different lines and shapes, how to make lines that curved for C’s and D’s (curvy green beans were an excellent choice!) and how to decorate their letters using flower petals, seeds and berries. Not only that, students began thinking of other connections around letters and shapes. They even inspired a Breakwater garden font that can be seen inside the school!

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Welcome Back Breakwater!

Welcome Back Breakwater!

On Wednesday, September 4th Breakwater was filled with excitement as we celebrated the first day of school! The excitement and nerves were palpable on the playground as we welcomed new and returning students and families to the 2019-2020 school year. The morning started with the Breakwater cheer before students waved goodbye to their families and started the day. Check out some highlights from our back to school social and first day of school!

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Congratulations to the Class of 2019!

Congratulations to the Class of 2019!

We are in complete awe of the 22 members of this graduating class and are full of gratitude for the many ways they have contributed to our community. Every year our commencement ceremony features a personal speech from each of our graduates sharing who or what they are most thankful for at Breakwater, a special memory of their time here, or what they will miss the most. This year was no different. Read on to hear memories and words of wisdom and gratitude from this year's graduating class as they embark on their lives beyond the breakwater.

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Breakwater Rallies for Climate Justice

On a cold and dreary morning in April, students from Breakwater traveled together to the Statehouse in Augusta to participate in a rally dedicated to the fight for climate justice. The energy and power of this international movement, started and perpetuated largely by young people, has been reverberating within elementary schools through colleges in Maine for the last several months. Breakwater has been at the forefront helping to educate, build solidarity with other young activists, and share their intense love for and knowledge of our planet.

On the morning of the rally, students designed and created posters to help demonstrate their thoughts on climate change, rehearsed a song with Zev called “Sing for the Climate (Do it Now!)” and shared thoughts with each other about climate justice and what that means to them as individuals and as a community. Once in Augusta, students broke up into two groups: Third and fourth graders who traveled for the rally but also went to celebrate the culmination of their Changemaker unit, observed part of the open session debates happening at the state house, met our representatives and got a glimpse of civics in action. The other group comprised largely of students from the Students 4 Civil Rights club and some other interested middle school students, went directly to the rally to learn some protest songs and greet students from over twenty other schools in Maine.

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Even though the rain and wind was raw and cold, Breakwater students rarely complained and instead reveled in the opportunity to share their voices. They learned several protest songs from rally organizers, proudly held up their signs and heard speeches from middle school through college speakers. Representative Chellie Pingree and Governor Janet Mills both made an appearance at the rally and gave speeches sharing their promise that they would stand alongside the students in the fight for climate justice. Breakwater alumna, Quilla Flanagan-Burt gave a powerful speech about climate change and its effects on the local economy. It was inspiring for our students to see a former Breakwater student in such a powerful position and they were moved by Quilla’s honesty, intensity and grit.

Quilla Flanagan-Burt, Breakwater Alumna,, delivers a speech at youth-led climate rally on April 23, 2019 in Augusta.

Quilla Flanagan-Burt, Breakwater Alumna,, delivers a speech at youth-led climate rally on April 23, 2019 in Augusta.

“Maine should not deny, fear, or downplay the facts of climate change. Instead we should accept, confront, and embrace the opportunities to do the right thing as a state and a populace. DIRIGO is Maine’s latin motto- I lead. Let us lead the nation with the green new deal. Let us lead the nation with environmental justice. Let us lead the nation to renewed hope.” ~Quilla Flanagan-Burt

Zev Bliss, who leads the Students 4 Civil Rights group at Breakwater, said that he felt that the rally was inspirational, and a wonderful way to ground learning about climate science, democracy, and social change.

“We created signs, sang songs, and made our voices heard! A few of us even wrote letters to our specific representatives. We saw middle school, high school, and college student speakers, as well as Maine’s new governor, Janet Mills and Chellie Pingree. Students thought critically about the world and their society, bringing context and knowledge from 3/4’s changemaker projects, middle school’s civics projects, and the Students For Civil Rights group’s study on climate science and climate change.” -Zev Bliss

Third and fourth grade teacher, Krys Carriere reflects: “If we hope for the students of today to become thoughtful, engaged adults in their communities, educators have an important job to do. It’s not our role to teach them to believe as we do, or to tell them what to think; Instead, we strive to teach them how to think critically and make informed decisions on their own path of understanding, which reaches far beyond our third and fourth grade classrooms and into their future lives.”

The climate rally was a powerful way for our students to benefit from speaking up proudly with a group of peers with similar passions and convictions, and to fight together for something that stirs and inspires them. Students left Augusta that Tuesday with feelings of hope and urgency. It is inspiring to see all the ways they engage passionately with their world, teaching us over and over about what’s most important. Below is a video highlighting the events of the day and providing a snapshot of what happens when students stand up and insist their voices be heard.



Around the World with Preschool

Around the World with Preschool

This winter and spring our preschool students have embarked on so many adventures and explorations about world cultures that it's hard to believe they have done it all while still staying at Breakwater! When a classmate moved to Switzerland last fall, students started to get curious about where their friend was going, what his new home might look like, and how far from Maine he was moving to. Because our Early Childhood program is Reggio Emilia inspired, following and honoring children’s inherent interests and desires drives our curriculum. The questions and curiosities sparked by their friend's move drove a rich study of world cultures that has taken place over the past several months in our preschool classrooms. Their curiosities have brought in parent visitors and speakers, driven art and sensory projects, and sparked conversations with their 3rd and 4th grade learning buddies!

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