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Taking Fisheries to School: A Fisheries Education Workshop

The Downeast Fisheries Partnership (DFP) hosted a workshop in October to facilitate efforts to expand fisheries education in eastern Maine. The workshop brought together 30 people representing 18 different organizations and provided a platform for participants to brainstorm how to build fisheries-related topics into existing educational programs in both school-based and extracurricular settings.

As Anne Hayden, DFP Coordinator, noted in opening the workshop, the overall goal of this effort is to provide opportunities for children and adults to learn about fisheries at every stage of the educational continuum—from kindergarten to community-based adult education programming. In the long term, such opportunities have the potential to prepare children and adults to be stewards of their local ecosystems and fisheries.

The event was held at Schoodic Institute in Winter Harbor, Maine. Educators, members of the public and other professionals interested in fisheries education discussed how to connect existing programs and individuals to expand fisheries knowledge, in and out of schools. Representatives from the Eastern Maine Skippers Program, Island Readers and Writers, Cobscook Community Learning Center, and Schoodic Institute, gave brief presentations providing a big picture view of students’ exposure to fisheries.  For example, Michael Guidilli, from the Cobscook Community Learning Center’s high school program noted that they “use fisheries to leverage data literacy skills – collecting and processing data – and for modeling how to understand systems and how they change.”  In the discussion that followed, participants underscored that their focus on fisheries is not intended to provide vocational training but rather the knowledge and critical thinking skills required of any student.

Regarding ways to expand fisheries education, it was pointed out that challenges were also sometimes opportunities.  For example, school systems in eastern Maine are under severe budget constraints. But for that same reason, they are often willing to work with collaborators to expand their educational offerings.

Knowledge and experience-sharing was strong throughout the workshop and fostered new connections while strengthening existing ones.  Such relationships can help expand and improve fisheries-related educational programming in eastern Maine.  Charlie Harrington, Director of the Maine Sea Coast Mission’s after-school and summer kids’ programs, summed up the motivation for tackling this work collaboratively: “We’ve been through lots of school reform….what we have done well is what we have done together.”