Portland superintendent & students go “ponding”

Last Thursday, we welcomed Portland Schools Superintendent Xavier Botana and first graders from Hall Elementary to Gilsland Farm. The group went “ponding” — building on work the students and teachers at Hall have been doing with Maine Audubon educators on wildlife and habitat conservation.

This field workshop, led by Maine Audubon educators, underscored the importance of habitat to wildlife, and explored some of what students and communities can do to conserve it. This program is also an example of the rich learning landscape in and around Portland, and the productive community partnerships rallying untold resources for Portland kids.

Karen Arno looks at things found in the pond with Hall students
Maine Audubon educator Karen Arno helps a Hall student empty his net into a container. (Ariana van den Akker/Maine Audubon)

Superintendent Botana was joined by School Board member Marnie Morrione, Portland Education Foundation (PEF) Executive Director Kate Snyder, and Maine Audubon Executive Director Andy Beahm. The visit highlighted an innovative new partnership between the school district, PEF, and Maine Audubon.

Andy Beahm, Eric Topper, Portland Schools Superintendent Xavier Botana
Maine Audubon Executive Director Andy Beahm (left) and Portland Schools Superintendent Xavier Botana (right) listen as Maine Audubon Director of Education Eric Topper explains the program. (Kate Snyder/PEF)

Maine Audubon already helped teachers serve roughly ten PEF grants each school year under PEF’s general grantmaking, and last spring the two organizations joined forces to raise and administer funds specifically for teachers seeking to partner with Maine Audubon. One particular goal of this partnership was to enable outdoor fieldwork like this in September and October. Most PEF grants are awarded in November, and thus used later in the school year.

“It was awesome. Thanks for the invitation and all that you do for our kids and teachers,” said Superintendent Botana after the visit. PEF’s Kate Snyder also reflected, saying that “PEF was so pleased to partner with you all at Audubon in the interest of Portland Public Schools student and teacher access to Gilsland Farm, and your programming. I hope we can continue to work together.” Ms. Morrione shared that she would provide a brief recap at the upcoming School Board meeting.

Many thanks to the important individuals who helped fund the pilot year of this exciting new partnership! Maine Audubon welcomes donations to support more grants for Portland classrooms this year. Just make a donation online and write “PEF partnership” in the comments section, or send a check with “PEF partnership” in the memo line. We’ll make sure it gets put to great use.

A Hall student looks in her net
A Hall student looks in her net. (Ariana van den Akker/Maine Audubon)