A three-year grant to the Island Institute and Vinalhaven School from the Antioch New England Institute in Keene, New Hampshire, is enabling the Vinalhaven School to implement an innovative three-year education program. The program, called CO-SEED (Communities and Schools for Environmental Education), uses the island’s community and environment to teach a wide variety of subjects at all grade levels of the 211-student, K-12 island school. The grant funds a team of Vinalhaven students, administrators, teachers and community members (the “SEED Team”) who will develop student projects and “place-based” curricula during the current and next two school years. It also provides a full-time Island Institute staff member, Nicole Ouellette, to live on Vinalhaven and work at the school to implement the program.

Among the projects that are being implemented are monitoring the island’s groundwater — a program being conducted in cooperation with the Vinalhaven Land Trust and the island’s GIS Committee; producing biodiesel fuel; and using primary source documents from the Vinalhaven Historical Society to create biographies of lesser-known island residents. Community participation is a highlight of all the projects, with community volunteer Margaret Qualey working closely with Ouellette to build broad participation in the CO-SEED work.

“The CO-SEED grant is a natural extension of the Island Institute’s place-based education work with island schools over several years’ time,” said Ruth Kermish-Allen, the Institute’s Education Outreach Officer. “It is our hope that the work being funded on Vinalhaven can serve as a model for other small rural schools that want to use their local place as a teaching tool that ultimately supports a strong community and a healthy environment.”

According to Mike Felton, School Leader of the Vinalhaven School, the CO-SEED grant will help the school expand its existing place-based education programs and make them sustainable over time. “Our teachers and students are already experienced with learning that is based on community needs,” he said. “Thanks to CO-SEED, we have a new, full-time staff member focusing solely on place-based programs, and that will help us build on our strengths over the next three years.”

Antioch New England Institute’s Center for Place-based Education promotes community-based education programs that encourage partnerships among students, teachers and community members to strengthen and support student achievement while benefiting both the community and the environment. “We believe that the places we live can serve as wonderful, meaningful sources for inspiration, education, and lifelong learning–and also a springboard for understanding our global community,” said Delia Clark, CO-SEED Project Director at Antioch New England. “We are pleased to be able to bring this approach to Vinalhaven through this grant.”