On Feb. 8 the Island Institute CREST team traveled to Bar Harbor to hold an orientation for teachers and administrators of a new group of schools that is joining in the CREST project.

Launched in 2005, Community for Rural Education, Stewardship and Technology (CREST) is a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project that provides hands-on Information Technology (IT) education and IT career-awareness opportunities to nearly 100 teachers and students from 11 middle and high schools in Maine’s island and remote coastal communities.

This October, the Island Institute received a new award from NSF of nearly $800,000 to renew the project and expand it Downeast. CREST also has a new collaboration with College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, a partnership that will expose participants to service-learning opportunities and ways that they can further their IT education.

Five Downeast schools attended the meeting and have signed up for the CREST project, including Mount Desert Island High School, Connors-Emerson School in Bar Harbor, Isle au Haut School, Frenchboro School and Swan’s Island School.

The project is specifically targeting students in grades 6-12, and contains three technology strands to familiarize students with IT “real-world” applications: Geographic Information Systems (GIS), website design and ethnography (digital storytelling). Participants capture their community’s history on iMovie through interviews with local elders, examine satellite imagery and gather local data with GPS to create island maps, and design websites to display their work.

Ruth Kermish-Allen, CREST principal investigator and education program officer at the Island Institute, reported that “there seemed to be a lot of great energy and enthusiasm in the room about CREST. The program really coincides nicely with the existing missions of these schools. We’re very excited about working with these schools over the next two years.”

The schools will begin recruiting students to participate in the program and approach community volunteers or organizations about possible projects. The new schools will officially begin their projects this summer at the CREST Summer Institute.