The Island Institute’s 3rd Community for Rural Education, Stewardship, and Technology (CREST) Summer Institute was bigger and better than ever!

CREST doubled in size this year to include 96 6th -12th grade students and 55 teachers from 16 island and isolated coastal schools.

The schools that sent students included Deer Isle Stonington Elementary and High School, Greely High School, Georges Valley High School, St. George School, Vinalhaven School, North Haven Community School, Islesboro Central School, Searsport District High School, Mount Desert Island High School, Conners Emerson School, Isle au Haut School, Swan’s Island School, Lubec Consolidated School, Washington Academy, and Fort O’Brien Elementary School.

Teams of students and teachers from each school learned how to use geographic information systems (GIS/GPS), ethnography, and web-design technologies to find creative solutions to community resource questions and problems.

For instance, Julia Maine from Chebeague Island created a map that showed the possible effects of sea level rise on the island. Caleb Mao from Isle au Haut and Josh Collins from Lincolnville filmed and produced a movie comparing and contrasting their lives on either side of Penobscot Bay. And others created web sites with a page that allows visitors to add data and volunteer services to school projects.

All of these hands-on place-based learning experiences are geared to get students excited about how they can use technology to improve their community and how they can apply their love of technology in a career some day.

The learning doesn’t end now that the summer institute is over-it has only begun!  Each CREST team left the summer institute with a list of goals for creating place-based projects that incorporate these exciting technologies into the existing curriculum.  For example, Conner’s Emerson School in Bar Harbor plans on looking at the research question of “How does pesticide use impact our community”?  The teachers will work with students to create maps of areas affected by pesticide use; students will interview community members to understand different viewpoints on the topic, and a web page will be set up to gather data from community members.

Keep an eye out for CREST throughout the year. Starting in September, each month the work of a CREST school will be highlighted in the Working Waterfront.

CREST is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers Program.  For more information on CREST check out the website at

Ruth Kermish-Allen is the Island Institute’s education director.