The Magical Mix Time of the Outer Islands Teaching & Learning Collaborative
Just under a year. From Monday, July 18th, 2016, to Thursday, June 1st, 2017. That’s how long it took for me to see what others had described countless times when I started as the TLC (Teaching & Learning Collaborative) Program Coordinator. It wasn’t until just this month that I saw for myself the elusive mixing and melding that happens when the TLC island schools get together for at an in-person field trip.
Without straining the eye, it's easy to see how students mixing, learning and playing with peers from other schools is a wondrous sight. These kids are cute, dang it! Why not take a snap shot? Okay! “Click!” The photo above is the perfect shot of this year’s TLC at an Inter-Island Event on Frenchboro in the fall! Organized, but with a healthy helping of silly. Print it, frame it, post it!
What I came to realize recently though is that these organized, cropped photos, as great as they are, don’t tell the whole story. The story of building relationships and community within and across islands. The social learning that takes place and provides the glue to hold the other pieces of the TLC together - the academics, virtual book groups, Student Council. On our field trips, you might call it downtime, free play, unstructured time.
I call it magical mix time and it is GOLD.
Numerous times throughout the year I have seen these kids in action at face-to-face gatherings. So, how had I not seen if from the get-go? I took to combing through the hundreds (thousands?) of photos I’ve taken over the course of this school year, looking for what I hadn’t known to look for before. I scoured the pictures considered not conventionally appealing. The ones that didn’t make the cut for Facebook, Instagram or the website, with a blurry face or a fingertip on the camera lense - looking for those moments of bonding. The photos I found are the ones that help round out the TLC story. So here I am to share them with you - the unpolished, cropped or filtered TLC, so that it might not take you as long to recognize these special vignettes. See if you can find the magical mix time in the photos that follow!
Like the first group picture, here’s another from Inter-Island Event on Frenchboro in the fall. This is us going through a morning meeting and getting geared up for the day. Can you see the micro-moments? Many to choose from! Okay, a little harder now, how about this next one?
A final shot from Inter-Island Event. Pre-lunch? Post-hike? Hard to know. But foreground, background, in the shadowy trees, I can see several of those special, micro-moments here. (The bright shirts sure help, too!)
Here I am with several of the older students at the annual Middle School Retreat (put on with large support from the Maine Seacoast Mission). I think we were waiting for a meal to be ready or to hop in our cars, but I can’t recall. I do know this wasn’t on our schedule or agenda for the day. It just happened. Would you know that this group of soon-to-be-high-schoolers represents six different islands? (For those curious, there’s Cliff, Monhegan, Swan’s, Great Cranberry, Islesford and Isle au Haut.)
Worm entertainment! Even when programming is going on, there is still space for these mini-moments to creep in. I was lucky enough to catch this magical mix time front and center. This shot is from the service learning project we did at College of the Atlantic’s Beech Hill Farm as part of our spring field trip to Mount Desert Island.
Finished breakfast early and ready to get the show on the road here at our spring field trip. As adults shuffle to get supplies and cars ready for morning departure, students gather and make the most of some downtime. A pretty awesome crowd to walk into!
And finally, here we are on Monhegan Island - the Monhegan and Matinicus schools along with several Island Institute staff had an energy-themed field trip on June 1st. I spy with my little eye, a nice shot of our Energy Associate Ben Algeo? No, in the right hand corner, can you see it? Two pals enjoying some rambling, scrambling tide pool time.
So, what I’ve come to realize about my role as TLC Coordinator, is that it’s as much about scheduling great educational programming as it is about the gaps in that programming. The nuanced nooks and crannies of scheduled time where these passing moments can arise - fostering the friendships that are the foundation of the TLC. Like any good artist, I had to train my eye to find the moments - look beyond the poised, frozen frames. It won’t be written into our daily agendas; the magical mix time is often fleeting and in motion. So keep an eye out because now you see it, now you don’t.