The Outer Islands Teaching & Learning Collaborative (TLC) is a group of Maine island educators who are committed to creating a virtual classroom community where teachers and students will have access to a rich and supportive inter-island peer network. The Outer Islands TLC serves the one- and two-room school communities of Cliff, Frenchboro, Isle au Haut, the Cranberry Islands, Matinicus, and Monhegan.
The community of The Outer Islands TLC creates a lifeline of support for students and teachers in order to sustain Maine’s one- and two-room island schools.
Isolated schools are vital, innovative, collaborative centers of teaching and learning that prepare students to thrive in the 21st century.
The Foundational Elements
This is the base of the Outer Islands TLC. Island teachers co-create curriculum units and activities, share the project leadership, and offer professional support to one another.
Curriculum alignment in science and social studies provides students with the chance to study the same units at the same time. Students also participate in virtual inter-island book groups that meet once a week through Zoom and use a collaborative platform called “Wikispaces” to work together.
This is crucial to maintaining relationships and to the longevity of the project. The TLC Student Council helps to plan virtual parties, end of year celebrations, and other social functions for the group throughout the year, and also provides the students with a chance to see one another outside of their academic collaboration. The TLC Student Council meets monthly after school.
Balance out the virtual, technology-based interactions that the group depends on--and some of the frustrations that inevitably accompany the technology! The whole TLC gets together at least three times a year, starting once each September to kick off the year at Inter-Island Event” (IIE). IIE is a decades long tradition of the outer island schools thanks to the Sunbeam Seacoast Mission, who support the event and help to provide transportation. The TLC also go on two field trips a year, in the fall and spring, that are tied to the curriculum and give students and teachers a chance for shared face-to-face learning.
Critical to the sustainability of the project, and toward that end, the group decided to form an inter-island Parent Teacher Community Group (PTC) in the fall of 2011. The PTC supports the project through fundraising initiatives and also provides parents and community members with an avenue for participation in the project.
The Outer Islands Teaching and Learning Collaborative was conceived and developed in 2009 by the teachers of the Cranberry Isles, Isle au Haut, Matinicus and Monhegan schools. These teachers were later joined by Cliff Island during Year 1 (2010) of implementation, then Frenchboro during Year 3 (2012) to comprise the current six-island school collaborative. The Outer Islands TLC was formed based on the recognition that one- and two-room school teaching on the outer islands was challenging, isolated and isolating compared to teaching in larger mainland schools. The founding teachers acknowledged the ways in which their situations and experiences were similar, and they expressed a need and desire to extend their sense of peer support to one another.
The project has received support from the Island Institute, the Maine Seacoast Mission, the Maine Community Foundation, the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, and most recently, from the partial proceeds of Islesford artist Henry Isaacs’ spring 2012 show Lessons From an Island at the Archipelago Fine Arts Gallery. The project has also garnered important and substantial support from the participating school boards, school administrators, and community members. In 2013, the TLC officially became a program of the Island Institute.