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Collaborative Models

Maine Forest Collaborative

Washington County Youth Leadership Challenge

& the Eastern Maine Skippers Program

Why collaborate to build programs?

Maine is rich with resources, and by resources we mean both our natural resources and the organizations and institutions within the State. 

We believe that amazing things can happen when we all combine our expertise, experience and resources to support Maine students in becoming the future leaders and stewards that are so essential to strong rural vitality. 

What does it look like?

Our collaborative models are designed to foster leadership and stewardship of Maine's legacy natural resource industries (eg: fishing, forestry, farming) or an area of economic or community vitality (eg: civic engagement, entrepreneurship and innovation).  Our work is centered around partnerships between schools, non-profit organizations, industry practitioners, State agencies and post-secondary institutions. From these partnerships, we are able to create common outcomes, identify needs, and build a common curricula that supports students, formal and informal educators and community representatives as they explore innovations to challenges facing a particular community or industry.  Most importantly, students are brought together to share their experiences, meet practitioners from the field, and share their findings to other cohort schools and community stakeholders within the collaborative model.

Who do collaborative models benefit?

Students: Through our collaborative school projects, we've seen increased student attendance and increased engagement in school.  Students are excited about learning with field experts and practitioners.  Overwhelmingly, students report that they are working on projects that they care about. 

Teachers: By joining a collaborative model teachers increase professional contacts beyond their districts and support curriculum development ensuring that the curricula created supports student outcomes.  Rural Aspirations Education Specialists provide extra support by providing individualized professional development, creating and modifying resources as teachers need them, differentiating materials to meet the needs of each school, and creating tools specific to their classrooms and students.

Schools: Teacher turnover is high in rural schools, which often means a loss of expertise, created resources, and gaps in students learning.  By joining a collaborative model schools increase connection with other rural schools.  Schools gain access to a shared and growing curriculum and increased connections within their communities and Maine's legacy industries. Projects that students and educators develop can increase visibility and funding sources for school projects as well.


Communities: Our collaborative models focus on student engagement in local issues to give voice to student experiences and opinions but also to increase student engagement in real-world problems facing rural communities.  Rural communities gain students who are confident, critical thinkers, citizens who have a shared sense of ownership over their community and increased exposure to potential jobs and entreprenurial opportunities in rural Maine.

Current Collaborative Models

Read about our current collaborative models and what those involved have to to say about them

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The Maine Forest Collaborative

2017 - Present

The MFC brings schools and communities together to design programming that empowers all students to actively contribute, as citizens and stewards, to the vitality of our forest communities today and into the future.

Students involved in the MFC have worked on community-based projects to address needs in the community that students care about.  A few examples of projects include a school trail system with community access (Greenville HS), beautification of a community park with education stations about native species and ecosystems (Piscataquis HS), and many more!

Visit the website to check out student projects and read about our student cohort days >>

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The Washington County Youth Leadership Challenge

Currently Under Development- Launching September 2024!

What would happen if… students, teachers, and communities in Washington County worked together to co-design a vibrant future for their region?

Imagine students exploring and proposing solutions to important issues that matter to their community, with the guidance of teachers and other community partners.  Through real-world opportunities students learn to participate in the civic life of their community and develop leadership skills. 

The capstone of the WCYLC is a year-long collaborative project that brings together students and teachers from multiple schools as well as individuals and organizations from across various communities and industries.  In this project, community partners- from town councils to nonprofits to businesses and more- will pose challenges to middle and high school teams of students and teachers centered around relevant civic issues facing the region.  The school teams will spend the year working with community partners to understand the issue, present possible solutions to decision makers, and work to implement the solution.

Visit the webpage to learn more >>

Past Collaborative Models

Read about our models that have been passed onto schools and organizations

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2014 - 2019

The Eastern Maine Skippers Program (EMSP) is a collaborative regional high school program that provides aspiring commercial fishermen and others interested in marine careers with the core knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the 21st century. Looking toward co-managed fisheries, EMSP students work closely with community partners including local fishermen, scientists, fisheries organizations, and regulators, gaining real-world experience and the opportunity to connect with mentors in commercial fishing and a range of marine careers. Students remain in their own schools while forming an annual regional cohort that draws on a shared curriculum, online interaction and meeting a minimum of four times each academic year to develop relationships among the region’s future fishery leaders.


The Rural Aspirations Project supported this work for the program's first 5 years by guiding the partner organizations and teachers to develop 5 iterations of EMSP Curriculum; supporting and training teachers in proficiency and project-based teaching practices, including annual training workshops and 1:1 support for teachers; serving on the EMSP Steering Committee as a lead partner and supporting the work of other Community Partners.  This project was passed onto the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries in 2019.



Students share ideas to help boost fishing industry's future - Ellsworth American


Future Fishermen a Focus of Fishermen's Forum - WABI TV5

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