The Strategy: Locating Imagination Everywhere

Since it was first settled, the Deer Isle peninsula has been home to ingenuity. Saltwater farms, wooden boats and gear for lobstering, fine crafts, and the arts have all flourished in the region. This same recognition of the possibilities for imagination in every form of human activity also characterizes how the community raises its young people:

Wood shop at the high school doubles as an applied physics lab. Instead of humdrum bookshelves, students are designing individual sumobots that they take to competitions. A number of the students had learned to work in wood and metal by attending Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. When the teacher wanted high quality, affordable drafting desks, he worked with students to design and build them.

When Deer Isle High School responded to the CREST (Community for Rural Education Stewardship and Technology) invitation to participate, students chose to research the Deer Isle Boys, local mariners who formed the entire crew of the winning 1895 and 1897 America’s Cup teams. The project turned into an amazing marriage of history and technology. Students used GIS to locate and map locations for all crew members’ graves; digitized an audio interview with the last survivor and paired it photos and 3-D imaging technology to create an animated film of him; and traveled as far as New York to collect more information. In return for the historic materials and advice, students are now digitizing the historical society’s holdings. Read article from the Working Waterfront.

Opera House Arts at the Stonington Opera House and the Deer Isle-Stonington Public Schools have a collaborative project with Juneau, Alaska, called “Maine to Alaska: Swapping Fish Tales.” The project engages young people in learning about and communicating the similarities and differences between the two fishing communities. Year one of the project focused on the use of digital media arts and communication tools, oral history and literacy skills in gathering and comprehending fishermen’s stories, and a dramatic tableau to communicate and assess this comprehension. Year two will focus on using drama and the visual arts to promote and enhance project-based classroom learning, and as tools for comprehension and assessment. The project will conclude in “Dear Fish,” an original, multidiscipline performance.

opera house

The Reach Performing Arts Center is a world-class, 400-seat performance venue that was designed as an integral part of the Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School. The REACH hosts an annual cross-generational musical production. Activities like rehearsals and set building make performance a daily backdrop to growing up.

Many of the projects in Deer Isle-Stonington have come about because the community has built an extensive network of partnerships with local community organizations (see the list below), and also with statewide and national groups, such as the Island Institute and the Kennedy Center.

I see the arts as central to all of this imaginative learning. We did an island census of heirloom apple trees. Some would see that just as science, but our kids learned to observe, notice and think that way because they have been immersed in the arts. – Linda Nelson, Executive Director, Opera House Arts

My guide was a young woman who had practically grown up working at the Stonington Opera House. She went to movies there as a young kid, she got to apprentice as a projectionist, she developed an interest in filmmaking, and now she comes back to visit and help out. –site visitor to Deer Isle- Stonington

Opera House Arts at the Stonington Opera House

Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle

Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School

Deer Isle-Stonington High School

Seamark Community Arts, Deer Isle

Friends of the Reach Performing Arts Center

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