Pat Parent, Massabesic Middle School


    Grade 7 Science

    Mission: Is purple loosestrife spreading on the Massabesic Middle School campus? Are Galerucella beetles or Japanese beetles keeping it in check? DETAILS

    Pat's advice to teachers new to VS
    "You don’t have to be a science expert and neither do your students. It is really about comparing and contrasting and using scientific techniques. Make the investigation your own. You don’t have to do it all, especially the first time. Things won’t go perfectly outside or with the submission process the first time. They don’t have to." MORE ADVICE

    Student highlights

Carey Hotaling, Falmouth Middle School


    Grade 8 science

    Coastal Mission: Is climate change impacting Maine's intertidal communities? DETAILS

    Land Mission: Where are the upland invasive species in Falmouth?

    Carey's best part of VS
    "Vital Signs starts our year out on a great note. We are out in the field, students are engaged, learning while having fun, and I'm getting to know who they are and how they work in the process. The best part for me is the current nature of the real-life problem that this shares with the students. They feel part of something important and real when they publish their work and get feedback from scientists."

    Student highlights

Rhonda Tate, Dedham Elementary School


    Grades 6-8 science, math, language arts


    • Do we have hemlock and hemlock woolly adelgid at Dedham Elementary School? DETAILS
    • Do we have emerald ash borer at Dedham Elementary School? DETAILS
    • Do we have rock snot in Mill Stream? DETAILS
    • Do we have invasive crayfish in Mill Stream? DETAILS
    • Do we have Asian longhorned beetle at Dedham Elementary School? DETAILS

    Why Dedham's pumped about VS
    "The part of Vital Signs that gets me, as a teacher, the most pumped is that it is authentic, useful, relevant data collection that encourages students to raise their standard of work to a professional level. They are using and refining their skills in the realm of technology and social networking for a purpose. The part of Vital Signs that gets my students, by their own admission, pumped is that we get go outside even more than ever. Many have expressed enthusiasm that the work is real science as opposed to textbook science.”

    Student highlights

Sue Richman, South Portland High School


    Grades 9-12 biology, marine biology

    Missions: Is codium moving up Maine's coast? DETAILS
    At the end of the year, Sue's students write and do their own Missions! DETAILS

    Why Sue does VS
    "My students love working together in all kinds of conditions, defending their identifications, and experimenting with various pieces of equipment. They like to see their work online, and enjoy getting responses to their posts. When my students learn about and understand the organisms in their environment, they care about them, pay attention to environmental issues, and develop an even greater appreciation for the evolutionary process. The constant collection and evaluation of data reminds students that claims need to be backed by evidence. This makes them more critical readers and listeners to statements presented in the media."

    Student highlights

    • Codium NOT FOUND in Kettle Cove tide pools by marine5 in fall 2011
    • First "codium FOUND" observation in Kettle Cove tide pools by NickerKa in spring 2012

Steph Dolan, Waynflete Middle School


    Grades 7 & 8 science

    Mission: Are there native eastern hemlock trees on Waynflete's campus? Has invasive hemlock woolly adelgid spread to campus yet?" DETAILS

    Impacts on Steph's teaching
    "This program is revolutionizing my teaching, seriously! I wanted my students to learn what it means to be a scientist and to feel connected to working scientists. What became important was students' abilities to work together, to gather and make sense of data, and to share their data online."

    Student highlights
    Native hemlock FOUND by Flyers5 and Flyers1

Tricia Bernhardt, James F. Doughty Middle School


    Grades 7 & 8 science

    Land Missions:
    Do we have invasive species along the soccer field at JFDS?
    Will the newly paved path affect the spread of invasives at the JFDS soccer field?

    Coastal Missions:
    Will Asian shore crabs invade Moose Point State Park?
    Is there a dominant gender of green crabs at Moose Point State Park?

    What Tricia's students are learning
    "Through their work with Vital Signs my students are learning to work together, to provide evidence for their claims, to use technology effectively, to contribute useful information, to be good citizens, to be on the look out for invasives, and to feel like scientists."

    Student highlights

Mike Denniston, Middle School of the Kennebunks


    Grade 7 science

    Freshwater Mission: Are the Kennebunk rivers and streams healthy? Mike and his students have been keeping an incredible 13-year dataset of bioassessments on four waterways in Kennebunk!

    Coastal Mission: What native species and invasive species live in Kennebunk Beach's rocky intertidal?

    Mike's seasoned perspective
    "I have been teaching for 36 years and Vital Signs has proven to be one of the best programs I've been involved with. The future will be bright if students become responsible, contributing members of our society, with an understanding that our ecosystems are complex and fragile."

    Student highlights

Jamien Jacobs, Friends School


    Grades 5 & 6 science

    Jamien's students are taking their Vital Signs work a giant step forward by doing an invasive species eradication project on Mackworth Island in collaboration with the state. They are using Vital Signs to inventory invasive species and native species on a 50m x 50m plot, and to see how the plot changes over the 10 years following their eradication and replanting efforts.

    Community connections
    Through Vital Signs, Jamien's students have connected online with students on Vinalhaven Island. They are sharing ID tips and comparing plant species between the two islands. DETAILS

    Feel Jamien's enthusiasm
    "I kicked off Vital Signs today. Kids are pumped! I'm going to let them decide whether we remove species or not. If they think we should not interfere, I will charge them with setting up a long-term investigation here to help us make scientifically-informed decisions for how to manage the rest of the island. The more connections these kids can make to professionals and to real life science and management the better! AWESOME stuff!!!"

    Student highlights

Amy Palmer, Vinalhaven School


    Grades 6-8 science

    Mission: Document the native and invasive species on Vinalhaven Island!

    Community connections
    Through Vital Signs, Amy's students have connected online with students on Mackworth Island. They are sharing ID tips and comparing plant species between the two islands. DETAILS

    Why Amy's students take great photos
    "Well, it was a whirlwind prep - we looked at photos on the VS site and then we practiced really fast with the cameras inside before we went outside. Then I just let them go!"

    Student highlights

Laura Seaver, Loranger Middle School


    Grade 6 science

    Mission: What impact do invasive species have on habitats in Old Orchard Beach? (Mill Stream, Cascade Falls, Loranger Middle School campus, Long Pond, Ferry Beach, Ocean Walk Hotel, millions more field sites...!)

    Notes from Laura's start-up in 2011
    "Here we are entering data! We watched your great tutorial (they appear to pay more attention to video than the paper version), and we are just going for it!"

    "I love how my students wrote in their comments that your comment made them stop and think! They really do get excited to see comments from the community."

    Student highlights

Tim Hebda, Waynflete Lower School


    Grades 4 & 5 science

    Upland Mission: Are there invasive plants on our campus?
    Marsh Mission: Is our marsh healthy?

    Tim's not a science geek
    "I am not a science geek and would probably say I am a writing, history, and math teacher before mentioning science. However, my experiences with Vital Signs have all been positive. I have been buoyed by my students' energy and determination. They want to help scientists and, as a result, they take special ownership of their work. Now that my students and I have wrapped up our second mission I see how we can start small and gradually improve our methodology and increase our scope over time."

    His next challenge
    "Participation in Vital Signs has also challenged me to bring the format of the mission to other subjects. How can I get my Lit class to look like Vital Signs? History?"

    Student highlights