by Sydney Beecher Contributing Writer
During the COVID-19 pandemic, students majoring in Elementary Education have been completing their practicums through placements in online programs and in-person placements.
All students majoring in Education must go through practicum, a combination of seminars and hands-on classroom experiences, in order to graduate within their program. The seminars are designed to teach students educational theories and practices that they can apply to their future classrooms. Students are also placed in a classroom in the Farmington region where they will spend up to 10 hours a week working with students and a mentor. The main goal of practicums are to bridge the gap between education courses and student teaching.
Because of the challenges COVID-19 presents to in-person learning, practicums have undergone a handful of changes in order to adjust to online learning. Ashley Clark, a junior majoring in Elementary Education and completing her practicum this fall, said one of the biggest changes that were made this year was the placement of students. “There wasn’t a lot of in-person placement,” she said. “Out of the 24 of us in my seminar, half of us were placed in Mallet [Elementary School] and the other half were placed in this new online academy.”
This online academy, which Clark was placed at, was introduced by the Mt. Blue Region for students whose parents did not want them attending in-person schooling.
Within the online academy, there are 12 advanced practicum students from UMF, teachers who will act as mentors, an administrator, and reading, writing, and math specialists from Mallet Elementary School. One of the biggest issues Clark worries about is the communication, as she believes she’ll have trouble effectively communicating through technology. “I asked to be placed in kindergarten,” Clark said, “so for me, it could mean that I join the classroom for morning meeting, I read a book out loud to them, or help students one-on-one if they’re having trouble.”
On the other hand, elementary education students who are completing their practicums in-person, such as senior Elise Guerrette, are attempting to adjust to the new reality of being in a classroom environment. “I had to wear a mask and face shield whenever I was closer than three feet to a student,” she said, “and it was hard to read facial expressions.” Guerrette, who was placed at Spruce Mountain Elementary School in Jay, also mentioned how bare the classroom was since most things had to be put away.
Despite all of the challenges and adjustment practicums face this semester, Guerrette feels that her unique practicum experience will benefit her in the long run. “My practicum experience will really help me in the future, especially since I am going to be teaching next year!” she said.
by Cassidy Delano Contributing Writer
The Early Childhood Education (ECH) Department has brought in Dr. Josh Hill as a new professor in hopes that he will add a new perspective to the program starting this semester.
Dr. Hill was initially hired in Dec. 2019, but not before he came to UMF for nearly three days in order to get interviewed for the position, do a teaching demonstration in Dr. Mellisa Clawson’s ECH 256 class, and to conduct a research demonstration.
Dr. Clawson made a positive first impression, “He was very outgoing, personable, and friendly,” said Dr. Clawson. “Those to me are very good signs. It made me confident that he would be a good fit for our staff and students to work with.”
Dr. Hill has been exposed to many different classroom settings because of his unique experiences prior to teaching at UMF. He got his undergraduate degree in International Relations, but when he couldn’t find a job in that field, he decided to join Americorp Vista, where he first got exposed to leadership in classroom settings. “I was organizing mentor programs in Delaware elementary schools and I began mentoring a young kindergarten student,” Dr. Hill said. “I loved the experience and became interested in teaching young children.”
From there he went on to get his masters in Early Childhood Special Education at the University of North Carolina Greensboro and then moved on to get his doctorate at the University of South Carolina where he also taught as a graduate position.
Now in his first semester teaching at UMF, Dr. Hill believes he is settling in nicely with the campus and the people in it. “The community aspect is really nice here,” Dr. Hill said. “Everyone is always checking in to make sure everything is okay.”
In all the years she’s worked at UMF, Dr. Clawson has only seen one other male professor in the ECH department, but he only taught for a year. Dr. Clawson knows that Dr. Hill is a valuable addition to the community and students coming through the ECH major. “Josh’s knowledge and friendliness in the field make him a great fit for the department,” she said. “His specialized knowledge will bring more diversity to our community. Having more diversity in the department is appealing, our departments and students will really grow from that. I’m looking forward to having a new perspective and collaborating with him.”
Kiley Chambers, a junior in the ECH program, was in ECH 256 when Dr. Hill did the teaching demonstration in Dr. Clawson’s class last semester and was excited to learn he’d be teaching ECH 232 this semester. “I really like how passionate he is about teaching and the topics that he is teaching,” said Chambers. “He seemed very open and understanding during the demonstration and having him as a professor now has solidified that thought.”
by Faith Rouillard Contributing Writer
Andrew Willihan, Mainely Outdoors Coordinator, and his staff have worked closely with UMF Facilities to construct a unique COVID-19 plan of operations for the 2020-21 school year.
Mainely Outdoors (MO), located next to the Fitness and Recreation Center (FRC), typically provides UMF students and the surrounding community access to outdoor excursions, clinics, and gear rentals. “As a student, you’re limited in terms of storage needed for equipment and limited by your budget,” explains Sam Shirley, a junior majoring in Outdoor Recreation Business Administration (ORBA). “MO offers rentals free for 24 hours to students. It’s a great resource!”
Before COVID-19, MO provided dozens of trips a year throughout the state, where trip participants could use camping gear, mountain bikes, paddleboards, snowshoes, kayaks, and more provided by MO. Now, in order to create a safer environment during the pandemic, MO is only providing mountain bikes and helmet rentals to UMF students. “Currently, we are set up in a format that helps protect us as the employees, as much as the guests and users of [MO],” said Avery Boucher, a MO student staff member.
MO has been following a set of guidelines put in place by UMF Facilities. “Facilities has done an amazing job giving us the tools and resources we need to be able to open and do what we’re doing,” said Willihan. “I feel confident with the way we’re operating.”
Because of the global pandemic, MO is taking meticulous precautions while in operation, such as the one-way route throughout the building in order to maintain social distancing, mask requirements, and providing hand sanitizer. “As the manager, I may be more conservative around how we operate because anything I put in place I first think ‘I’m asking my student staff to do this, too,’” Willihan says. “They have to be in contact, too, so I need to be human conscious first.”
The student lead trips have been restricted to the greater Farmington area. Student leaders are encouraged to lead trips doing physically-distanced activities, such as mountain biking, night hiking, and stargazing. “We are granted a great region to be restricted to,” said Boucher.
Even though MO is being run with less staff than in previous years, they work together as a team and come together with their common love for the outdoors. “Everyone on staff treats it as more than a job,” Shirley says. “We are all so passionate about the outdoors and what we do at MO.”
Mainely Outdoors is using #adventureisnecessary to market themselves this year. This idea stemmed from the outdoors being deemed a safe place for people to be while the virus is active. “We really want to see you,” Willihan says, “we want to get you on a piece of equipment we’re renting and share the outdoors with you.”
UMF students can rent mountain bike equipment at Mainely Outdoors from 11:00 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays. To keep up to date on MO’s upcoming events, find them on Facebook—Mainely Outdoors and follow them on Instagram—@umfmainelyoutdoors.
Update: According to an Instagram post from Mainely Outdoors on Sept. 28, 2020, Mainely Outdoors now offers rentals of canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards “until it’s too cold,” the post’s caption says. To reserve paddle sports equipment, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Skylar Hopkins Contributing Writer
If the flap of a single butterfly’s wings can have rippling effects across the world, what impact might a professor who researches butterfly conservation have? Dr. Ronald Butler has been a professor in the Division of Natural Resources at the University of Maine at Farmington since 1986.
In the past 34 years, he has taught and mentored thousands of students through summer research projects and courses such as Zoology, Entomology, Ornithology, Ecology, Conservation Biology, and Tropical Island Ecology. His students now live across the world, spreading the ecological knowledge and life lessons he passed down to them.
Butler’s biology courses were always popular because he took students on field trips to study local wildlife. Students fondly remember tiptoeing through meadows with a butterfly net, flipping rocks in streams to look for aquatic insects, and looking at lichens on trees using a hand lens. (Many housemates and parents of Butler’s students less fondly remember unexpectedly finding a collection of dead insects in the freezer, waiting to be pinned for a class project.)
Many students made lifelong friends and memories during Tropical Island Ecology, a travel course that Butler co-taught with Dr. Nancy Prentiss, which involves snorkeling in coral reefs and hiking in tropical forests on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Though his field trips were literally “a walk in the park”, Butler’s courses were more like strenuous and rewarding hikes than casual strolls. First-year biology majors crammed for his Zoology exams. Ecology students sat in the Spatial Ecology Lab at all hours of the day and night running statistical tests. Entomology students fretted over microscopes while counting tiny insect hairs or analyzing wing veins, because Butler would subtract two times as many points as an insect was worth in their final collection if they included an insect identified incorrectly. All of this made his students work harder and achieve more at UMF and in their careers after college.
Amidst his full teaching and mentoring responsibilities, Butler always found time to be a champion of insect conservation in the state of Maine and beyond. He has been an integral part of several state-wide citizen science initiatives, including the Maine Damselfly and Dragonfly Survey, the Maine Butterfly Survey, and the Maine Bumble Bee Atlas. While participating in those projects, his summer research students often lived their best lives. Butler also published many scholarly articles about critters ranging from lichens to birds to insects and guidebooks for insects in Maine and New England.
Butler will be retiring from teaching at UMF after this academic year and his science fiction book recommendations and iconic phrase of agreement (“right, right, right”) will be dearly missed. Despite retiring, Butler will continue to be involved in insect conservation projects, including new book writing projects, for many years to come. His students and colleagues near and far wish him all the best of luck in his future endeavors.
by Nevaeh Rush Vice President
Residents on campus have had to make adjustments this school year because of guidelines and policies set by UMF in regards to COVID-19.
There are many new policies that have been set in place for on-campus students that have changed their everyday lives.
The biggest change has been the mask wearing policy—masks must be on correctly unless you’re in the bathroom, off campus or in your own dorm—but it seems most people have been compliant. “It is something that is very new and you have to get used to,” said Duncan Farley, a Community Assistant (CA) living on campus. “You still see people occasionally forget to wear their mask when leaving their room, I myself have done it.”
Residents must also follow a new guest policy to ensure safety during the pandemic. “Normally you can have guests over during the day, basically whenever,” said Farley. “At the start of the semester they did not allow anyone [in the residence halls] for two weeks.”
Since the two-week period ended on Sept. 13., only UMF students who are a part of the UMF community have been able to visit each other—no outside guests. “The students must be enrolled in the fall semester and live in Farmington to be referred to as the UMF community,” says Farley.
Students living in the dorms this semester tend to feel isolated in their rooms, but meal times tend to lessen that. “We sit outside for lunch and dinner because there is not enough space in the North Dining Hall, but it is getting cold so I have been eating more in my room,” says Emily Thompson, a sophomore living on campus this semester.
Even though meal times are a good way to socialize, students can’t help but notice the difference of the indoor dining spaces on campus compared to before campus closed in March. “Going into these spaces like the Dining Hall and the Beaver Lodge is kind of depressing,” says Thompson, “we used to sit in there and eat and socialize and now they are so empty.”
Although the amount of changes everyone is enduring, CAs are still trying to make residential life as normal for students as possible and give that socialization through physically distanced programs. “Programs and events are either ‘grab-and-go’, where you can grab them and go to your room and do them independently, over Zoom, or outside where you can properly social distance,” says Farley.
Although we cannot change the policies, as they are keeping students safe, it is not always easy. “The best word to describe it has been strange,” said Farley. “The whole environment is all very new, which is to be expected.”