Curiosity as Credit: A Chat with Breakwater School

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Hi, all!

Welcome to the third post in our series featuring various people and their organizations across the state of Maine who are utilizing and leveraging digital badging since MSOL’s inception in 2015! (Click here to see our first and second post in the series.)

In this post, we’ll be featuring the conversation we had with Breakwater School’s very own Kelly Steinhagen, the Director of Enrichment and Aftercare at the independent day school located in Portland.

And remember, stay tuned: future posts will include conversations with The Telling Room in Portland, and CourseStorm’s CEO, Brian Rahill!

But first, Breakwater!                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Breakwater School: Curiosity for Life                                                                                 

Founded in 1965 by Eleanor and Frank Costa as “Playtime Haven”, with six young toddlers as their first “class”, Breakwater school quickly established itself as a trustworthy daycare and school, meeting the demand Portland had for quality child care. By 1973, less than 10 years after “El” and Frank first opened their doors, the Breakwater name was coined and incorporated as a non-profit school, offering enrollment to grades K-5.

Today, Breakwater School has extended its programming to include middle school (grades 6-8), a toddler program, and since 2010, a year-round Early Childhood options for busy families.

This mission? “To engage their students in an optimal learning experience that inspires them to live well on the planet, embrace their whole being, and realize their full potential.”

With this mission statement in mind, Breakwater School strives to offer education that allows learning to be:

  1. Integrated
  2. Challenging
  3. Authentic
  4. Personalized
  5. Active and Hands-on
  6. And, Inclusive

Badging at Breakwater

So, how has badging fit into Breakwater’s education mission and learning philosophy? Very well, judging by how many badges they’ve helped create and have issued!

Now in it’s second year of badging, Breakwater has incorporated badging Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 10.51.09 AMinto every camp they offer during the summer (at least 30), and into every class taught at the school. With opportunities ranging from a Shakespeare on Film badge (earned by completing the Shakespeare on Film camp as part of the Breakwater Enrichment Summer Program) to a Cultural Chef Award (also earned through the Enrichment Summer Program during the Cooking with Culture camp), Breakwater’s badge catalog offers some of the most creative, and interesting badges out there.

“We had some students who wanted to collect them all,” Kelly said. “We had [other] students who were motivated by the level-up ability [of the badges].”

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 10.49.50 AMKnown as “levelling-up”, Maine State of Learning, with the help and sponsorship of Breakwater, offers challenges (and badges) to those students who have earned a specific number of badges in any of the three tracks available: The Outdoor/Environment track, the Arts/Maker track, or the Agriculture/Food track. In the Outdoor/Environment track for example, students who have earned at least 3 digital badges can unlock the opportunity to be a part of a Youth Group Survivor Challenge led by Bob Crowley, the local Mainer who won the reality television show, Survivor!

New this year, Kelly informed me, is the “curiosity competency” series: badges that can be issued by any teacher or instructor, and that are earned when students exhibit characteristics and attributes that align with the culture of learning at Breakwater.

Within this series of badges, for example, there’s the Inquisitor badge (a Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 10.51.47 AMbadge earned by someone who asks questions and digs deeper), the Uniquely You badge (earned by demonstrating self-expression and self-confidence), and the Personal Pilot badge (earned by a student who demonstrates self-direction and motivation). In total, there are 9 curiosity competency badges being offered this year.

“It’s something they can take with them in the future,” Kelly said. “[For] jobs, and college applications. Badges are their own type of credit.”

Indeed, as the Breakwater Way says: “Students emerge from our program as self-confident, independent thinkers and motivated, lifelong learners who possess the academic and interpersonal skills to succeed wherever their choices and circumstances take them.”

And with badging, students will be able to show exactly what they learned during their time at Breakwater.

We here at MSOL hope this article was informative for you! Do you have any questions or comments? Email us! We always enjoy hearing from you. 🙂