Originally published in Castine Patriot, May 15, 2014
Maine Student Book Award celebrated at Maine Maritime Academy
Maine Maritime Academy student Chris Randazzo explains a monitor within the Navigation Simulator to Blue Hill Peninsula students in April, 2014.
by Ruby Nash
Fifth and sixth grade students from throughout the peninsula gathered at Maine Maritime Academy on Wednesday, April 16, to celebrate the Maine Student Book Award.
The annual event is aimed at “expanding literary horizons,” according to the MSBA website, “by encouraging them to read, evaluate and enjoy a selection of new books.”
The day’s events, hosted by the academy, included presentations by MSBA-winning author Mary Cerullo, harbor tours on Research Vessel Friendship, a radar navigation excursion on the M/V Susan Clark, visits to the navigation simulators on campus, presentations by the Adams School Calvineers, and trips to the Oceanography department’s laboratory and touch tanks.
The theme of this year’s Award was marine sciences, and Mary Cerullo presented her nonfiction children’s book Giant Squid: Searching for a Sea Monster. The book focuses on the efforts of Dr. Clyde Roper, ocean scientist and squid expert, and catalogs his lifelong study of the elusive Giant Squid.
Cerullo sees herself as a “science translator,” converting scientific language into words with which everyone can connect. “It’s hard to simplify [material] so scientists are happy with it, and [the general public] understands.”
The Adams school of Castine has an afterschool group called the “Calvineers,” which is dedicated to endangered species recovery through education. The club presented facts and figures on the current circumstances of the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale to groups of students from other elementary schools throughout the day.
In the navigation simulator, students from all schools were able to experience being at the helm of three different ships: a cruise ship, a tug, and a loaded tanker. Other students were able to go on a harbor tour aboard the R/V Friendship.
The Maine Student Book Award is “designed to expand literary horizons of students in grades 4-8 by encouraging them to read, evaluate, and enjoy a selection of new books and to choose a statewide favorite by written ballot each spring.” Each year a committee of librarians from School Union 93 picks one book from the MSBA list and creates an educational event around the topic.
Beth Jackson, librarian at the Blue Hill Consolidated School, spearheaded the event. “It’s a great way to get the kids to interact between schools, beyond just a social situation, one that has a theme to work around and build on,” she said.
Coordinating that many students from that many schools is a lot of work, and Jackson cited collaboration with Maine Maritime Academy, and specifically Commandant of Midshipmen Nathan Gandy, for the success of the event. “[The committee was] really excited to connect with Nathan Gandy,” she said. “It was outstanding to work with him. He saw the opportunity and the community spirit of it.”
Gandy considers MMA a resource for the community. “We want members of the surrounding towns and schools to know what we offer, and what is available to them in their back yard,” he said.
Gandy and MMA organized student guides for the elementary school visitors, who assisted throughout the day, providing guidance and explanation to, from, and during the various activities.
“[MMA] students are enriched by their work with the schools and organizations in the community,” Gandy said in an email. “The more our students can be involved in the greater community, the better.”
As for the motivation for MMA to get involved with elementary-aged students from the community, Gandy added, “Experiencing an institution of higher education first-hand is critical in developing long-range educational goals. Our hope is that students will recall their experience here as cool and interesting, and that some students who may not have considered college as an option will now consider it as a long-range goal.”
“The kids loved it,” said Katie Frothingham, teaching principal at the Adams School in Castine. “It’s so nice to see the community collaborate on a larger scale project like this.”