Updated: Nov 25, 2019
By Korah Soll, Founding Director of Rural Aspirations
On November 6th, 2019, 30 high school students from 3 rural high schools (Buckfield, Greenville and Forest Hills) converged on the Hall of Flags in Augusta to share perspectives from their communities and to learn how to Rapid Prototype local challenges into solutions. Students did a great job representing their communities, and it was evident from their "We Are" poems that they are deeply invested in the vitality of their rural places (use the arrow in the picture below to scroll through student posters).
After presenting posters to their peers, students remained in mixed groups to work with professionals to identify challenges facing our rural communities. We were honored to be joined by representatives from the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, Project Learning Tree, the Maine State Legislature, UMaine Schools of Forestry and Education, the Maine Forest Service, Insource Renewables, Moose Woods Guide Service, the Kennebec Land Trust and the Department of Education.
Together, students and professionals created an extensive brainstorm of issues they believe are critical to Maine's future. Below is a photo of one group's brainstorm.
From there, each group chose 1 focus challenge for the Rapid Prototyping process. After lunch, students got back into their groups to identify solutions for their chosen challenge. This exercise was an opportunity for students to become familiar with the Rapid Prototyping process so they are prepared to take on a challenge unique to their community or region after this cohort day. The process began by asking students to more deeply understand their challenge. From there, students brainstormed potential solutions, chose a solution, and created a prototype of that solution. Some groups imagined draft legislation, others created theme parks for their communities, and one group focused on magnetic roads to keep our cars from feeling the effects of spring potholes! Some solutions were silly, while others really considered what it might take to effect change. It was really all about the process!
The big take-away from the day was that the future leaders of Maine are in our classrooms today, and the more we can challenge them to think about their place in our future, the more apt we are to engage them in becoming future innovators and entrepreneurs - building the vitality of our rural places.
Back in their classrooms, students will begin the Rapid Prototyping process by more deeply examining challenges facing their communities. Over the coming weeks and months, students will choose a challenge and will lead that challenge through the process of identifying solutions, building prototypes, testing those prototypes, learning from their failures and eventually, analyzing the social/cultural, ecological and economic impact of their ideas.
In May, students will present their projects to an authentic audience (we will be sure to post the date and place when it becomes available). All along the way, students will be seeking guidance and advice from industry and community professionals, and we welcome your participation! Please reach out to us, or to any of our partner schools if you would like to become more involved as these students learn how to prototype solutions in their communities!