MHS Y.E.S. Program Allows Students to Explore New Interests.

Messalonskee High School wrapped up its second YES (YEAR END STUDIES) Program with performances, presentations, and a gallery walk of final products that ranged from snacks to outdoor sculptures. With the return of some favorite courses and the addition of several new ones, the second year of the program appeared to be a success.

Sophomore Sydnie Gay took Writing through Improvisation as her morning YES program this year and said she feels that it has really helped her academically.  “Before this class, I was really struggling with writing dialogue, character, and internal monologue,” she said. “The improv really helped unblock me, particularly with dialogue writing.” Freshman Taryn Drolet, who participated in the Strategic Game Creation program, built an online game that featured his own music as the soundtrack and was accompanied by 11 pages of rules.

The YES program is a chance for students to explore new interests, acquire new skills, and discover new passions in a low stake setting. Many students who took part in the Exploring Mount Desert Island session had never been camping before. Others tried their hand at new forms of art like Quilling or Printmaking. The culinary courses gave several students their first experiences in the kitchen. Sophomore Cassidy Guiggey hadn’t done much cooking before taking the Intro to Cooking and Nutrition class. The course taught students how to make simple, healthy recipes, how to read food labels, and how to eat healthy on a budget. Guiggey thinks she will be spending more time in the kitchen from now on.  “I thought it would be harder to cook healthy, but this showed me that it can be easy,” she said.

For other students, this year’s program was a chance to expand on knowledge gained in last year’s experiences. The faculty created a few advanced sessions specifically for returning students, but some students found other ways to take their knowledge to the next level. Aislyn McDaniel became fascinated with the techniques involved in creating makeup effects for the stage during last year’s Stage Makeup session.  She decided that she wanted to take part in the program again this year, but as a teaching assistant, helping other students learn the art.

Some courses also gave back to the community in a variety of ways. In the Volunteerism session, students completed several community service projects including helping set up and run the Atwood Carnival and helping prepare the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat facility for the 2018 summer season. Another program built an impressive Soda Bottle Greenhouse that will be raffled off at this year’s Oak Fest.

The YES courses provide numerous opportunities and invaluable skills.  Courses like Intro to Cooking, Quilt in a Day, and Cosplay and Costume Design teach students culinary or sewing skills that can serve them for life. Stock Market 101 teaches students about money management and risk-taking, and Casino Gaming comes at math and probability from a new angle. PE-based courses ranging from Hooping to Pickleball get students moving and introduce them to activities that can become part of a lifelong wellness habit. The genealogy YES program not only allows students to explore their roots, but reinforces good research habits, and helps them see social studies from a more personal angle.  Many courses also focus on self-sufficiency and outdoor living, such as Farm to Table, Fishing, Hiking, and Outdoor Survival.

Each day is bookended by academic recovery time that provides students with the opportunity to connect with teachers in order to address incomplete work or focus on standards they have been struggling to meet. This is one area that could still see some improvement according to Assistant Principal Sam Dunbar, who took point on the program for the second time this year. “I would like to find a way for this to be a more productive time, with more students working toward standards and/or recovering credits before departing for the summer,” he said. He also hopes to have students generate some of the topics for next year’s sessions.

“Overall, I was pleased with this year,” said Dunbar. “A lot of work has gone into it and I am hopeful we can expand the program if we decide to keep heading in this direction.”

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