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Information Number:  844-476-6976

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To provide innovative and high-quality education, inclusive of the arts, that supports academic achievement and cultivates the skills essential for people to reach their full potential.

Rural school systems have a unique set of challenges primarily involving scale and funding that often fail to meet their needs, especially in sparsely populated states like Maine. In general, there are fewer students in each school; fewer dollars going to teachers (and more going to fixed, administrative, and overhead expenses); fewer teachers who are also needed to cover multiple subjects (less specialization); less choice in curriculum along with less choice in schools; potentially a wide range of knowledge and skills of students within the same classroom; and less exposure to opportunities outside of school. Rural schools also see the same or higher percentages of poverty, substance use/abuse, and trauma-related challenges  that exist in urban areas, but have far fewer resources to address them.

Mission Statement NEMC ArrivalAs we think about innovation in rural education that could result in systemic change, our goal is simple—to provide opportunities to ensure all students develop the knowledge, skills, and aspirations to reach their full potential. Snow Pond is concentrating on two vital areas where we believe policy and procedural changes will have the greatest impact on student results.

First, a more balanced, impactful, and inventive curriculum can be made available for each student within a nurturing, supportive culture. Summer programming provided here for the last 84 years offers consistent and valuable insights into proven pathways for innovative solutions. Students who come from all parts of the US reflect a balance of both economic and cultural diversity. These students live and participate in an intergenerational community (for 3 -6 weeks) that offers a balanced and supportive program of arts, recreation, and social activities. 

Snow Pond often finds in this summer program that students from rural communities have had very different learning experiences than their peers from other more urban/suburban areas. However, in a short time, we often see transformational results. Parents consistently comment on the astounding change they see in their children musically, socially, and especially aspirationally. Talent is not the differential factor in these students; it is the lack of exposure to opportunity. The challenge lies in how to take the triumphs and culture of the summer program, plus the successes of our expanded year-round programs, and over time apply them to rural public school and community settings more broadly and consistently. 

At Snow Pond, we believe transformational results can be consistently achieved through a combination of the four foundational components of our educational programming:

  1. Arts are a core and integrated component across the entire curriculum. An arts-centered curriculum provides enriched programming offering students an opportunity to imagine and explore, allowing their natural creative interests to emerge. Over time, as students experience music, dance, drama, visual arts, directly and integrated within the core academics, they become more creative and develop the skills needed to be more collaborative, communicative, and disciplined. These gifts cultivated by the arts are especially important in rural regions where quality programming or events are often not available or accessible.
  1. Mission Statement RehearsalsChoice and customization of learning opportunities are essential. Parents and students accept more accountability in the learning process when they have the ability to choose the school and customize some of the learning opportunities. Technology provides  more potential to move in this direction than in the past. Distance learning technology can connect students to great educators in a specific area of interest in any location. At Snow Pond, we often connect with our artistic faculty (who do not live in Maine) to provide music lessons or master classes in specific instruments or subject areas. This customized learning is not limited to the arts and our classroom teachers are not always the sole purveyors of knowledge; quite often they guide or coach students as to where to find appropriate subject matter and how to best understand it. 
  1. School and students are key contributing members of the community. Schools are generally one of the largest employers in rural regions and the largest component of the town budget, yet in most communities, school administration, communications, and activities are very separate from that of the town. Integrating the schools and the students into the fabric of the community yields many benefits. Students who are active and contributing members of the community develop more confidence and tend to be engaged learners.

    There have been numerous studies on rural education that links place-based education that engages students with local terrain, local problems, and local assets to notable improvement in  student achievement, student engagement, and broader school and community ties. As an example, in most rural areas there has been an outmigration of young people that greatly impacts both the schools and the community. To reverse this trend, young people need to be active participants in addressing outmigration. Snow Pond has a project for students (in high school and college thus far) to design a mixed-use community (or cultural district) that would be an attractive place for them to live and fit with the existing rural environment. We’ve also asked them to think about how to brand, market, and attract people to this community.
  1. Create a nurturing learning culture that is not limited to the school campus. Providing students a safe, nurturing learning environment is most essential. As both an education and community center, it is important that this environment extends beyond the schools and the campus. Snow Pond is fortunate to have a beautiful lakeside campus, where people are drawn together. Learning often happens best in this relaxed setting where the arts, informal conversation, recreation, community activities, and shared meals collectively create Snow Pond’s special culture and space for the community to interact. 

AMission Statement 02 Rehearsalss an example, many rural areas now have a disproportional share of seniors, many of which are anxious to interact with students and share their “stories”. They are also interested in learning about new technologies from the students, learning to play an instrument, and more. This creates a very powerful learning experience for students who witness this lifelong interest in learning. As more community members encounter Snow Pond, the more this culture and experience radiates throughout the region. When we ask students to describe Snow Pond, the most common answer is “magical.” 

Secondly, as is the case with all kinds of innovation, sustainability and leadership is paramount. Without question, additional resources are needed in rural regions and most importantly these resources need to be equitably allocated to each student. Additional resources include federal and state school and student funding, facility grants and loans, and operational grants. Also, public education systems need to provide more flexibility and openness: to leverage regional assets and programming that have had long-term sustainable success; to adapt to changing conditions and new technologies; and to find new methods and approaches to enhance every student's individual potential. 

There also needs to be a better understanding that quality arts and education (including workforce education) are drivers of rural prosperity. Making this happen will require coordination and explicit support from State and Regional Economic and Community Development agencies, the Dept of Education, and the politicians that fund them.  Snow Pond is at the forefront in providing leadership on building awareness of the major issues and opportunities in rural education and importantly driving sustainable results and systemic change over time.

Snow Pond Center for the Arts

New England Music Camp - NEMC - Est. 1937

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