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Mast Landing School, Freeport

Grade level: 3-5

Promising Approaches

  • Student participation in governance


Special Features

Civic Learning Goals

Professional Development Opportunities

Snapshots of Practice in Action

Contact Information


Mast Landing School is an elementary school in Maine that offers families a choice of 3 different programs for 3rd-5th graders. There are two reasons for making this choice available. The first is the programs have a "human scale" with a manageable number of about 100 students each. The second reason is balance. In education, there are often several approaches to instruction and grouping, all of which have proven success, but which work best when small teams of teachers are committed to certain approaches and use them consistently. Choice in these philosophical approaches aids student achievement, parental support and teacher development. During a student's 2nd grade year, parents go through a process of gathering information in order to make the best selection for their child's next 3 years of education.

The three programs, each housed in a separate "pod" within the school building, are called Harraseeket, Spring Hill and Soule. Each of these programs may differ in instruction and grouping practices, but all of them contain important elements of student input, child-centered instruction, instructional sub-groups, and special activities and traditions.

Most unique about the entire school is its belief in the importance of student input into playground, program and classroom rules and their enforcement. While this happens within each program, there are significant differences that make each program unique.Each program has "whole-program meetings" that deal with the decisions about everyday life that make school a good place to be for children (and adults). Each program sends student-selected representatives to a whole-school student council that considers larger building and playground issues.

Special Features

To involve students in self-governance and decision-making, each program has a student council and weekly assemblies involving all students and staff. Elections and electioneering are part of student council selections in all programs. Differences do exist and are highlighted below.

The Harraseeket Student Council has three functions: 1) to solve problems within the Harraseeket Program, 2) to plan community service events and 3) to plan fun events for the students in the program. The structure is similar to the Federal government in which there is a President and a Vice President, both of whom serve for half the year, a Senator from each of the classes who serves for the entire year and two Representatives from each class and who are elected three times each year. The purpose is to include as many children as possible in the government and in the decision making and planning that that involves. All solutions and events are announced at the weekly assemblies at which class presentations, skits and songs are also shared.

The Spring Hill Student Council is made up of two representatives from each class who meet weekly with two Spring Hill teachers. This year they planned a community service project of gathering toiletries for the Freeport Community Services. They did this by placing bins in each of the three programs as well as spending a Saturday morning at Shaw's. They also planned the two major events: the Family Fun Night for all Mast Landing Students and their families and the annual Spring Hill Talent Show which will take place in May.

In the Soule program, at the beginning of the year students review and revise program rules from previous years. These rules are posted throughout the program and are referred to daily. Elections are held early in the fall to elect members to the Soule Student Council and to the Mast Landing Student Council. The purpose of the Soule Student Council is to interpret the school rules and to work with Soule staff and students to make sure everyone feels safe and welcome. The Student Council also works to solve issues of concern (such as playground rules) and plans special celebrations. Assemblies are held at least once a week to celebrate successes, to choose units of study and to present issues from the student council. Students participate in two small meetings a week. The purpose of these meetings is to build a climate of mutual respect by having general discussions and sharing concerns and successes.

Civic Learning Goals

Civic Knowledge

  • Key principles, documents, and ideas essential to constitutional democracy
  • Structures, processes, functions, branches, and levels of U.S. government and legal system
  • Social and political networks for making change, such as voluntary associations or local organizing

Civic Skills

  • Critical thinking, active listening, analyzing public policies, problems and assets, and understanding multiple perspectives
  • Communicating one's position through writing or speaking
  • Planning and implementing civic action through managing, organizing, and building consensus
  • Voicing opinion through electoral and non-electoral means, such as voting, lobbying, protesting, and organizing.

Civic Dispositions

  • Developing tolerance, respect, and appreciation of difference
  • Developing concern with the rights and welfare of others
  • Developing a belief in one's ability to make a difference
  • Developing attentiveness to civic matters and a desire to become involved

Professional Development Opportunities

Visits to each of the three programs within the Mast Landing School can be arranged by contacting the school in advance.

Snapshots of the Practice in Action

The Soule Student council has worked hard to resolve issues around fair play on the playground, specifically in four square games and touch football. They have also come up with a plan that they presented to the teachers whereby the student body can eat lunch in the classrooms on special occasions. The teachers agreed on a trial basis. The Soule student council also adopted a family through Freeport Community Services during the holiday season and has planned two program celebrations. They meet weekly and report out to the all program assembly every Friday.

Mast Landing Student Council: The whole school student council meets weekly and consists of six members from each program (two from each grade level). The major project to date has been planning for using the pond for school wide skating. They are currently working on concerns around safety and equity. They report back to their own programs at their weekly meetings.

Contact Information

Judy Higbea, Teaching Principal, Harraseeket

Holly Couturier, Teaching Principal, Spring Hill

Beth Willhoite, Teaching Principal, Soule

Mast Landing School

116 Bow Street

Freeport ME 04032


Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools: Education for Democracy