Portland School Notebook: Feb. 17

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First graders’ art on display at library

Animal books by first-graders at Ocean Avenue Elementary School are on exhibit at the Portland Public Library’s children’s room this month. Side x Side and the Portland Public Library have partnered to exhibit the students’ handmade animal books. The books were completed during a Side x Side bookmaking program led by teaching artists Jill Osgood and Sarah Boyden Herboldsheimer and the first-grade teaching team at Ocean Avenue.

The books showcase student learning in science, math and literacy. The exhibit will remain on view until the end of the month. The students will then share their books with kindergarten students and Reading Buddies, as well as with parents during March parent-teacher conferences.

The writing unit was done in conjunction with a Side-By-Side arts grant, which brings authors and artists into classrooms. A four-year, federal arts education grant of more than $1.9 million was awarded to Side x Side, a Portland nonprofit whose mission is to integrate the arts into the curriculum of Maine public schools, and the University of Southern Maine, in the fall of 2014.

During the last school year, Side x Side successfully piloted five arts-integrated programs at Reiche Community School. This year, those interdisciplinary programs have expanded to three more Portland elementary schools: East End, Riverton and Ocean Avenue.

‘Protecting the Nature of Maine’ grant awarded

The Natural Resources Council of Maine has awarded grants to eight Maine middle schools – including King Middle School in Portland – to fund projects that engage students in protecting Maine’s environment. King students will partner with Maine Audubon to cultivate native seeds that sustain endangered bird populations. King middle school’s program will also tell Portland residents how their own gardens can help those species.

UNE VP in forefront of fight against opioid crisis

Edward Bilsky, vice-president for research and scholarship for the University of New England, participated in a panel discussion Feb. 4 in Washington, D.C., on the opioid crisis in America. The event was organized by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency, and included Directors James Comey and Chuck Rosenberg. The directors rolled out a new education and prevention resource that includes “Chasing the Dragon,” a documentary that highlights the impact of opioid abuse and addiction on individuals, families and communities.

“I was profoundly impacted by the “Chasing the Dragon” documentary, sitting next to two mothers who had lost young daughters to opioid overdoses,” said Bilsky. “I sense a sea change in our approach to education, prevention and treatment of opioid misuse, one that includes a more comprehensive and holistic plan and better communication and coordination of existing resources.”

Bilsky was invited to participate in the event after he attended a recent Senate Judicial Committee hearing focused on the current heroin and prescription drug misuse crisis in the United States. He has been a leader in the pursuit of a multi-pronged approach to combating addiction. In addition to his role in addiction outreach efforts in Maine, Bilsky is among a team of scientists recently awarded a $4.5 million, five-year grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health to develop drugs for the treatment of chronic pain with fewer adverse effects than opioid pain-relief medications.

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