Community for Rural Education, Stewardship and Technology (CREST), a comprehensive project for students and teachers, currently networks the Island Institute, the University of Maine at Machias, Bowdoin College, and Maine’s island and coastal schools to form a learning community of 55 students, 44 teachers, community stakeholders, and Information Technology (IT) professionals. Within the 11 CREST schools, an additional 1,700 students and teachers are impacted by the use of CREST’s focus technologies across curricular areas. During the course of its three-year duration, CREST’s instructional staff, and collegiate partners will provide teachers and students with 365 contact hours that strengthen database management skills – the foundation of IT careers – through Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping, website design and ethnographic research skills using digital tools. Most of the target population lives in some of Maine’s most remote areas, where opportunities for IT learning are rare. CREST’s interdisciplinary approach aims to reconnect students to their threatened communities and provides insight into applicable technology careers through local projects based in the surrounding Gulf of Maine Ecosystem.
Using technology as a tool and place-based education as a vehicle, CREST connects students to the natural, social, and economic resources in their communities and demonstrates ways in which technology and technology careers can diversify and support natural resource-based communities and economies. Through CREST, a model methodology is being developed that guides the integration of disparate place-based education projects in underserved communities. The project connects social sciences, technology skills, and community assets in an interdisciplinary fashion that can further the ITEST research agenda and become a model for coastal and island communities. By building these communities within the resource management context, CREST strengthens capacity for participation in natural-resource stewardship and information economies among students while providing teachers and students with skills that could immediately diversify the local economy.