June 11, 2004
A wonderful partnership between local schools, cultural organizations, and the private and corporate sectors recently came together to ensure that every St. John Valley elementary and secondary school will have their own St. Croix 1604 Interpretive Trunk.
The St. Croix 1604 Interpretive Trunk was produced by the U.S. National Park Service at Acadia National Park to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first French settlement in North America, at St. Croix Island in 1604. Located in Calais, St. Croix Island became a National Historic Site in 1949, and in 1984 was re-designated by Congress as an International Historic Site.
The trunk contains 30 items, including maps and journal excerpts from 1604, a beaver pelt, footwear and drinking vessels typical of the period, native language recordings, and a videotape adventure.
In March, some 35 teachers from school districts across the St. John Valley attended workshops with National Park Service ranger Meg Scheid, to learn about the trunks and how to use them in their classrooms.
These workshops were sponsored and organized by the Maine Acadian Heritage Council's Educational Resource Development Committee in collaboration with Acadia National Park and the University of Maine at Fort Kent's Acadian Archives and Office of Academic Outreach.
At the workshops, each of the Valley's four school districts received a trunk, thanks to a grant from the Maine Community Foundation. The teachers who attended were incredibly enthusiastic about the trunks and their classroom potential, but they expressed concern about the fact that there were only four trunks for the twelve schools.
In response, the Maine Acadian Heritage Council and Le Club Français decided to partner together to create challenge grants for Valley school districts to purchase additional trunks.
"The National Park Service spokesperson, Meg Scheid, was so enthusiastic in her presentation of the materials included in the trunk, and the fact that materials were in English and French basically sold me on the project," said Marie-Anne Gauvin, member of the board of directors and head of the finance committee for Le Club Français.
"Because this was such a worthy educational and historic project that would benefit the St. John Valley students, I recommended to the membership and donors that Le Club Français help fund the project for additional trunks," said Gauvin.
Wallagrass Elementary School teacher Laurie Lozier took things one step further and successfully applied to MBNA to help MSAD 27 purchase their trunks.
"I attended the first workshop presented by the National Park Service and the enthusiasm of the teacher attendees prompted me to write a grant through MBNA of Fort Kent to obtain additional trunks," said Lozier. "I didn't want to share one trunk with five schools in the district."
"MBNA awarded us a $2600 grant, and using matching funds provided by Le Club Français and Maine Acadian Heritage Council, we were able to purchase the additional trunks at a cost of $1200 and other related educational materials," said Lozier.
MSAD 33, 24 and Madawaska School District also took up the challenge grant offer from Le Club Français and the Maine Acadian Heritage Council to purchase additional trunks for their schools.
Lisa Ornstein, director of the Acadian Archives and chair of the Maine Acadian Heritage Council's Educational Resource Development Committee, is delighted by the successful partnerships sparked by the St. Croix Interpretive Trunk.
"It's wonderful to see what can happen when schools, local organizations, and the private sector team together," said Ornstein. "The beginning of French settlement in North America is particularly relevant to the St. John Valley, and the St. Croix Interpretive Trunks will help future generations of Valley children to make the connection," she added.
The Acadian Archives at the University of Maine at Fort Kent has also received a St. Croix Interpretive Trunk, which it plans to make available for local use.