Maine School Binds Isolated Island Together

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Monhegan Island School. Credit: Neenah Ellis. i

Monhegan Island School is one of eight remaining one-room schools in Maine. Neenah Ellis hide caption

itoggle caption Neenah Ellis
Monhegan Island School. Credit: Neenah Ellis.

Monhegan Island School is one of eight remaining one-room schools in Maine.

Neenah Ellis
Map of Monhegan, Maine. Credit: NPR. i

The winter lobster season, running from December to May, provides jobs to about half of Monhegan Island's 50 residents. hide caption

itoggle caption
Map of Monhegan, Maine. Credit: NPR.

The winter lobster season, running from December to May, provides jobs to about half of Monhegan Island's 50 residents.

Teacher Sarah Caban in Monhegan Island's Cathedral Woods. Credit: Julia DeBruicker. i

Teacher Sarah Caban in Monhegan Island's Cathedral Woods after a successful search for the school Christmas tree. Julia DeBruicker hide caption

itoggle caption Julia DeBruicker
Teacher Sarah Caban in Monhegan Island's Cathedral Woods. Credit: Julia DeBruicker.

Teacher Sarah Caban in Monhegan Island's Cathedral Woods after a successful search for the school Christmas tree.

Julia DeBruicker

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Monhegan Island lies 10 miles off the central coast of Maine, a high, rocky Atlantic outpost with only 50 year-round residents. A winter lobster season, running from December to May, provides jobs to about half the residents.

Monhegan Island School has seven students this year, ages five through 12.

Without a school, fewer people would be willing to live on Monhegan year-round.

Monhegan teacher Sarah Caban is in her fifth year at the school. She is a strong believer in the concept of community-based education. She brings residents into the school as often as possible, encouraging a dialogue about what the students are learning.

By all accounts, she has been successful. Ties between the school and the islanders are strong.

In fact, the school is a community gathering place. It's a neutral ground where the normal, everyday tensions and difficulties of living and working in such isolation are forgotten — at least for a while.

The annual Christmas play and community dinner at the schoolhouse highlight the schools role in the community each year. Preparations for the events are island-wide and renew the bonds that tie Monhegan's population together.

Independent producer Neenah Ellis will profile one school each month for Morning Edition through June 2006. Ellis has been associated with NPR since the 1970s. Her most recent series for the network was "One Hundred Years of Stories," profiling American centenarians.

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