UMaine doctoral students team up to direct STEM summer camp in Bangor

Barbara Clewley Martha Gladstone
Barbara Clewley and Martha Gladstone bleed University of Maine blue.

The longtime educators both have multiple degrees from UMaine, and are currently pursuing doctoral studies in prevention and intervention studies through the College of Education and Human Development.

Gladstone and Clewley met about seven years ago as members of an educational leadership cohort at the university. The bond they formed in the classroom soon became a working partnership as co-directors of Camp Invention in Bangor. The national science summer camp program for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade was developed by the National Inventors Hall of Fame. It involves a variety of hands-on activities designed to promote problem solving, teamwork, entrepreneurship and innovation.

“I remember talking with Martha several times during our graduate work and realizing that our philosophy of teaching and working with learners was so similar,” Clewley recalls.

“When I decided to apply for Camp Invention I did not know that Martha had applied at the same time.  When I was asked if I would mind being a co-director because the host district could not decide which candidate would be the best choice, I asked who the other candidate was. That is when I found out it was Martha. It made my decision extremely easy,” she says.

This year, the weeklong Camp Invention was held in July at William S. Cohen School in Bangor. More than 100 students from throughout Maine and a few from out of state attended. Gladstone and Clewley say they put their UMaine education to work every day running the camp.

“We combine our love of teaching STEM with positive behavior supports so that all students, regardless of ability may attend and have a successful week,” says Gladstone.

“We work with families to create a welcoming, safe, experience for their child whether the child has autism, an emotional or behavioral need, is transgender, or needs a physical accommodation such as wheelchair accessibility and service dog. No child is turned away,” she says.

Barbara: Bangor
Martha: Northeast Harbor, but have lived in Bangor since 1982

Barbara: I love spending time with my three mini Australian shepherds. We go on walks and hikes in the woods. I enjoy training them. My husband and I also travel around the state meeting up with other owners of mini Aussies to have play dates.

Martha: Educating children, children’s books, bird watching, and chicken gardening.

Previous educational experience
Barbara: I have a bachelor’s degree from UMaine in elementary education with a concentration in special education and a master’s degree in educational leadership.

Martha: Bachelor’s degree in elementary education, master’s degree in literacy education, and certificate of advanced study in educational leadership, all from UMaine.

What graduate degree are you pursuing and when do you expect to graduate?
Barbara: I’m in the doctoral program in prevention and intervention, going part-time and hoping to be finished by 2021 or 2022.

Martha: I’m also currently in the doctoral program in prevention and intervention at UMaine. Not sure when I will be finished. Coursework will be complete spring 2019.

What were you doing before pursuing your graduate degree?
Barbara: I am and have been an elementary teacher for 32 years. I have taught first, second and third grades. I am also a mentor teacher for pre-service and beginning teachers.

Martha: In 1981, I taught for a year in a rural three-room school in Maine. After marrying and moving to Bangor, I operated a family child care business in my home for 14 years while my own children were growing up. During that time, I worked on my master’s degree. In 1997, I became a kindergarten literacy tutor, Title I teacher, and kindergarten teacher and first grade teacher for the Bangor School Department. In 2016, I left my teaching position to pursue a Ph.D. full-time. I am a full-time graduate student, graduate assistant and instructor in the College of Education and Human Development. I also serve as one of the advisers to the Student-MEA and volunteer with the Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research.

Describe Camp Invention and your role in it
Barbara: Camp Invention is a national science day camp developed by the National Inventors Hall of Fame in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It is a weeklong experience for children entering grades K–6, which provides hands-on challenges requiring campers to be innovative problem-solvers.

Some challenges are focused on fostering teamwork in campers. New curriculum is introduced each year, inspired by the Inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

This is my seventh year as co-director of Camp Invention. Martha and I are responsible for everything. We arrange with our host district — the Bangor School Department — for our camp location. We partner with Camp Invention for promotion. We hire the teachers, recruit leadership interns and counselors-in-training. Martha and I also do fundraising for scholarships. During the week of camp we set up the schedule, support our teachers, take care of discipline, communicate with parents, and coordinate with the staff of the host school.

Martha: Barbara and I met through the educational leadership cohort at UMaine. Even though we taught in the same school system, we had never connected because of the large size of the Bangor School Department.

While we were in the cohort, our assistant superintendent attended a conference where Camp Invention was highlighted. She put a call out for an employee interested in getting this started in our area. Barbara and I both responded and have worked together as co-directors of Camp Invention for the past seven years.

Barbara and I both taught in schools in low-income areas of the city, so we made it our mission to raise scholarship money to send any child with an interest and financial need to camp. We raise money through presentations to the Greater Bangor Rotary, an annual camp yard sale, an electronics drive, generous donations from local businesses and individuals, and we have been known to knock on a few doors asking for help when we are down to our last dollars. Over the years, we have helped over 80–100 campers with full and partial scholarships.

How have you applied what you have learned in your UMaine courses as co-directors of Camp Invention?
Barbara: It was because of my master’s degree in educational leadership that I chose to apply for the director position. I had recently graduated and was deciding how to use the new skills I had learned. At the time, I did not want to be a principal, but knew I wanted the chance to lead teachers and provide learning experiences for children that require hands-on problem solving, creativity and innovation. I get to do this during this week of camp.

It is also extremely important to me that our camp be a safe and accepting environment. Martha and I believe in a positive behavior approach to managing behavior. We have been able to improve our positive behavior approach by implementing many new understandings from our doctoral classes in prevention and intervention.

Martha: I can connect all my learning at UMaine with the success of Camp Invention. Through educational leadership I learned how to communicate effectively with staff and organize opportunities for staff development and family activities. Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS) and childhood trauma courses throughout my doctoral program have allowed me focus on helping children learn the tools that will help them navigate the difficult waters of education and society.

Why UMaine?
Barbara: I grew up in Bangor and UMaine was my first choice. I did not want to leave the state due to my desire to stay close to family. Due to the connections I made through my graduate classes and being a mentor for pre-service teachers, it only made sense to continue my doctoral studies with educators I have come to know and trust.

Martha: I guess you could say I’m a UMaine junkie. As an undergrad, I wanted to be close to home and UMaine was a perfect fit. Raising a family and completing a master’s degree at UMaine was not simply convenient, but also inspiring. During my graduate studies, I have particularly enjoyed the opportunities to network with educators from Presque Isle to Southern Maine, face-to-face in my courses.