The Maine Department of Education (DOE) is developing an online learning platform that has drawn criticism for teaching kindergarten children about being transgender and for calling the campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” from President Trump.
In defense of keeping the video calling Trump supporters racist on its platform, DOE officials said the video, which is no longer available, was made by an organization outside of government and that no student was not required to watch the video. But only certain MOOSE modules disclose the organizations the DOE has partnered with to develop them, and the agency did not respond to questions about its expanded content offerings.
The Maine DOE’s MOOSE (Maine Online Opportunities for Sustained Education) platform was launched in August 2020 to provide continuity of learning during school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has since developed to become a complement to school education.
In a press release announcing the platform’s launch, the Maine DOE said MOOSE would “provide free access to asynchronous, interdisciplinary, and project-based learning modules aligned with Maine’s learning outcomes for all years, PK-12”.
Since its launch, the number of modules hosted on the platform has grown from the 300 originally offered in its first year and has undergone 5 development cycles. The DOE now says the platform has “become a growing repository of quality content and resources that are used as rich enhancements to support school-based education.”
On two occasions, the content of the MOOSE modules has been a source of controversy. In May, the DOE removed the “Freedom Holidays” lesson from the MOOSE platform over concerns that it did not contain age-appropriate content.
Aimed at kindergartens, the lesson taught about holidays that celebrate expansions of freedom, including July 4 and June 16. He also discussed Women’s Equality Day and freedom extensions for the LGBTQ+ community, then discussed different gender identities.
At the time the video was deleted, Governor Janet Mills denied knowledge of the lesson, but said she supported the DOE’s decision to delete it.
In September, a MOOSE module on inclusivity in communities, which included an image saying that former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan is an example of covert racism and white supremacy, was released. also become a source of controversy.
The video was created by the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine (HHRC). A link to the video containing the image in the lesson is no longer functional, nor is the link to the webinar, hosted on the HHRC website, in the lesson resources.
The MOOSE website notes that the modules are developed by Maine educators, with support from the DOE and “additional content specialists.”
The site currently hosts five learning progressions, described as modules designed around a single topic with “focused sequencing of teaching and learning expectations along which students progress progressively through stages of increasing proficiency at across multiple developmental stages and grade levels. Learning progressions include lessons for each grade level group on the platform.
Currently, MOOSE has progressions for career readiness; climate education; computing; science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM); and the history of genocide and the Holocaust.
Excluding the Career Readiness Progression, which directs people to the DOE Life and Career Readiness Standards for more information, MOOSE’s current learning progressions were developed in partnership with external organizations.
The DOE has partnered with the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance to expand its progressions of climate education, computing, and STEAM learning. Progress on Genocide and the Holocaust was developed in partnership with HHRC.
According to the DOE, the progression of learning about genocide and the Holocaust also exists to help schools meet the curriculum requirements introduced by LD 1664. The law was signed by Mills in June 2021. It requires that studies African Americans and Genocide History be a part of the statewide curriculum and graduation requirements.
The lessons that are part of each progression are marked as such on the title page of each lesson. Self-contained lessons contain a placeholder to identify the creator of the module, but this space is currently empty on the platform.
The Maine DOE did not respond to a request asking department officials if it publicly lists all of the organizations it partners with to develop platform modules.
A number of modules, uploaded during the first year of the platform, are currently being updated.
“MOOSE is continually evolving, so existing modules need to be maintained and updated from time to time. You have found a module from MOOSE’s first year that we are actively working on updating, which may mean that you are experiencing broken links or other things preventing you from working on the module. website notes.
The DOE did not respond to a request for comment on when the updates would be complete.
Over the past year, the DOE has added an Iteration and Improvement Team to the staff working on MOOSE. According to the DOE, the team, which the agency says “reflects how far we’ve come as a project,” is working to update the platform’s first-year modules. Changes include “fixing links, improving tools, updating files and workflows…anything that helps improve the project-based interdisciplinary experience for all students and makes the modules more accessible in accordance with the principles of universal design for learning”.
The team will be an integral part of MOOSE in the future and will update all modules as needed.
Content hosted on the platform is divided by grade level and subject. Users can select modules for students in kindergarten to second grade, third to fifth grade, sixth to eighth grade, or ninth to twelfth grade.
Within each group of notes, the modules are organized under the headings exploration, nature/environment, culture, community, life and citizenship. Each module is also tagged with a number of topics, such as activism/advocacy, citizenship, communities/neighbourhoods, culture/cultural traditions, global needs/perspectives, etc. The lessons also include a list of activities required by the module, such as asking/answering questions, drawing, exploring and others, as well as a list of tools needed to complete the module.
The DOE declares that modules hosted on the MOOSE platform are not a program. According to the platform’s website, the modules are a “collection of independent educational modules and learning materials aligned with Maine learning outcomes.”
The platform includes a page to guide educators through MOOSE, which features a video for middle and high school teachers on how to choose templates for students to use.
Within the framework shown in the video, lower-level students are guided by teachers in choosing which modules they complete.
The DOE also did not respond to a request for comment on whether modules are assigned by schools, either as part of lesson plans or as supplemental material.