The Restorative Justice Project of the Midcoast and the University of Maine’s Peace and Reconciliation Studies is co-sponsoring its third annual Summer Institute in Restorative School Practices, June 28-30, at the Augusta Civic Center.

The three-day institute will introduce participants to restorative school practices and restorative discipline. Within a whole school approach, the practices build caring school communities that support students, staff and administrators in feeling connected and respected, which enhances learning outcomes, said Barb Blazej, a peace studies program lecturer at the University of Maine and director of UMaine Youth Violence Prevention Project.

Under restorative discipline practices, school discipline becomes part of a learning environment emphasizing accountability and support, rather than punishment and exclusion.

The institute will include presentations, discussion, activities, hands-on practice, videos, a panel of teachers and administrators using restorative practices, and opportunities to experience the “community circle” process.

Circles have been used to address student and teacher relationships, according to Penny Linn and Mary Ann Nyman, teachers at Winslow Junior High School, providing an opportunity to clarify communication by offering a forum outside of the classroom facilitated by a neutral individual.

Last year, a student believed her teacher was not treating her fairly and became frustrated and disruptive in the classroom. She requested a circle, which successfully allowed the student to voice her feelings and point of view, and in turn, the student heard the same from the teacher.

Jen Cyr of Joseph A. Leonard Middle School in Old Town said circles empower students and result in rich conversations and multi-faceted lessons.

“Whether I’m observing or participating, each time I walk away, I am more firmly convinced that restorative practices are more than a philosophy,” said Cyr. “At LMS, the circle has come to symbolize our strength, respect and trust as a learning community. It has elevated our school both academically and behaviorally.”

Additional information is available on The Restorative Justice Project’s website, or by calling Blazej at 207.581.2625. Registration deadline is June 3.