Educational Studies

College of the Atlantic’s focus on human ecology—the study and improvement of the relationships between humans and our social and natural communities—provides the conceptual framework for the Educational Studies program. As a philosophy, it invites, encourages, and guides students and faculty to apply their understanding of interconnection, interdependence, and interaction among the following:

  • Mind and body
  • Self and other
  • Human and environment
  • School and community
  • Personal experience, school subjects, and academic disciplines
  • Theory and practice

The mission of the COA Educational Studies program is to foster creative, knowledgeable, collaborative, and critically reflective educators and leaders who bring intellectual passion and ecological wisdom into their practice. Graduates of the program are teachers in public and private schools, outdoor educators, interpretive naturalists, museum and environmental educators, administrators, and leaders in school improvement. Nearly a quarter of all COA graduates are working in the field of education.

Professional Teacher Certification

The COA Educator Preparation program is approved by the Maine Department of Education. While at COA, education students may earn a Maine Initial Teaching Certification for Elementary Education (grades K-8) or Secondary (grades 7-12) in Life Science, Social Studies, or English Language Arts. Maine is one of more than 40 signees on an interstate reciprocity agreement that includes nearly every U.S. state as well as British Columbia, Department of Defense schools, the District of Columbia, and Guam. COA has an excellent working partnership with local public and private schools, a partnership that gives our students the opportunity to connect theory to practice while providing engaging and challenging experiences for learners in classrooms, after-school programs, museums, alternative education settings, and summer camps.

Four Key Reasons to Come to COA for Educational Studies

  1. Hands-on, Place-based Learning
    Virtually every education course offered at COA has a field and/or service-learning component. Partnerships with on-campus programs and local resources provide a variety of hands-on experiences for future educators. Education students have worked with staff and/or students at all of the local schools, the Abbe Museum, Acadia National Park, Camp Beech Cliff, Healthy Acadia, Island Readers and Writers, The Jackson Laboratory, the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, and the Mount Desert Island Historical Society. COA’s farms and the Dorr Museum of Natural History afford students opportunities to teach, design exhibits, develop interpretive materials, and lead school groups.
  2. Human Ecology
    Teacher education based in the study of human ecology requires students to explore the relationships between separate disciplines and to bring interdisciplinary thinking into the classroom. COA produces professional educators well versed in the subject matter they teach, skilled in a variety of methods of classroom teaching, and able to meet the individual needs of students. Teachers trained in this way appreciate the rich, natural, technological, and social contexts of their culture and become active and responsible participants in society.
  3. Individual Attention
    COA's small size assures that each student receives one-on-one attention. The average size of an educational studies class is 13. Students are taught by a professor, not a teaching assistant. At COA, each student is known by name and students know all faculty and staff on a first-name basis. Advisors closely mentor advisees, taking time to find out each student's educational needs and goals.
  4. Global Education
    One can learn to be a teacher just about anywhere, but at COA students learn how to teach just about anywhere. COA's curriculum includes comparative, intercultural, and international education that effectively prepares students to teach culturally diverse learners within or beyond the U.S. Of COA students, 65 percent study abroad and 30 percent of the faculty are conversant in a language other than English. One out of eight students at COA come from outside the U.S., representing a wide variety of experiences and perspectives on education. COA students have completed internships and senior projects all over the world: studying literacy reform in Cuba, investigating the teaching of history in a Cape Town, South African school, and conducting an ethnography of the education of daughters of sex workers in Mumbai, India.


ED078Adolescent Psychology

This course focuses on the segment of the human life span from puberty to early adulthood. In this class we will examine the physical, cognitive, social, and moral aspects of adolescent growth and development. Issues to be considered include adolescent relationships (peers, family, romantic), adolescent issues (identity formation, at risk behavior, schooling, and stereotypes), and critical reflection on one's own adolescent experience. The main objectives of this course are to: 1) provide students with a working knowledge of the theories of psychology which pertain to early adolescent development; 2) help students develop the ability to critically analyze information and common assumptions about the development of adolescents; 3) consider contemporary issues and concerns of the field; and 4) to afford students the opportunity to explore their own adolescent development. Course work entails lecture, discussion, extensive case analysis, and a field component. Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Prerequisite: Educational Psychology, Personality, or other introductory level psychology. Class limit: 16. *HS**ED*

ED082Understanding and Managing Group Dynamics

This course will examine essential questions about how groups function, whether the group is a committee involved in institutional governance, a class of adolescents, or a cohort of business colleagues. Readings, activities, and assignments will weigh traditional and alternative conceptions of leadership, power, authority, community, diversity, membership, and exclusion. Students will engage in case discussions, writing (including autobiography and creative writing), and research activities. A major component of the course will be the observation and analysis of a group (e.g., in a community organization, business, or school). The final paper will be the creation and analysis of a case. Evaluation will be based on class participation, responses to readings, facilitation of a case discussion, an autobiographical essay, a short story, reports of observations, and the final paper. P/F grading only. Students will be expected to take the course Pass/Fail, with special arrangement to made for those needing to take it for a grade. Level: Intermediate. Class limit: 15. Lab fee: $50. *HS* *ED*

ED085Femininity and Masculinity go to School: Gender, Power & Ed

This course pivots around two central questions: How does gender influence students learning and experiences of school, curriculum and instruction, teacher-student relationships, school culture and administration? And how do schools perpetuate, resist, and construct gendered identities and gender roles? In this course we will investigate research on gender differences and school achievement, the feminization of the teaching profession, and the effects of gender on school culture, considering evidence from and questions posed by biologists, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, and educators. The major objective of the course is to examine how notions of femininity, masculinity, and androgyny have influenced and are influenced by schooling historically and globally. Activities include a historical case study, media critique, fieldwork in an educational setting, a literature review, and curriculum development. Students will conduct research on self-chosen topics such as gender identity development, gender differences in learning styles, sexual harassment in schools, or school sports programs, among others. Evaluation will be based on class participation, historical case, media analysis, oral presentation of fieldwork, written synthesis of literature, and two lesson plans. Level: Intermediate. Writing Focus option. Offered every other year. Class limit: 15. *HS* *ED*

ED093Supporting Students with Disabilities in the Reg. Classroom

This is an introductory course in special education. We will explore the needs of children with disabilities and techniques for meeting these needs in the regular classroom. The course will emphasize both the social and instructional aspects of the concepts of inclusion, differentiation and serving students in the "least restrictive environment". Participants will be introduced to concepts central to understanding the role of regular classroom teachers in meeting the academic, social, and emotional needs of students with disabilities. Objectives: By the end of the course students will be able to: identify and describe current issues and trends in education related to individuals with disabilities and their families; describe the Special education laws and procedures impacting individuals with disabilities; develop a working definition for each area of exceptionality in relation to achievement of educational goals, and develop strategies and resources for modifying, adapting and/or differentiating curriculum and instruction. Level: Intermediate. Prerequisite: Introductory course in Education. *ED*

ED095Intercultural Education

Educators in and outside of the U.S. teach in increasingly culturally heterogeneous classrooms, schools, and communities. This course explores some challenges and possibilities in education as a result of historical inequities in the distribution of power, knowledge, and resources, and the increasing mobility of peoples in a global economy. We will consider questions such as: What is multicultural, intercultural, and global education? How do culturally different teaching and learning styles impact notions of academic achievement, school success, and teacher quality? How can student assessments and performance standards respond effectively to cultural differences? How can educators effectively communicate and partner with parents and community members across cultural differences? What are the legal and moral obligations of teachers in providing equal educational opportunity according to federal and state laws? We will read theory and research on educating across and about cultural difference, reflect on our own cultural affiliations, and actively explore the dynamics of identity, culture, and power in the teaching-learning relationship and in educational institutions through case discussions and other group activities. Investigations of the education of self and other will take place through class activities, readings, autobiographical and fiction writing, reflective logs, media analysis, and a field research or curriculum project. Level: Intermediate. Prerequisite: An introductory sociology, anthropology, cultural psychology, or education course. Offered every other year. Class limit: 15. Lab fee: $20. *ED* *HS*

ED1013Changing Schools, Changing Society

How have schools changed and how should schools change to ensure "the good life"?  This interdisciplinary, team-taught course examines the potential and limits of a human ecological education as an instrument of enlightened progress and lasting positive social, cultural, and environmental change.  It explores three essential questions about education and its relationship to human development and social progress.  Looking at the role of formal educational institutions and their relationship to government and other social institutions: What is the role of schools in development and social change?  Considering the role of teachers as agents of change: What is the role of the teacher in school/organizational change and community development?  And finally, reflecting on our subjective motives for working in the field of education:  Why do you want to become an educator?   Through course activities such as service-learning in schools and group project work on a contemporary educational phenomenon (e.g., school choice, new technologies for learning, single-sex education), students will learn how educational policy at the federal, state, and local levels impacts teaching and learning, investigate the moral dimensions of the teacher-student relationship, and reflect on the construct of teacher-learners.  Students will be introduced to a variety of educational research methods (i.e, ethnography, case study, quasi-experimental, correlational) that will allow for critical analysis of the knowledge base that strives to impact educational policy and practice. Evaluation will be based on participation, reflective writing, service learning, and group projects and presentations.

Level: Introductory.   Class limit: 15.  Offered every other year. Lab fee: $20.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS, ED

ED102Experiential Education

Even before John Dewey published Experience and Education in 1938, experiential education had been practiced in various forms around the world. This course explores the philosophy of experiential education and its diverse practices in the realms of adventure education, service learning, workplace learning, environmental education, museum education, and school reform. Group activities and fieldtrips will provide opportunities to participate as both learner and teacher in a variety of teacher-led and student-designed experiences. The final project involves researching an existing experiential education program, its philosophy, and its practices. Evaluation is based on class and fieldtrip participation (including one multi-day fieldtrip), reflective logs, curriculum design, service-learning journal, an oral presentation of the service-learning, and a final essay that articulates a philosophy of experience in education. Level: Introductory. Offered every other year. Lab fee: $100. Class limit: 15. *ED* *HS*

ED104Curriculum Design and Assessment

Human ecologists who educate, embrace not only the interdisciplinarity of knowledge, but also the complexity of individual student development in political school environments. This course focuses on two essential nuts and bolts of teaching: curriculum design and assessment. How can a teacher learn what students know, how they think, and what they have learned? How can a teacher use this knowledge of students and subject matter to plan learning experiences that will engage diverse interests, adapt to a wide range of learning styles and preferences, accommodate exceptional needs, and meet state-mandated curriculum standards? This course is a required course for prospective secondary school teachers that provides an introduction to the backward design process and diverse assessment strategies. Students will engage in examining theory and practice designing and implementing curricula and assessments. A service-learning component will provide students with the opportunity to observe and participate in a variety of assessment methods in the subject they aim to teach. The final project will be a collaboratively designed, integrated curriculum unit, including lesson plans and assessments. Evaluation will be based on participation, reflective writing, individually designed lesson plans and assessments, and the final project. Level: Advanced. Prerequisite: Exceptionalities. Class Limit: 12. *HS* *ED*

ED106Integrated Methods II: Science, Math, and Social Studies

How can an integrated curriculum for elementary school students help to deepen the relationships children and young adolescents construct with the natural and social worlds in a way that promotes their capacity to know themselves and the communities in which they act? For those preparing to be elementary school educators (grades K-8), this three-credit residency provides an intensive guided apprenticeship that prepares the student-teacher with the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience to design an integrated math, science, and social studies curriculum, create and maintain a constructive learning environment, teach diverse learners using appropriate learning technologies and a variety of strategies, and assess student learning. Learning objectives include all ten of the Maine Initial Teacher Certification Standards as well as familiarity with the Maine Learning Results for Math, Science, and Social Studies. Students will participate in a ten-week service-learning practicum observing and participating in elementary classrooms as well as planning and teaching in vacation school during the local school union's spring break. Readings and discussions in a daily seminar will complement the service-learning component. Evaluation will be based on reflection on service-learning, participation in seminar discussions of readings and service-learning, curriculum and assessment design and implementation, and professional performance in vacation school and at the practicum site. Partial credit may be awarded based on completed work and demonstrated learning. Level: Advanced, 3-credit Residency. Prerequisites: Learning Theory, Exceptionalities, and Integrated Elementary Methods: Reading and Writing and permission of instructor. Class limit: 12. *HS* *ED*

ED107Secondary Methods: Life Science, Social Studies and English

This course is designed to prepare secondary teacher candidates to meet the learning needs of diverse populations of students.  Students spend one day a week in a local high school working with faculty in the subject area in which they are being certified. These school-based experiences are integrated into class discussions where students analyze the elements needed for successful teaching, learning, and assessing in their own content area and across disciplines. The purposes, problems, issues, strategies, and materials involved in teaching high school students will be examined critically through class discussions, individual and group work, reflections on field experiences and peer teaching.  Students will incorporate the content, inquiry tools and structures of the discipline they will teach into a 4-week unit that may be used in their student teaching. Evaluation will be based on weekly reflective response journals, completion of the service learning component (one day a week in classroom), completion of readings and entry slips, and the 4-week unit of study.

Level:  Advanced.  Class limit: 12.  *ED*

ED108Children's Literature

This course is a broad overview of children's literature and its place in the elementary school classroom. It examines the range and trends in literature for children that includes all genres, prominent authors, illustrators, and awards, critical evaluation, and integration into instruction across the curriculum. Students participate in and design lessons which incorporate or extend children's response to literature. They survey poetry and media appropriate for elementary students. Students read an extensive amount of children's literature, keep a response journal, develop an author study, and create a teaching unit using children's literature. Level: Introductory. Class limit: 15. *ED*

ED117Negotiating Educational Policy

Public schools are everyone's concern. Shared ownership by diverse stakeholders often brings strong interest in school policies. This course will explore issues under debate by state and local policy-makers through readings, full class and small group discussions, guest speakers, and an extended simulation. We will also examine Maine's Civil Rights Act and its implementation in various school districts. Our driving questions include: what are the ways parents, teachers, business people and interested community members might influence school policies given the common constraints of limited time and energy? How do policy-makers sort through various opinions and facts to create legislation? How do those who implement policy integrate context and experience with the spirit of an official state statute? With the objective of understanding and negotiating critical school policy issues that impact the nation and beyond, evaluation will be based on class participation (including one of two field trips), reflection journal entries, a group interview and presentation, and a final personal analysis paper based on one of the bills under deliberation by Maine legislators this session. Level: Intermediate. Prerequisites: Changing Schools, Changing Society and/or a prior policy course or strong interest in policy recommended. Class Limit: 15. Lab Fee: $10

ED120Integrated Methods I: Gr. 5-8 Reading and Writing

This course is designed to prepare prospective teachers with methods necessary to implement a comprehensive literacy program for grades 5-8 to include: Motivation and the middle school reader; helping middle-school students develop their writing voice, knowledge of language, vocabulary acquisition and use, working with a variety of text; teaching critical, creative, and collaborative technology use; using standardized test data to differentiate instruction; creating and using rubrics for assessing writing.  The course content focuses on an integrated approach to the acquisition of literacy skills, current best practice, and lesson design, questioning techniques, formative and summative assessment. Learning objectives address the standards for Maine Initial Teacher Certification, Common Core State Standards, and the Maine Learning Results. There is a service-learning component of 30 hours for the ten week course. (For example, 3 classroom observations for 1 hour each for a total of 3 hours per week.) Evaluation will be based on the quality of a course portfolio to include curriculum and assessment design, performance assessments, cooperating teacher feedback on classroom performance, and reflections on the service learning and required readings.

Level: Advanced. Pre- or co-requisite: Child Development, Integrated Methods 1A: Gr K-4 Reading and Writing, and, if possible, Children's Literature. Class limit: 12. *HS* *ED*

ED4011Tutorial: Research and Program Development for Ecological Ed

How do we determine what is the most effective program model for developing essential skills, concepts, or dispositions for a particular organization, community, or place? This tutorial is designed to develop students’ research, facilitation, and program development skills for those interested in ecological education. The tutorial will guide students through a focused literature review, identify two or three model sites to visit, assess potential program goals in light of existing organizational or community resources, needs, and limitations, and plan, implement, and evaluate an educational program that is site-specific. Students will be evaluated on an annotated bibliography, site studies, curriculum development, reflection on teaching practice, and program evaluation.

Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Prerequisites: Introduction to Sustainability, COA's Foodprint, Fixing Food Systems, Experiential Education, Adolescent Development, or Curriculum Design and Assessment. Class limit: 6. Lab fee: $100.

ED5013Student Teaching

The student teaching internship represents the student teaching requirement for COA's teacher certification candidates. Success in this experience is a pivotal criterion in the student's certification candidacy. The student is placed in a school, usually in the immediate region, with a cooperating teacher who teaches subjects and grade levels that match the certification goals of the student. The roles of student teacher, cooperating teacher, school principal, and COA supervisor are discussed and agreed upon in advance. Incrementally, the student teacher becomes familiar with class routines and gradually takes responsibility for teaching. Within the 15-week experience, the student teacher must take on a full load (all classes and all duties) for the number of weeks agreed upon by all parties. This period of time varies with subjects, grade level and specific student goals. The COA supervisor visits the schools in a liaison capacity, and also evaluates the student teacher's performance a minimum of eight times in the term. Student teachers meet together regularly to discuss such issues as curriculum planning, instruction, best teaching practices, classroom learning environment and broader educational issues. Students may use student teaching to fulfill the COA internship requirement if it is completed prior to graduation.

Level: Advanced. Prerequisites: Permission of Ed Studies Program Director.  Meets the following degree requirements: ED

ES480Introduction to Collections Care: Saving all the Parts

Natural history museums are major players in the great human enterprise that was started by Linnaeus over 250 years ago: to catalog all of Earth's species and understand the inherent order of these organisms. While the Earth's biotic inventory is far from complete, natural history collections presently held by reputable institutions represent extremely valuable and, in some cases, irreplaceable sources of knowledge regarding life on our planet. This course introduces students to current principles and practices of caring for and organizing collections through hands-on work with the holdings of the Dorr Museum. This course will focus on the proper storage, handling, and exhibition of collections, and cataloguing collections in accordance with currently accepted evolutionary relationships among represented taxa. Through individual and group projects, students will research and pilot practices that address short- and long-term needs of collection material. Students will be evaluated on level of class participation and successful completion of class projects, including a final project that will form the basis of a strategic plan for collections care at the Dorr Museum. This course is suitable for students interested in the study of natural history, vertebrate biology, educational studies, and exhibition in museums and galleries. Level: Introductory. Class limit: 14. Lab fee: $30.00.

ES560Mathematical Modeling

Do you want to understand how social networks can grow from almost nothing to over 100 million users seemingly overnight or are you concerned with how long nuclear waste must be stored before it is safe? Are you interested in understanding enzyme kinetics or how heat and air diffuse through your home? In this course, we will address these phenomena from a mathematical standpoint. Specifically we will develop mathematical models to predict and understand the behavior of physical and biological systems in our world. An emphasis will be placed on writing equations that govern the behavior of a given system and subsequently solving for and interpreting their solutions. Students will learn to solve differential equation by hand through a variety of analytical techniques and numerically with the computer algebra and graphics program, Maple. Evaluations will be based on weekly problems sets and two modeling projects during the term. Level: Intermediate, Prerequisites: Calculus I & II or equivalent; students are also strongly encouraged to have taken either an entry-level course in Physics, Chemistry, or Biology prior to enrollment. Class limit: 15. Lab fee: none. *ES* *QR*

HS140Personality and Social Development

This course, part of the education sequence, provides a theoretical and practical look at the emotional, cognitive, social, and behavioral development of humans. It covers the full life span of human development with some special concentration on school-age children. Topics of prenatal development and personality disorders are also presented. In addition, the course focuses on several of the more popular learning, social-learning, and educational theories. During the first part of the course, readings are selected from original sources and discussed (e.g. Erikson, Freud, Adler, Gilligan). Later the discussions become directed more toward specific social and development issues (e.g. sex roles, the family, education, personal growth, death and dying). Participation in the discussions and three papers are required. Level: Introductory. Prerequisites: none. Offered every year. Class limit: 15. *HS**ED*

HS302Methods of Teaching Writing Across the Curriculum

This course not only gives students knowledge and understanding of rhetorical theory and practice so they can work effectively with developing writers, but also provides them with a review of grammar, methods of evaluating writing, and strategies for teaching exposition, argument, and persuasion. Students put this knowledge to practical use by working as peer tutors in the Writing Center. Students participate in this course for one academic year and receive one credit. In addition to Williams' Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace and Irmscher's Teaching Expository Writing, students read numerous articles from College Composition and Communication, College English, The Writing Instructor, Language Arts, and English Journal, and Research in the Teaching of English as well as a text dealing with teaching writing in their specialty, e.g. Writing Themes about Literature or a Short Guide to Writing about Biology. Level: Advanced. Prerequisites: Working knowledge of grammar and usage, excellent writing skills, ability to work closely with people, and signature of faculty member in writing or education. Class limit: 15. *ED* *W*

HS782Tutorial: Advanced Seminar in Human Ecology

The purpose of this tutorial is to review the many uses of the term ?human ecology?. It begins with an historical review of the academic and intellectual origins of human ecology. From these foundations, we proceed through the development of more interdisciplinary approaches to human ecology --- working with primary source materials (e.g., books, articles, position papers, academic program descriptions and related documents). We will further explore the activities of various regional, national and international associations and the aims of leading educational institutions. Assignments and discussions will revolve around several current problems that face human ecology. In particular, we will focus on: various theoretical controversies within and between biological and human ecology; issues and proposed methods of inter-disciplinary problem-solving, planning and application; and the growth of professional opportunities in human ecology worldwide. Evaluations will be based on careful reading and review of assigned materials, participation in discussions, individual papers and a collaborative group project. Level: Advanced; Permission of instructor required; Class limit: 3 Permission of instructor required.

HS860Tutorial: Social Power and Identity Politics

This advanced tutorial explores the dynamics of power in relation to issues of age, class, gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, language, disability, sexuality, and other social identities. In this reading and discussion-based seminar, we will consider these interactions in personal, institutional, and international spheres by looking at theoretical and empirical studies. For example, do men really have a greater desire for power? Is it possible to share power within a group? How do colonial legacies impact social relations in post-colonial states? Students will read historical, psychological, and sociological theory on patriarchy, identity politics, and neo-colonialism, and apply their understanding to current problems of social justice. Weekly seminars will provide opportunities for students to critically examine key texts and collectively construct understandings about the nature of power, identity development, and "culture wars." Evaluation will be based on class discussions, written responses to readings, case study research, and an independent or collaborative project of the student's choice. This tutorial will be of particular interest to students of social and political theory as well as those seeking to examine their personal relationship to power. Level: Advanced. Prerequisites: Prior coursework or independent reading in psychological/social/political theory recommended; permission of instructor. Class limit: 6. Lab fee: $30.

Educational Studies Faculty & Staff

  • Linda Fuller, Associate Director
    B.S., Elementary and
    Secondary Education
    M.Ed. Counselor Education C.A.S. Educational
    Leadership, University of Maine, Orono
  • Kenneth Hill
    B.A. University of Michigan
    Ed.M. Counseling Processes, Harvard University
    M.S., Ph.D. Educational Psychology and Measurement, Cornell University
  • Bonnie Tai, Director
    B.A. Humanistic Studies, Johns Hopkins University
    Ed.M. Technology in Education, Harvard University
    Ed.D. Learning and Teaching, Harvard University

Alumni of Ed Studies Program

  • Sarah Nutt '12
    Assistant Watch Officer-Outward Bound, Hurricane Island, ME
  • Jane Marie Piselli '12
    Interpretive Graphics Ranger, Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, ME
  • Carly Imhoff '10
    Science teacher grades 1-5, Ashford School, Ashford CT
  • Toria Harr '09
    Snipes Farm and Education Center, PA
  • Jasmine Smith '09
    Agricultural Arts teacher, The Bay School, Blue Hill ME/Garden and Greenhouse Coordinator, Mt. Desert Elementary, Northeast Harbor, ME
  • Chandra Bisberg '08
    Teacher grades 5/6, Penobscot School, Penobscot, ME
  • Kayla Pease '08
    Science teacher, Ellsworth High School, Ellsworth ME
  • Amy Hoffmaster '07
    Education Pioneers Fellow with Citizens Schools
  • Todd West '00
    Principal, Deer Isle/Stonington High School, Deer Isle, ME

Alumni in the News

  • Sarah Ricker '01 Athletic Director and Assistant Principal at Wiscasset High School
  • Elizabeth Vickery '91 honored as finalist for 2012 Presidential Award read more
  • Todd West '00 on Deer Isle-Stonington High School's new marine studies pathway program read more

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