160 Maine public schools receive funding for outdoor learning projects – Daily Bulldog

Cascade Brook School received funding for outdoor story walks in the woods adjacent to the school.

FARMINGTON — In fall 2020, the MEEA launched the Outdoor Learning Mini-Grants Program, a program to redistribute funds to help teachers imagine outdoor classrooms. As enthusiasm for community environmental learning has grown over the past two years, MEEA has continued to support teachers with these grants.

For the 2021-2022 school year, educators have received up to $1,500 to support projects in the categories Outdoor Classroom Solutions, Weather Gear, Garden/Greenhouse, Outdoor Recreation, Exploration Science, Outdoor Art, Curriculum and Professional Development, Snowshoeing and Bird Watching. Nominees showcased new and creative ways to engage students in the outdoors and pointed to the wide range of positive impacts on their students, from increased school attendance to academic learning outcomes and improving mental and physical health.

“We at MEEA are so grateful to the amazing educators who have worked so hard this year to get their students learning outdoors! Research shows that learning outdoors has overwhelmingly positive benefits for mental health and physical as well as academic benefits for young people. We also know that not all young people have access to the outdoors, which is an issue of environmental justice. These teachers and projects that take place in public schools across the state are helping to ensure that our young people have positive experiences by gaining a deeper connection to nature in their local community.We are grateful to all the people who donated to make this project possible and to all the INCREDIBLE teachers for their amazing job,” said MEEA Executive Director Olivia Griset.

This year, teachers have worked to close the gap between school funding and the needs of their students. Often with limited resources, teachers are carrying out incredible projects, engaging a variety of students, and taking outdoor learning to new expanses across the state. The impact of these projects supports thousands of young people across the state. Supporting teachers and schools in the pursuit of outdoor learning is a core part of MEEA’s mission as the organization strives to enhance and amplify the efforts of individuals and organizations that raise awareness of environment, promote appreciation and understanding of the environment, and take action to create equitable and resilient communities.

Cascade Brook School used grant funds to purchase supplies for 12 boardwalk signs. Teacher Amy Graham shares the value of the trail and the signs: “Our trail provides students with much-needed movement breaks throughout the day. The walk through the woods gives us the opportunity to take a break from the hum of air exchange and the glare of fluorescent ceiling lights.

At Mt. Blue High School, two teachers used MEEA funds in different ways. The teacher, Maria Howatt, used funds to buy materials for a survival chemistry course, which allowed students to learn chemistry outdoors and while cooking, in all weathers. One student commented on the impact of this lesson on her: “It is difficult to follow a lesson and memorize facts. Our class was the first period of the day and normally I had a hard time motivating myself to get out of bed for school, but the survival chemistry made me want to go to school!

Lynda Szenes of Mt. Blue High School used the funds to purchase lumber to build two wheelchair-accessible raised beds, soil, plants and seeds for gardening. Pupils in special education and general education who use a wheelchair will now be able to garden with everyone else.

MEEA continues to seek impactful partnerships with local communities and organizations during this changing cultural and environmental climate, as the equity-focused environmental work that MEEA creates plays a key role in building an eco-friendly Maine. ‘environment ; where everyone can engage civically and understand the relationship between their well-being and that of their environment.

MEEA plans to maintain this program by opening another round of applications this fall for the 2022-2023 school year. If you or your organization would like to donate to this fund, please contact [email protected]

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