Letter to the Editor: Outdoor learning time must be a priority


Young people need time outdoors to be happy, healthy, connected and curious. Nature is an ally of our healing and it is accessible in many forms beyond competitive sports.

A troubling Portland Press Herald report said, “In Maine and across the country, the number of teens attempting suicide has increased dramatically. We have an immediate opportunity to take care of ourselves and our youth with more exposure to the natural world.

Here in Maine, we are fortunate to be close to nature often, but that doesn’t mean it’s accessible. We need programs, training, and even requirements to keep us from retreating inward.

Outside Magazine reports that many schools are making the pandemic-initiated outdoor classrooms permanent, finding that outdoor learning helps students stress less and focus more, and improves equitable access to nature.

Teach ME Outside helps all young people in Maine gain access to hands-on environmental learning opportunities. And Teens to Trails’ partnership with the Maine Department of Education pays schools to start outdoor clubs. We are offering an outdoor leadership day on September 24 open to any school staff interested in providing social and emotional support in an outdoor setting.

Let’s elevate the time spent outdoors at school and ensure that extracurricular activities are given the same priority as competitive sports. If sport is in session, field trips and clubs should be too! We can help our youth to heal and thrive by spending time together, outdoors.

Alicia Heyburn, Executive Director, Teens to Trails

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