Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin traveled to the Schoodic Peninsula last week to participate in a Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative program run by the Schoodic Institute. More than 50 Hancock Grammar School students in grades six through eight and their teachers took part in a two-night, three-day outdoor coastal learning experience.
Students engaged in hands-on, real-life learning by exploring tidal pools, photojournalism projects, marine chemistry, cartography, night hikes, art projects, forestry, and other activities that combine different fields to learn about science and coastal ecology. The programs have been selected by teachers to connect to what students are learning in their classrooms and are aligned with Maine learning outcomes.
“These students are collaborating, they are outdoors, and they are experiencing deep and meaningful learning through applied, project-based experiences that combine content areas,” said the education commissioner of the Maine, PenderMakin. “And there is a team of dedicated staff here at Schoodic who work with these students in partnership with their teachers. These types of experiences are extremely important and meaningful, and students will always remember their time here. »
Makin was able to tour the outdoor and classroom learning facilities, dormitory, and participate in morning wrap-up activities with the students where they mapped out all of their locations during their time in the program and created charts highlighting the problems and solutions to the problems of climate change.
Schoodic’s Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative program has engaged 2,000 Maine students in summer day programs and hundreds of Maine students in their immersive, multi-day outdoor Schoodic Education Adventure (SEA) program. Schoodic Institute’s hands-on, outdoor coastal education programs encourage students to learn, discover, understand, and solve problems by experimenting with and evaluating possible solutions. Curriculum-based outdoor education on Maine’s rugged coast offers an unparalleled experience for students and an exciting way to develop science literacy and enthusiasm. For many students, this is their first nighttime experience away from home or their first coastal experience.
The Initiative also funds several teaching assistantships, providing youth with paid internship opportunities that will provide them with a stepping stone to full careers in outdoor education in Maine.
“Schoodic Institute is thrilled to work with the Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative to create hands-on coastal education opportunities here in Downeast Maine for underfunded schools and low-income families. Additionally, the early-career intern positions created through this initiative will be stepping stones to successful careers in outdoor education in Maine,” said Nicholas Fisichelli, President and CEO of the Schoodic Institute.
Schoodic Institute was one of many organizations that received funding through Governor Mills’ Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative. The initiative, developed by the Maine Department of Education with federal funding, gives middle and high school students the opportunity to participate in marine and coastal ecology learning programs, including including marine research and exploration, boat building, sailing, career exploration with marine companies, island immersion programs, and more. Special emphasis has also been placed on engaging students who typically do not have access to such experiences due to distance, cost or other barriers.
Spending time outdoors has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety and equip students with skills and knowledge that can help them succeed in the classroom. Being able to interact with nature while bonding with peers is also beneficial for students’ recovery from the disruptions and challenges caused by the pandemic.
Learn about the experiences of the Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative here.