160 Maine public colleges obtain funding for outside studying initiatives – Day by day Bulldog


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

FARMINGTON – In the fall of 2020, MEEA launched the Mini-Grants for Outdoor Learning Program, a program that aims to reallocate funds to support teachers in their vision for outdoor classrooms. As enthusiasm for community-based environmental learning has increased over the past two years, MEEA has continued to support teachers with these grants.

For the 2021-2022 school year, educators received up to $1,500 to support projects in the categories of Outdoor Classroom Solutions, Inclement Weather Equipment, Garden/Greenhouse, Outdoor Recreation, Scientific Exploration, Outdoor Art, Curriculum and Professional Development, Snowshoeing, and Bird Watching. Applicants demonstrated new and creative ways to engage students in the outdoors and shared the diverse positive impacts they have had on their students, from increased school enrollment to academic learning outcomes to improved mental and physical health.

“At MEEA we are so thankful for the amazing educators who have worked so hard this year to bring their students outside of learning! Research shows that learning outdoors has tremendously positive mental and physical health benefits, as well as academic benefits for teens. We also know that not all young people have access to nature, which is an environmental justice issue. These teachers and projects, conducted in public schools across the state, are helping our youth have positive experiences by gaining a deeper connection to nature in their local community. We are grateful to all of the individuals who have donated to make this project possible and to all of the AMAZING teachers for their incredible work,” said Olivia Griset, Executive Director of MEEA.

This year, teachers have strived to bridge the gap between school funding and the needs of their students. Often with limited resources, teachers undertake incredible projects, engage a variety of students, and take outdoor learning to new heights across the state. The impact of these projects supports thousands of youth across the state. Supporting teachers and schools in their pursuit of outdoor learning is a critical part of MEEA’s mission as the organization strives to enhance and amplify the efforts of individuals and organizations that build environmental awareness, appreciation and understanding of the environment promote and take action to create equitable and resilient communities.

Cascade Brook School used grant funds to purchase materials for 12 storywalk signs. Teacher Amy Graham shares the value of the trail and signs: “Our trail provides students with much-needed exercise breaks throughout the day. Walking through the forest gives us a chance to take a break from the hum of air exchange and the glare of the fluorescent lights.”

At Mt. Blue High School, two teachers used MEEA funds in different ways. Teacher Maria Howatt used funds to buy materials for a survival chemistry class where students learned chemistry outdoors and through cooking—in all weathers. One student commented on how much this class influenced her: “It’s hard to sit through a class and remember facts. Our classes were the first hour of the day and I usually struggled with the motivation to get out of bed to go to school but the survival chemistry got me excited to go to school!”

Lynda Scenes of Mt. Blue High School used the funds to buy lumber to build two wheelchair-accessible raised beds, mix in garden soil, plants and seeds. Both special and general education students who use a wheelchair now have the opportunity 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 equitable environmental work created by MEEA plays a key role in building an environmentally conscious Maine; where all people can engage in civic engagement and understand the relationship between their well-being and that of their environment.

MEEA plans to continue this program by opening another application round for the 2022-2023 school year next fall. If you or your organization are interested in making a donation to this fund, please contact [email protected]