Faculties obtain funding for outside studying  



MOUNTAIN DESERT — The shift to outdoor learning during the pandemic has presented schools with an opportunity to redesign their classrooms and the lessons they teach. The Maine Environmental Education Association (MEEA) supported this by distributing nearly $200,000 in the 2021-2022 school year and funding 160 schools across the state in all 16 counties. Teachers use these tools to teach students about nature, provide them with skills that enable their independence, and encourage them to spend more time outdoors.

In Fall 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.

Educators received up to $1,500 to support projects in the categories of Outdoor Classroom Solutions, Inclement Weather Gear, 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. Thank you to everyone who donated to make this project possible and to all of the AMAZING teachers for their incredible work!” said MEEA General Manager Olivia Griset.

Patricia Ann Kelley, a teacher at Mount Desert Elementary in Northeast Harbor, used MEEA grant funds to purchase seeds, flower pots, potting soil, new hoses, organic fertilizers, tools, stakes, organic insect repellent, twine, fencing and general supplies.

The school’s Growing Gardens, Growing Minds program is an outdoor classroom with a garden where students plant seeds, dig in the ground, grow vegetables organically and learn about gardening.

A Mount Desert elementary school student uses the school’s outdoor maker area to practice woodworking skills.

Another teacher at Mount Desert Elementary, Shannon Westphal, used the funds to create an outdoor maker space where K-6 students practiced their woodworking skills on a variety of projects.

“This scholarship gave the students the opportunity to work outdoors and learn new woodworking skills. Students had time to complete a guided lesson and then had time to work independently using the same techniques and materials. This space and these materials were a breath of fresh air,” said Westphal.

MEEA plans to continue this program by opening another application round for the 2022-2023 school year this fall.

To donate to this fund, contact [email protected].