Oceanside Middle School in Rockland, Camden Rockport Elementary School in Rockport and Captain Albert Stevens School in Belfast were part of the Maine Environmental Education Association’s outdoor learning program that began in fall 2020.
MEEA launched the Mini-Grants for Outdoor Learning Program, which aims to reallocate funds to support teachers in their vision for outdoor classrooms. The shift to outdoor learning during the pandemic has presented schools with an opportunity to redesign their classrooms and the lessons they teach. MEEA supported this opportunity by distributing nearly $200,000 and funding 160 schools across the state in all 16 counties. Teachers use these tools to teach students about nature, teach them skills that enable independence, and ensure they spend more time outdoors.
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 attendance and academic learning to improved mental and physical health.
At Oceanside Middle School, the grant money was used to buy six picnic tables, six umbrellas and paint. The aim was to offer the students outdoor seating for learning. The students built the tables themselves, painted them and determined where to place them. Teacher Catherine Sally said: “A sixth grade teacher took her class outside to write poetry in the garden. After being outside for a while (45 minutes), she said, “We wrote more poetry in 20 minutes than we did in a week! They were so excited to get outside, get comfortable and write!’”
Camden Rockport Elementary School used MEEA grants for rain and snow gear. Pre-K students spend almost every day outside and have learned a lot about the plants and animals around the school. Teacher Heather Bowen said: “Our rain bibs say it all! These bright yellow rain bibs that we bought with our scholarship became sort of a class uniform and we wore them rain or shine to allow for all kinds of games. With these rain bibs on, we sat non-stop on wet tree stumps or the muddy ground. We played in the mud and waded in our stream, made mud soup, exploded paint and happily dug in our wet sandbox and soil-filled garden beds without the slightest worry about getting dirty or ruining our clothes.”
At the Captain Albert Stevens School in Belfast, grant funds were used to buy a mobile cart, cooking utensils and maple syrup tools. Teacher Danee Voss said: “Learning outdoors has had a profound and huge impact on our students. Recently, students have helped support our annual community dinner. The community meal is an opportunity for students, staff and their families to come together to share a meal made with local ingredients outdoors.”
For more information on MEEA grants, please contact [email protected]
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