FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nature Based Education Consortium
Community-Driven Climate Education Bill Receives Over $2 Million in Funding to Support Maine Teachers
The bill passed in the House & Senate earlier this year
Speakers at the Youth Day of Action in Augusta on April 13, where one of the climate priority bills was LD 1902. Photo includes NBEC participants Kosi, Deb, Amara, Ania, and Audrey.
Photo by Julia St. Clair (Maine Youth for Climate Justice member and 350 Maine Comms Co-Coordinator)
Augusta, ME (April 26, 2022) - On Friday, Maine legislators approved significant funding for a bill to support climate education efforts by teachers across the state. The Climate Education Bill received over $2 million in funding from the Maine Appropriations & Financial Affairs Committee, after being passed and enacted in the House & Senate.
This bill, LD 1902 A Resolve To Establish a Pilot Program To Encourage Climate Education in Maine Public Schools, is a significant investment in Maine teachers and students, and will fund climate education professional development for teachers and partnerships between schools and community organizations in a 3-year pilot program. The funding devotes $2 million to the pilot program, as well as $94,519 for a position at the Maine Department of Education to help districts apply for and implement climate education professional development. This advances important climate education goals outlined in Maine Won't Wait, Maine's climate action plan.
The process to build this policy was spearheaded by an intergenerational group of students, educators, and advocates from across Maine, through the Nature Based Education Consortium’s youth-led Climate Education Advocacy Working Group and with years worth of brainstorming, planning, and strategizing. The Nature Based Education Consortium is a network that works statewide for systemic change to ensure equitable access to outdoor learning experiences for all Maine youth, and its Climate Education Advocacy Working Group has focused on climate education policy as an approach to this goal, given that climate education often takes the shape of outdoor learning as a means to communicate the impacts of climate change on students.
In 2020, the working group worked with state decision-makers to include Climate Education goals in the state’s Climate Action plan, Maine Won’t Wait. The 2022 Climate Education Bill’s creation was driven by hundreds of teachers, students, and organizational partners during the Maine Climate Education Summit in 2021, with the involvement and feedback of the Dept. of Education. Using information about teacher needs gleaned from the 2019 Census of Community-Based Environmental Learning in Maine, NBEC Climate Education Advocacy working group members came together to build a climate education policy inspired by Washington’s ClimeTime.
What do leaders in this effort have to say?
The policy was introduced by Representative Lydia Blume in the 2022 short session, and has seen incredible grassroots support by students, teachers, and community members across the state.
“The broad grassroots effort to pass and fund this bill was most impressive. I see it as an important investment in Maine’s teachers and students as we prepare for the future challenges and opportunities because of climate change. The timing is also exactly aligned with the strategies in Maine’s current climate action plan. What a happy triumph and cause for hope!” said Representative Blume.
"Passing LD 1902 is a big deal for educators and students (including myself). It will help to provide teachers with the resources they need to educate students in Maine about the seriousness of climate change, hopefully giving more young people the knowledge they need to be able to take action on this issue. Students, educators and others from across the state have worked really hard to get this bill passed, and it is amazing to see the result of all this work!” said NBEC Climate Education Advocacy Working Group youth member Audrey Hufnagel.
“The students of Maine are asking for more opportunities to learn and now we can provide it through this grant program. It can become our opportunity to come together, innovate creatively, and feel at home on our earth. I have been grateful to be a part of the process to pass this bill. I would encourage all schools to start thinking about how they can use this grant money to create meaningful place-based climate education and community projects toward change,” said NBEC campaign organizer Carey Hotaling, a retired classroom teacher.
Equity was the central priority in shaping this bill. This Climate Education Bill prioritizes schools currently underserved by climate science education. Maine has a rich landscape of supportive community organizations that partner with schools and provide additional capacity and expertise. Guided by the priorities of the educators involved in crafting the language of this bill, LD 1902 is emphatically not a mandate, and allows great flexibility in how districts tailor the support they receive to their unique needs, community, and landscape. There are no specific curriculum decisions being guided by this bill, only support on meeting standards already in place.
This bill was supported by not only students and teachers, but organizations and groups across the state, including the Maine Environmental Education Association, The Sierra Club Maine Chapter, Maine Youth for Climate Justice, Maine Science Teachers Association, The Ecology School, The Climate Initiative, JustME for JustUS, Norway Youth Climate Action, Maine Audubon,The Nature Conservancy in Maine, the Union of Concerned Scientists, 350 Maine, Maine Climate Action NOW, and more.
The Climate Education Bill was also listed as an Environmental Priorities Coalition priority bill. Many groups have supported LD 1902 with written or live testimony: the Maine Science Teachers Association, the Maine Public Health Association, Maine Association of School Nurses, UMaine Cooperative Extension, Maine Environmental Education Association, and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, plus many more traditional environmental organizations. In all, nearly 100 students, teachers, and organizations testified in support of the bill.
LD 1902 both supports existing efforts of educators in Maine to best educate students in alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards, and sets up community partnerships to build relationships and strengthen connections now and in the future. It provides assistance at a critical time for teachers, helps create an education pipeline for green jobs in Maine, moves the state forward on climate action, and sets Maine up to receive federal funding opportunities. This bill puts the tools in young Mainers’ hands that they so desperately need to tackle the challenges of a changing world.
The Nature Based Education Consortium is a growing multi-sector network of organizations focused on building support for and equitable access to outdoor learning opportunities for all Maine youth.