FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nature Based Education Consortium
Fecteau sponsors new Maine Resolution affirming importance of outdoors for youth
The state legislature will vote on HP 1087 at the end of April
Augusta, ME - A new resolution, to be voted by the full Maine State Legislature on April 28, commends Maine educators for their innovative use of outdoor learning during COVID-19 and affirms the importance of outdoor time for all Maine youth. The resolution, with Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau as its Primary Sponsor, Sen. Mattie Daughtry as Lead Cosponsor, and Rep. Michelle Dunphy, Rep. Maggie O'Neal, Sen. Chloe Maxmin, Sen. Craig Hickman, Rep. Michael Brennan, and Rep. Patrick Corey as cosponsors, recognizes the value of outdoor learning and recreation to increase student well-being, performance, and connection to natural resources and their community.
“I am proud to present a Joint Resolution to the 130th Maine Legislature that recognizes the efforts of Maine’s outdoor learning educators,” said Speaker Fecteau.
“COVID-19 has impacted the well-being and mental health of our children in ways we could not have imagined a year ago. I am grateful to the Nature Based Education Consortium (NBEC) and Maine leaders in outdoor education for their work to ensure we are connecting Maine youth with the outdoors through education. This is innovative and meaningful work that will benefit our students in the short and long term,” Speaker Fecteau added.
This resolution recognizes the year of adaptability, flexibility, and creativity by Maine educators in incorporating outdoor learning to meet the physical and mental health needs of students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Maine schools adjusted virtually overnight to the new conditions of this public health crisis and met the challenge of increasing student learning time outdoors.
Family and community members came together to build outdoor classroom spaces on school property. With the support of administration, teachers accessed professional development to learn best practices for outdoor learning. With new gear-share libraries, students—regardless of income—had equitable access to winter items needed for learning outside. Alongside local groups and nonprofits, schools built on existing expertise to incorporate nature based education with their students. And with federal CARES Act funding and philanthropic grants, school leadership allocated money to outdoor learning initiatives in schools.
For example, Portland Public Schools dedicated funding to a district Outdoor Learning Coordinator and Outdoor Learning Liaisons at each school to coordinate outdoor learning efforts at each school’s specific environment, taking advantage of nearby parks, partnering with local organizations, and purchasing necessary equipment for taking classes outdoors in the winter.
“Community advocates and partners are essential to this work, and so is having a supportive district administration that is ready to jump in and take a risk, because this is not something we had done on such a large scale before,” said Brooke Teller, Outdoor Learning Coordinator at Portland Public Schools.
Meanwhile, the East Grand School in rural Danforth has developed a culture of outdoor recreation and learning experiences over the past seven years, making use of its close proximity to trails and closeness to other recreational opportunities to incorporate biking, hiking, camping, canoeing and more into the educational experience. During COVID-19, the school used CARES Act funds to start a garden onsite, access professional development for teachers, and invest in new outdoor structures for learning.
"Education can be tricky, because sometimes it doesn’t feel like real life. But now it feels like real life,” said teacher Tammi Matula, Outdoor Education and Physical Education Instructor at East Grand School.
All Maine youth can benefit from outdoor learning. The benefits of outdoor learning, from improved standardized test scores, to increased motivation, to increased understanding of the natural world, to new confidence and leadership skills, are well-documented in educational research. Maine’s environment and natural resource economy will depend on today’s youth, who must understand relationships between natural and human-built systems in order to make informed decisions. With more youth having access to outdoor learning opportunities and becoming the leaders of tomorrow, communities will grow healthier and stronger, benefitting all residents for generations to come.
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.