Governor Mills Announces Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative to Provide Maine Students with Hands-On Outdoor Learning Experiences on the Coast This Summer

Keeping a promise from her State of the State address, Governor Mills will provide more than 1,000 middle and high school students with the opportunity to enjoy outdoor learning experiences this summer.

Augusta, MAINE – Keeping a promise from her State of the State Address, Governor Janet Mills today announced the launch of the Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative to provide Maine students with hands-on outdoor learning experiences this summer.

The initiative, developed by the Maine Department of Education with federal funding, will give middle and high school students the opportunity to participate in marine and coastal ecology learning programs, including research and marine exploration, boat building, sailing, career exploration with marine companies, island immersion programs, and more.

For example, the School of Ecology will take students on field trips to sandy beaches, tidal pools and salt marshes to learn about Maine’s coastal ecosystems. The Herring Gut Coastal Science Center will expose students to marine fish currents, oyster farms, mudflats, hatcheries and labs, while visiting maritime businesses across the Midcoast to allow students to see potential careers firsthand. in Maine’s maritime industries. Sailing Ships Maine will provide students with the opportunity to sail aboard a commercial training vessel as an active member of the crew.

This outdoor learning initiative will benefit at least 1,000 students across Maine, with a focus on students from low-income families in areas of Maine where they typically don’t have access to such experiences. .

“Maine’s outdoors are one of our greatest treasures. In an age where devices and screens too often capture our children’s attention, getting them outside and connecting them to our state has never been so good. important “, said Governor Janet Mills. “In my State of the State Address, I promised that we would partner with outdoor organizations to create new learning opportunities and help young people who may have lost ground in school during the pandemic. Today, I keep that promise. Our outdoor learning initiative in Maine will help our students learn, grow, develop new skills, and enjoy the outdoors, which will lead to new interests in life.

“The Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative offers hands-on, highly engaging programs that allow Maine youth to explore and learn from our state’s incredible abundance of natural resources,” said Pender Makin, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education. “Being outside in contact with nature and with each other is so important in helping students recover from the pandemic. These outdoor learning experiences will build teamwork and leadership skills, reduce stress and anxiety, and develop new skills in our expansive outdoor classroom, which will also translate to success. inside the class. We thank all the organizations that have stepped up to be part of this exciting initiative. »

This type of learning called experiential is very engaging and allows students to solve problems and acquire new skills in real contexts, to develop teamwork and leadership skills, to increase self-confidence. and develop an appreciation for nature.

Spending time outdoors has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety and equip students with skills and knowledge that can help them succeed in the classroom. Being able to interact with nature while bonding with peers is also beneficial for students’ recovery from the disruptions and challenges caused by the pandemic.

Organizations that will receive funding under the Initiative welcomed the announcement:

“Governor Mills’ new Maine outdoor learning initiative is such a breath of fresh air for Maine’s children and for innovative education across the state. With support from the Maine Department of Education, Maine children in middle and high school will have access to experiential educational experiences that will take children outdoors this summer to explore the incredible diversity of Maine’s coastal ecosystems. , said Drew Dumschdirector general of the school of ecology. “As part of the Initiative, the School of Ecology is proud to offer three sessions of the new Governor’s Academy for Coastal Ecology in July and will provide up to 180 campsites for Maine students entering grades 6-9 to attend a free week of camp at our River Bend Farm campus in Saco.

“Schoodic Institute is excited to work with the Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative to create hands-on coastal education opportunities here in Downeast Maine for underfunded schools and low-income families,” said Nicholas Fisichelli, President and CEO of Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park. “Additionally, the early-career internships created through this initiative will be stepping stones to successful careers in outdoor education in Maine.”

“Downeast Institute is thrilled to have received support from the Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative,” said Dianne Tilton, executive director of the Downeast Institute. “We’ve been helping students enjoy science and math using outdoor marine science activities for years, and we’re excited to expand our program this summer.

“All of us at Herring Gut Coastal Science Center are excited to bring the wonders and possibilities of careers in marine science and aquaculture to young people in Midcoast.said Tom Mullin, Executive Director, Herring Gut Coastal Science Center. Middle and high school students will have the chance to have fantastic hands-on experiences made possible by these grants. »

“We are thrilled to have received the Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative grant from the State of Maine,” said Adam Shepard Executive Director of Rippleffect. “Rippleffect’s programs, which focus on connecting participants to themselves, each other, and the natural world around them, are more important than ever. This grant will help us continue to expand these opportunities for all children in Maine. »

“With support from the Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative, Sailing Ships Maine will be able to connect more Maine students who need advanced experiences, the ability to disconnect from social media, and the ability to engage man-to-man problem-solving challenges that build connection and trust,” said Alex Agnew, executive director of Sailing Ships Maine. “By jumping in and heading out to sea for a multi-night tall ship sailing experience, students’ minds can be broadened to their life’s potential while learning valuable skills in leadership, teamwork , science, technology, engineering and math in a fascinating and engaging hands-on learning environment. We are thrilled to be a partner in this initiative for Maine students!”

“The Maine Maritime Academy is delighted to have been selected as a grant recipient under the Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative for summer programs in coastal ecology. With the expansion of the Discovery Voyage program, MMA will be able to introduce Maine students to the coastal estuaries and marine environments that are vital to the economic sustainability of our state’s coastal ecosystems,” said Kimberly Reilly, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Marketing for Maine Maritime Academy. “Maine Maritime Academy’s location on Castine Harbor allows students to reach beyond the classroom and provides the opportunity to be on the water for up-close exploration of coastal environments.”

“The Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership is honored to receive DOE funding to support new, expanded experiential science education initiatives in partnership with The Game Loft, The University of Maine 4-H Camp & Learning Center at Bryant Pond, The Apprenticeshop, Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, and teachers and leaders from partner schools across the state,” said Tara Elliott, grants coordinator for the Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership. “This DOE support will bring new students to the sustainable Hurricane Island campus for hands-on learning and expand our educational initiatives during the school year, strengthening support for teachers and schools implementing place-based learning. while giving students more time to do science. outside. We hear firsthand from students and teachers about the unique and impactful learning experience on Hurricane Island, and we are grateful to be able to bring these experiences to more Maine youth.

Organizations participating in Maine’s outdoor learning initiative include: Herring Gut Coastal Science Center in Port Clyde, Hurricane Island + Bryant Pond in Bryant Pond, Hurricane Island + Game Loft, Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Sailing Ships Maine in Portland, the School of Ecology in Saco, Boothbay Sea and Science Center in Boothbay, Casco Bay High School and Rippleffect in Portland, Downeast Institute for Applied Marine Science and Education in Beals, Hurricane Island Foundation in Rockland, Laudholm Trust in Wells , Rippleffect in Portland, Schoodic Institute in Acadia National Park, and the University of Maine System Cooperative Extension summer camps in Blueberry Cove and Tanglewood.

The Initiative is supported by nearly $900,000 in federal funding from the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund. Full program descriptions can be found here.

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