BHS’s Alternative Pathways Center Receives Funding for Outdoor Learning
The Maine Environmental Education Association (MEEA) supports the shift to outdoor learning as an opportunity to reimagine classroom lessons by distributing nearly $200,000 to fund 160 schools across the state, in all 16 counties.
In the fall of 2020, the Maine Environmental Education Association (MEEA) opened the first round of applications for the Mini-Grants for Outdoor Learning Program, a program aimed at redistributing funds to give teachers support as they imagined classrooms outside. After this successful fall cycle, MEEA was able to open a spring round of applications with additional funding from generous donors. This spring cycle’s recipients received up to $1,500 to support projects like teaching students bike maintenance, building school gardens, and designing interactive outdoor learning spaces. Recipients of this spring grant included a teacher at Biddeford High School’s Alternative Pathways Center (APC). The potential impact of these spring grants is hopeful, as applications displayed new and creative ways to engage students in the outdoors and recent reporting from fall recipients illustrates how hundreds of youth across the state have been positively impacted by outdoor learning this school year!
MEEA’s Executive Director, Olivia Griset shared, “At MEEA we are so grateful for the amazing educators who have worked so hard this year to get their students outside learning! Research shows that outdoor learning has hugely positive mental and physical health benefits and also academic benefits for youth. We also know that not all youth have access to the outdoors, which is an environmental justice issue. These teachers and projects happening in public schools across the state are helping to ensure that our youth have positive experiences gaining a deeper connection to nature in their local community. We are grateful to all the individuals who donated to make this project possible and to all the AMAZING teachers for their incredible work!”
This year, teachers stretched to fill the gap between school funding and their students’ needs. Often with limited resources, teachers are accomplishing incredible projects, engaging a variety of students, and bringing outdoor learning to new extents across the state. The impact of these projects supports thousands of youth across the state! Supporting teachers and schools in the pursuit of outdoor learning is a critical piece of MEEA’s mission as the organization strives to enhance and amplify the efforts of individuals and organizations that are building environmental awareness, fostering appreciation and understanding of the environment, and taking action towards creating equitable and resilient communities.
Teacher Andrew Burnell at Biddeford High School’s Alternative Pathways Center used his funds to purchase a variety of bike repair supplies to bolster his “Phys-Adventure” class. He shared a story about a trip his class was able to take to Hills Beach. He shared, “Hills Beach is located about five miles from our school and is situated next to the University of New England. The reason this trip was so unique is that for many of our students not only was it the first time they had ever ridden a bike 10-miles, but it was also the first time they had ever visited Hills Beach. It was an eye-opener for students to see this part of their community ‘just five miles up the road’ and begin to ask the question of ‘what else is out there?’”
MEEA continues to seek impactful partnerships with local communities and organizations during this changing cultural and environmental climate, as the equity-centered environmental work that MEEA creates plays a key role in building an environmentally literate Maine; where all people can engage civically and understand the relationship between their wellbeing and that of their environment.
MEEA plans to keep this program going by opening another round of applications this upcoming fall. If you or your organization are interested in donating to this fund, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.