The Maine Environmental Education Association (MEEA) enhances and amplifies the efforts of individuals and organizations by building environmental awareness, appreciation, understanding, and action in Maine. Their vision is to work towards building an environmentally literate Maine where powerful learning experiences connect individuals to the state’s landscapes. Their hope is that Maine will be a state where all people engage civically, work collaboratively to build equitable and resilient communities, and understand the relationship between their well-being and that of the world.
MEEA supports many different projects across the state and supports a wide range of audiences, including high school and college students, teachers, non-profit organizations, and community members.
As a network, MEEA supports the development and growth of policies and actions that ensure greater accessibility of environmental education and outdoor learning for the state and the nation.
The Maine Environmental Changemakers is a youth-led intergenerational network that connects young Mainers (ages 15-30) from diverse backgrounds who are passionate about the environment with peer mentors, and established professional mentors, in the sector.
Equity is at the center of how they work at MEEA. In practicing equity, they provide places where participants can share their stories, lessons, and best practices. They offer monthly calls for the sector and participate in many equity-centered collaborations across the Northeast.
The Mini-Grants for Outdoor Learning Program offers public schools and teachers across the state the opportunity to apply for up to $1,500 to support outdoor learning projects. A total of more than 350k was distributed over the course of the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years, reaching over 15k students in all 16 counties. MEEA plans to continue the grant program for the 2022-2023 school year.
This grant program allowed teachers to apply for up to $1,500 to fund their outdoor learning projects, from projects like building outdoor classrooms, creating mud kitchens for young kids, outdoor learning curriculum development, to the purchasing foul-weather gear, these projects increased the health and well being of thousands of Maine youth!
For more information, email email@example.com.
Here are a couple examples of projects that were funded for school gardens:
South Portland High School Rain Gardens used MEEA funds for supplies for creating and maintaining two rain gardens, including plants, soil, and tools. Funds were also spent on professional development planning time on an hourly teacher rate for reaching out to community members, coordinating zoom meetings, and purchasing supplies.
In one rain garden, students worked on plants that needed care after the summer’s dry weather and lack of watering. The students also installed a sign at the first garden. The second rain garden was a new installation.
“This year many students were learning from home. When students started to learn about rewilding the Courtyard and the benefits of rain gardens this had to be done virtually. We had two fantastic local community members who met with our students virtually.”
Students were able to learn about the benefits of native plants and genetic biodiversity, as well as pollinator gardens by getting involved in a local school yard project. When it came to installing the rain garden, students who had been remote came to school for the first time all year to help construct the garden. Students dug out space for the rain garden and brought in 40 bags of soil, then planted native plants.
“It was exciting for us all to finally be together in person and to be actively engaged in ecological concepts we had learned this semester.”
Harmony Elementary School used the grant funds to purchase items to support the existing student garden and to create a pollinator garden. The school purchased a small shed, an electric rototiller, seed starting supplies, seeds, soil test kits, gardening kits with tools and gloves for students, multiple hoses to reach from water supply to gardens and fertilizers to boost soil quality.
“The items purchased will be incorporated into the summer school program and have helped to increase the number of students attending! It has allowed students to interact and work with the head of maintenance for assembling the shed and planning location for the new garden”, said teacher Amanda Patterson.
During lessons, students are taught about food growing and concepts of sustainability, as well as soil and tater quality. “Students have exhibited more community-mindedness, an understanding of the importance of preservation of pollinators and ecosystems, too,” said Patterson. “Students are invested in the garden and without prompting, have been checking the quality of seedlings, asking about weeds, keeping an eye on water needs, and even cleaning up the playground.”
The garden project has generated conversations at home, particularly about the use of pesticides and the importance of bees. Surplus food from the garden will be donated to the local food pantry. “This serves the greater community and allows students to “provide” for their families, as many of the students here benefit from the food pantry. Overall, the experience has been incredibly positive and continues to grow,” said Patterson.
For more information, contact the Director of Schools and Community Partnerships, Anna Sommo by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Anna can help connect you to resources, other community partners, and answer your questions about outdoor learning and environmental education in schools.