We hear more and more frequently how important it is for students to learn outdoors, in nature, limited only by their imagination. But how do you get students ready, engaged, and excited to take their classroom learning to a space so often designated for recess? And how do teachers prepare for what can appear to be a daunting task?
Teach ME Outside (TMO), a partnership between Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance (MMSA), Maine Environmental Education Association (MEEA), and the Nature-Based Education Consortium has been working to answer these questions and support educators to ensure all youth have access to powerful outdoor and environmental learning opportunities.
Teach ME Outside is a collaborative effort working to tackle many of the present barriers currently keeping Maine educators from taking their lessons outside. The program began with a 2019 Census of Community-Based Learning (CBEL), a statewide effort to better understand outdoor and environmental learning in Maine. The immensely successful CBEL was answered by 479 educators from every Maine county and helped identify many of the major roadblocks hindering better outdoor and environmental education.
Three major outcomes of particular interest to Maine educators have derived from the CBEL:
- An online module to support educators who want more outdoor learning at their school
- A resource directory of local Maine environmental partners across the state
- Ongoing professional development opportunities for Maine educators interested in teaching outside
TMO has developed several major resources aimed towards making outdoor and environmental learning more accessible, effective, and manageable. One such resource is the Teaching Outside in Maine 101 Module, an online guide geared towards supporting and coaching educators who would like to foster an outdoor learning culture in their classroom and school. This ever growing module guides teachers through the pain points of making outdoor learning a widely embraced reality in their school and is continuously updated by those who have gone through the process themselves.
Also stemming from the CBEL is an online resource directory that allows anyone to search for local environmental learning partners. The directory has over 150 partners and allows for easy searching based on services offered, age range available, content topics, location, and more.
Professional development opportunities is the third major initiative stemming from the CBEL. The TMO team hosts workshops throughout the year. Initial offerings include opportunities to practice strategies needed to implement outdoor learning within a team environment, with another workshop focused on the science best practices in teaching outdoors.
With so many efforts underway, Teach ME Outside intends to put forth another CBEL survey for Maine educators late this summer. Evaluation of the environmental and outdoor learning landscape remains important, and TMO plans to build upon their current findings to support the next round of initiatives. All educators will be welcomed and encouraged to participate as well as read through TMO’s resources and give feedback.
A Collaboration Between