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PPS Educators Win Outdoor Learning Mini-Grants

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PPS Educators Win Outdoor Learning Mini-Grants
Posted on 12/04/2020
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Portland Public Schools teachers are among educators statewide who received Maine Environmental Education Association (MEEA) mini-grants to teachers to support outdoor learning.

The grant program allowed teachers to apply for up to $1,500 to fund their outdoor learning projects. At PPS, the grants will be used in ways that include buying wheelchair skis and an adapted sled to allow Functional Life Skills students to be outdoors and for enabling teachers to partner with Maine Audubon and Cultivating Community to enhance outdoor learning.

MEAA distributed $100,000 to schools throughout the state. Educators at 13 schools in Cumberland County received a grant. Those schools included East End Community School, Peaks Island Elementary School, Casco Bay High School, Ocean Avenue Elementary, Deering High School, Gerald E. Talbot Community School, Longfellow Elementary School, Lyseth Elementary School and Presumpscot Elementary School, The recipients of this grant received between $600-$1,500 to support their projects.

"At MEEA we are so excited to be able to support the incredible work teachers and schools are doing getting Maine youth outside learning,” said MEEA Executive Director Olivia Griset. “We are grateful for the generosity of many who helped fund this effort to get needed resources quickly to teachers to take down the barriers to get their students outside learning.  Even in such a difficult year for teachers and families, we are seeing so many innovative projects all across the state that are getting youth outside in the fresh air, learning, moving, growing and connecting curriculum to the natural world around them! We know that outdoor learning is an effective response to COVID from a safety perspective and we are excited to see many of the teachers suggesting that they will be incorporating outdoor learning in their teaching well beyond the pandemic. We are very pleased to support outdoor learning in Maine public schools!"

Some of the PPS teachers who received grants expressed their gratitude and explained how they will aid student learning.

Brooke Teller, PPS Outdoor Learning Coordinator and STEM Coordinator, emphasized how important the grants are as winter approaches. "Now that we have spent the fall utilizing outdoor spaces, we are looking for teaching materials to use in the winter months that will continue to connect us to the outdoors.  This grant will allow us to work with Maine Audubon to provide our students learning opportunities on topics like plant and animal habitats, seasonal changes, and migration."

Rebecca Maiorano, a teacher at Presumpscot Elementary School, will be working with a local partner, Cultivating Community. “We are so excited to be partnering with Cultivating Community once again,” she said. “Years ago, our Presumpscot kindergartners planned and built the original school garden beds alongside the dedicated staff members of Cultivating Community. Now, 11 years later, we will be coming full circle by renewing our partnership and working with local farmers who have relocated to Maine from around the world. Working together, we will expand our garden curriculum and broaden our worldview of gardening practices. We are grateful to the MEEA for helping to fund this work through their grant program.”

Hilary Terhune, a teacher at Deering High School, said, “During a regular school year, students in the Deering High School Functional Life Skills classroom have frequent opportunities to engage in community activities. Several of our students use wheelchairs for their primary mode of mobility, and many have balance challenges that make walking outdoors a challenge. With the additional need for safety of the COVID-19 pandemic and more complicated transportation and safety considerations, these students have an even more difficulty getting outside. Thanks to the Maine Environmental Education Association, the students in our classroom have equipment that will mean they will be able to safely go out in the woods and in our local parks. The MEEA grant will buy two sets of wheelchair skis, an adapted sled and YakTrax for our students to make snow travel possible. Many sincere thanks!”

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. 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.