A partnership between the Maine Math and Science Alliance and the Maine Environmental Education Association is spearheading a Census of Community-Based Environmental Learning in Maine. The project takesthe first steps toward building the capacity and networks for community-based environmental education fields in the state of Maine. A census to determine who, where, and how K-12 youth are engaging in this type of learning will be deployed between October 2018-February 2019, and a final report will be available in Spring 2019. The project is generously supported by the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation.
Why we need it: The state of Maine has a wealth of community-based environmental education initiatives. Unfortunately, many of these initiatives work in isolation from other similar initiatives and the impacts of the educational experiences are not measured or understood. Consequently, there are no overarching learning goals that this community is working towards in unison.
Goals: The long-term goal of Census of Community-Based Environmental Learning in Maine is that information will be regularly gathered from the field to:
- Determine professional development needs of those providing this type of education
- Examine current and anticipated challenges that community-based environmental learning initiatives face
- Identify regions and populations that are not being served equitably
- Identify weaknesses in how this type of education is being delivered and the impacts it generates
- Identify high quality educational experiences that could serve as exemplars for others
What is Community-Based Environmental Learning? We are interested in learning how schools and organizations across Maine are educating youth about the environment while also connecting them to their communities. There are many terms for this type of learning including “Community-Based Education,” “Inquiry-Based Education,” “Nature-Based Education,” “Environmental Education,” “Eco-Justice Education,” “Place-Based Education,” and many others. We want to hear about all of the work going on across Maine that may fall into these categories. While these learning experiences do not have to necessarily take place outdoors, they do need to connect youth to locally relevant content.
Learning may occur in any setting including inside the classroom, outdoors, or at a nature center, zoo, park, etc. They often (but not always) include some of the following characteristics:
- Academic, social-emotional, and civic outcomes
- Youth action to improve the environment
- Opportunity to explore environmental issues
- Problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making
- Wonder of natural phenomena
Examples of Community-Based Environmental Learning:
- Making observations and/or gathering and interpreting data about natural phenomena outside of the classroom
- School gardens connected to math, science, or other learning outcomes
- Developing a better understanding of an environmental issue – such as water quality or air pollution – and then generating ideas for how to create change locally
- Generating computer models of environmental systems that influence the local community – such as weather, climate change, or forest ecology
- Service Learning Projects that positively impact community natural health such as removing invasive species, recycling or composting, assisting in trail building, etc.
MEEA To Hire First
The Maine Environmental Education Association will soon have its first executive director! As a thriving, rapidly growing, non-profit organization MEEA is in the process of searching for the right leader to work with the board of directors, staff, and volunteers to lead and grow MEEA's work in strengthening and broadening the environmental education field.
MEEA builds public support for environmental education through our federal and statewide advocacy and policy work; aligns the actions of environmental education providers throughout Maine through effective communication and networking, and acts as the voice of Maine environmental education professionals at both the regional and national level. MEEA makes it a point to collaborate across sectors to advance policies that raise environmental literacy and lead to a more sustainable future for all Maine communities.
MEEA has had notable success in recent years in developing and implementing innovative leadership programs that nurture emerging environmental leaders, helping build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environmental sector.