Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin Visits Schoodic Institute’s Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative Program

Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin headed to the Schoodic Peninsula last week to take part in a Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative program run by the Schoodic Institute. More than 50 sixth through eighth graders from Hancock Grammar School, and their teachers, took part in a two-night, three-day outdoor coastal learning experience.

Students engaged in real-life, hands-on learning through exploring tide pools, photojournalism projects, marine chemistry, mapping, night hikes, art projects, forestry, and other activities that combine different subject areas to learn about science and coastal ecology. The programs were selected by teachers to connect to what students are learning back in their classrooms and are aligned with the Maine Learning Results.

“These students are collaborating, they are outdoors, and they are experiencing deep and meaningful learning through applied, project-based experiences that combine content areas,” said Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “And there is a team of dedicated staff here at Schoodic working with these students in partnership with their classroom teachers. These kinds of experiences are extraordinarily important and meaningful, and students will always remember their time here.”

Makin got to tour the outdoor and classroom learning facilities, bunkhouse, and take part in the morning wrap up activities with students where they mapped all of their locations during their time in the program and created graphics highlighting problems and solutions to climate change issues.

Schoodic’s Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative program engaged 2,000 Maine students in summer day programs and hundreds of Maine students in their multi-day immersive outdoor Schoodic Education Adventure (SEA) program. Schoodic Institute’s outdoor, hands-on coastal education programs encourage students to learn, discover, understand, and solve problems by experimenting and evaluating possible solutions. Curriculum-based outdoor education on the rugged coast of Maine offers an unparalleled experience for students and an exciting way to build science literacy and enthusiasm. For many students, this is their first experience spending the night away from home or their first time getting a coastal experience.

The Initiative also funding several teaching assistant positions, providing living-wage internship opportunities for young people that will provide a springboard for full careers in outdoor education in Maine.

“Schoodic Institute is thrilled to work with the Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative to create hands-on coastal education opportunities here in Downeast Maine for under-resourced schools and low-income families. Furthermore, the early-career internship positions created through this initiative will be springboards for bright careers in outdoor education in Maine,” said Schoodic Institute President and CEO Nicholas Fisichelli.

Schoodic Institute was one of several organizations that received funding through Governor Mills’ Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative. The Initiative, developed by the Maine Department of Education using Federal funding, gives middle and high school students the opportunity to participate in marine and coastal ecology learning programs, including marine research and exploration, boat building, sailing, career exploration with marine businesses, island immersion programs, and more. There was also a specific focus on engaging students who do not typically have access to such experiences due to distance, cost, or other barriers.

Spending time outdoors has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety and to equip students with skills and knowledge that can help them succeed inside the classroom. Being able to interact with nature while building connections with peers is also beneficial students’ recovery following the disruptions and difficulties caused by the pandemic.

Read more about Maine Outdoor Learning Initiative experiences here.