University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Learning Centers will play a pivotal role in the education plans of K–12 schools in Maine communities this fall by providing venues for vibrant outdoor learning, and experiential STEM and outdoor education lessons that add depth to standard grade-level curriculum, according to UMaine, in a news release.
“Outdoor learning centers are playing a significant role in the reopening of schools across the country,” said Ryder Scott, state director of UMaine Extension 4-H Camps and Learning Centers. “With strong community relationships, program-ready facilities and talented education staff, the UMaine 4-H Centers are rapidly becoming leaders in partnerships between outdoor learning centers and public school districts in Maine.”
One such partnership is between UMaine’s Blueberry Cove 4-H Center and the St. George Municipal School Unit (MSU). The K–8 school serving the peninsula community reached out to Blueberry Cove 4-H Center director Ryan LeShane near the end of the last school year to explore opportunities to expand outdoor educational opportunities for middle school students using the experiential STEM resources of the 4-H Center.
This year, all St. George MSU sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will spend their school day at Blueberry Cove on a rotating basis, for the entire school year. Students will engage in outdoor, field-based science with support from UMaine professionals. In addition, the 4-H Center will provide the technology necessary for those students to participate in educational opportunities that will connect them with expert educators, including UMaine faculty in various disciplines.
Up the coast at UMaine’s Tanglewood 4-H Center in Lincolnville, Cooperative Extension staff are working with the Captain Albert W. Stevens School (CASS) in Belfast to build upon an existing, grant-funded STEM mentorship program called 4-H Tech Wizards. With funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, the UMaine 4-H Centers provide experiential STEM education that helps engage students and creates strong relationships with caring adults.
“This is an exciting time for outdoor learning,” said CASS principal Glen Widmer. “We’ve been making a concerted effort over the past few years to increase our outdoor programming. If there is a silver (green?) lining to our current situation, it is the increased interest on the part of both the families and the teachers to get outside more and connect the curriculum to the out of doors. We are most grateful for our partnership with Tanglewood, as it is the vehicle that drives the process.”
In Oxford County at UMaine’s 4-H Center at Bryant Pond, Extension staff are preparing for a busy fall, partnering closely with several western Maine districts. In particular, in MSAD 17, principals have the option to bring students to the 4-H Center for outdoor learning, allowing the schools to space students out and giving them an opportunity to experience all the facility has to offer.
In addition, for the sixth consecutive year, the Bryant Pond 4-H Center and SAD 44 are working together to host the Telstar Freshman Academy, an interdisciplinary, project-based learning program for the ninth grade from Telstar High School. All Telstar ninth-graders spend a portion of their school day at the 4-H Center, where a team of teachers works with them on project-based units that meet standards in English language arts, science and social studies.
About the University of Maine:
The University of Maine, founded in Orono in 1865, is the state's land grant, sea grant and space grant university. It is located on Marsh Island in the homeland of the Penobscot Nation. As Maine's flagship public university, UMaine has a statewide mission of teaching, research and economic development, and community service. UMaine is the state's only public research university and among the most comprehensive higher education institutions in the Northeast. It attracts students from all 50 states and more than 70 countries. UMaine currently enrolls 11,561 undergraduate and graduate students who have opportunities to participate in groundbreaking research with world-class scholars. UMaine offers more than 100 degree programs through which students can earn master's, doctoral or professional science master's degrees, as well as graduate certificates. The university promotes environmental stewardship, with substantial efforts campuswide to conserve energy, recycle and adhere to green building standards in new construction. For more information about UMaine, visit umaine.edu.