Moderator Endorsed: Affiliates
Moderator Endorsed: Affiliates
Cover of the Maine community based environmental learning Census.
Cover of the Maine Community-Based Environmental Learning Census.

Statewide Census of Community-Based Environmental Learning Completed in Maine

Statewide Census of Community-Based Environmental Learning Completed in Maine

We are excited to share with the NAAEE Affiliate Network the recently completed statewide landscape analysis of environmental education in Maine.  The Census for Community-based Environmental Learning was a joint project of the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance (MMSA) and Maine Environmental Education Association, a NAAEE Affiliate. MMSA researchers with input from a statewide stakeholder advisory group created the Census after studying other environmental education survey projects from Affiliates across the United States. The overarching goals of the Census were to:

  • gain a better understanding of how schools and organizations across Maine educate K-12 youth about the environment while connecting them to their communities;
  • identify gaps in equitable access for youth;
  • gain a deeper understanding of educators’ professional development needs;
  • identify challenges and creative solutions that are arising in schools and communities; and 
  • highlight educator best practices based on NAAEE’s Guidelines for Excellence.

479 individual responses representing 434 schools and organizations from every county in Maine were used to generate a baseline report to be updated regularly for the field to measure environmental education growth over time. You can download a PDF of the Census report and the case studies here.

This exciting, first-of-its-kind report documents the creative and innovative programming occurring across Maine, both in-school and out-of-school, to connect youth to their environment and communities. The Census report also sheds light on how programming can be supported and sustained across the State of Maine, providing a pathway for advancement for the whole field. Full of stellar examples and stories -- including a middle-school study of invasive green crabs, a school composting program, collaborations with local land trusts, and more -- this report tells the stories of educators designing innovative solutions and overcoming challenges to generate powerful learning experiences for Maine youth. The report contains data-driven recommendations and potential next steps to advance the field as a whole in Maine.

The findings in the report indicate that environmental education linked to the local community is a priority for many school administrators, but devoting time and funding is a challenge to implementing programs. Transportation is also identified as a barrier, particularly in communities where access to natural areas requires more distant travel. However, there are many creative partnerships between schools and local organizations that are supporting environmental education.

Other points captured by the report include:

  • Environmental education projects in Maine often connect students to local natural resource-based economies, culture, or environmental assets in their communities.
  • While field trips and short-term partnerships are an important part of the experience, the greatest impacts for young people come from more extended and in-depth programming.
  • Teachers’ most requested professional development need was instruction on climate change, energy, and sustainability issues.

Next Steps
To act immediately on the results of the Census we (Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, Maine Environmental Education Association, and Maine Nature-Based Education Consortium) have received funding support from the Pisces Foundation and from the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation for 2020 to host a series of listening sessions across Maine to share the findings of this report, receive feedback from communities about what these findings mean to them, and to continue to connect people with each other--building our broader environmental education network.  We will also be generating solutions for policy initiatives that will advance the field as well as identifying leverage points for the funding community that will most effectively and equitably advance EE across the state. In addition, we will be convening a professional development advisory team to build professional development that will address the highest needs for both teachers and school administrators. Finally, we will be convening a research symposium and evaluation collaborative to advance collective evaluation and increase evaluation knowledge and skills across the sector.  We are excited to implement these follow up projects through collaboration and partnership with a variety of schools and organizations throughout Maine to begin addressing many of the recommendations outlined in the Census.

Thank you to the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation for funding the Census and to the Pisces Foundation and the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation for funding our 2020 implementation work based upon Census findings.  The Pisces Foundation is a national foundation that believes if we act now and boldly, we can quickly accelerate to a world where people and nature thrive together. 

For more information about this Census project please contact Olivia Griset, Executive Director of the Maine Environmental Education Association or MMSA Research Associate Alex Brasili,  We are so excited and very willing to share our process and learning about this project with other NAAEE Affiliates!