• Marcetta Linton

Being Schooled in Nature

How does going to school in the great outdoors sound? Nature can teach us a world of things, and that is what the Ecology school is doing. Nestled on a sweet farm in Maine is a place where nature and education meet. However, COVID- 19 changed a lot of things and the way we lived. Ecology school was no exception, with some of their programs being restructured or even canceled. When asked if people were more aware of nature, they said I love this quote from our CEO that relates to how we are all shifting our physical and mental routines to live in the pandemic. l" The ability to understand and make connections is the ability that we'll all need to make it through the 21st century," he says. While people are certainly spending more time outside, an "awareness" of nature is different. We see our programs to teach people of all ages that using character is not the same as coexisting with it in harmony. Many of our actions are very destructive to nature when we're outside. It's essential to know how everything connects so we can understand the impact of our efforts. The shift to outdoor classrooms in many schools is an opportunity to teach the next generation how we can be outside to be respectful to ourselves and nature.

Be curious. There's a tremendous pressure to "go green" and transform our lifestyles to create impact. If this is something you can do, do it! But for most of us it's a few small steps that lead to more significant actions. At The Ecology School, we encourage connection to the natural world through curiosity, fun, and whimsy. (During quarantine we created short videos for schools, parents, guardians, and teachers to use. They are called Nature Nuggets. If you can start asking questions about how things connect--How did this piece of corn get onto my plate? Why are the trees in my backyard wet in the morning? If I step off the trail in the middle of a hike do I make an impact? If 100,000 people step off the trail, is that more of an impact?--you'll begin to "go green" just by exploring how everything in our world is interwoven.

An exciting piece of the River Bend Farm project is that we are the first in the world to demonstrate Living Community Challenge Vision and Master Plan Compliance, a hard-earned step in the process of becoming a Living Community, a program of the International Living Future Institute. Currently, due to COVID-19, all of our programmings has slowed down dramatically. With school Residential and Outreach Programs, but are now beginning to see momentum in the support we can offer to school communities. We are experts in the field of outdoor learning and integrating the required curriculum into outdoor education. It's what we've done for 20 years! T to 2021 when, hopefully, it is safe to have people running around and learning at River Bend Farm.

People can donate in two ways1.) We are in the last leg of a $14 million Capital Campaign to build the most sustainable environmental learning center in the United States in our new home, River Bend Farm. This means any amount of a donation from a like-minded reader is incredibly valuable! The move will propel our educational initiatives by increasing program capacity and providing "live what you learn" opportunities for participants through hands-on exploration of Maine's ecosystems, sustainable living practices, direct connection to food systems and farming along with modeling conservation-in-action. Our working farm, dormitory, kitchen, and dining commons will exceed every official "green" standard (we are building to the Living Building Challenge), modeling regenerative and self-sufficient ways to grow and prepare food, power our buildings, and utilize technology to minimize harmful human impact on the ecosystems we inhabit. River Bend Farm opens our eyes to what's possible, reimagining the future, now. 2.) Keep an eye on our future programs. We are expanding our experiential reach through summer camps, agricultural workshops, corporate retreats, professional development for educators, and more. Our summer camp offers will be primarily for children, but we will also have a family and adult-focused campus where participants explore Maine's food economy through farm-to-table experiences and discover all of the natural wonders our state has to offer

Check out more programs and information on The Ecology School at https://theecologyschool.org.



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