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PPS Honored for Environmental Learning

The Portland Public Schools recently was recognized with the School of the Year Award from the Maine Environmental Education Association (MEEA). The district was among the honorees at the MEEA Annual Awards Ceremony on May 10 that were selected for representing "the many diverse ways educators, students, school staff, organizations, and businesses contribute to Maine’s thriving environmental education ecosystem."

Congratulations to Katie West, the district’s experiential learning and environmental literacy coordinator, and all the PPS educators whose environmental education work led to this honor for PPS. Because the work is district-wide, the MEEA decided to give the award this year to the entire district instead of to just one school.

In a media release, the the MEAA describes PPS as an urban, multilingual, diverse, school district with 18 schools and approximately 6,600 students. "It is a district whose commitment to outdoor learning began in the pandemic but has since grown to deepening our shared value of experiential learning in the natural world to increase environmental literacy for ALL PPS learners and the future they will face together,” the MEEA said. “Through an integrated Wabanaki Studies/Life Science and Experiential Learning curriculum for all 3,200 K-5 students at 10 schools, equitable district-wide integrated elementary fieldwork with Wabanaki content advisors and community partnership support, the support of Environmental Literacy Teachers at each school, all PPS students and teachers are increasing their connection to the living schoolyard around them through relationship, reciprocity, respect, and responsibility.”

The complete list of awards at the May 10 ceremony is as follows:

1. Student of the Year Award: Yujin Harada, Thornton Academy

2. Student of the Year Award: Leah Burgess, Spruce Mountain High School

3. Eberhard Thiele Environmental Educator Award: Lorna Fake, Brightfield School

4. Environmental Partner of the Year Award: Dennis Brackett, Katahdin Schools

5. Excellence in Environmental Education Program: Veazie Pre-K Nature Based Education Program

6. School of the Year Award: Portland Public Schools

7. Lifetime Achievement Award: Patti Bailie, University of Maine at Farmington

PHOTO: East End Community School students joyfully engage in outdoor learning earlier during the 2023-2024 school year.

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