WEST PARIS — In addition to leading the way in experiential education, Agnes Gray Elementary School is also producing ambassadors who are participating in the legislative process and a proposed bill that guarantees every Maine student the opportunity to attend immersive education experiences.

Last week Agnes Gray sixth-graders Wyatte Damon and Lydia McAlister traveled to the state Capitol in Augusta with the school’s Outdoor Education Coordinator Sarah Timm and Education Director for the Bryant Pond 4-H Camp and Learning Center Beth Clarke. The students participated in a presentation held at the Hall of Flags to engage with lawmakers as they considered a bill titled “An Act to Support Outdoor School for All Maine Students.”

Sixth-graders Wyatte Damon (left) and Lydia McAlister relax in the classroom yurt at Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris after spending the day lobbying for outdoor education and working as pages at the Maine State Legislature. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

The students stood alongside representatives from Maine outdoor education organizations Chewonki Foundation, The Ecology School, Schoodic Institute, and the 4-H Camp and Learning Centers at Bryant Pond and Lincolnville as the Legislature considered the proposed bill.

Sen. Stacy Brenner of state Senate District 30 is the bill’s primary sponsor. The five groups have formed a statewide network, Maine Outdoor School for All, with a shared mission to establish overnight environmental education in Maine for all students, create model community-based education partnerships, and contribute to statewide initiatives to broaden those opportunities.

In addition to learning about the process that goes into creating state laws, Damon and McAlister also spent time last Wednesday morning roaming the floor of the Capitol as pages, interacting with lawmakers and delivering messages.

“It was an amazing experience,” Damon said of the trip to Augusta. “It’s a really cool place to learn. It’s like having history class all day. I would recommend checking it out to anyone.”


“Being there, in general, was really cool,” McAlister added. “It was also nerve-wracking, until we got used to what was going on.”

Clarke, the force who ushered outdoor education into Oxford Hills when she was Agnes Gray’s principal and secured a $250,000 grant for the purpose of getting kids outside to learn, is now working to expose children across the state to experiential education experiences that her former students can now take for granted.

“There is a real need to help kids develop resilience,” Clarke said. “Especially post-COVID when students were disengaged from school and separated from their peers. Every kid should be able to experience the outdoors and learn from it.”

The bill provides $6.2 million dollars so that all students in Maine are provided with equitable education in immersive camping cohorts. It includes professional development funding for educators to obtain training at camp and education centers that they will then bring back to create similar curriculum programs at their respective schools.

Maine Outdoor School for All also focuses its efforts on fundraising to expand outdoor learning. To date it has raised $1.4 million to help more than 10,000 Maine students access outdoor learning.

The sixth-graders from Agnes Gray are passionate about their roles as outdoor education ambassadors.


“Watching YouTube, it’s not going to get you anywhere in life,” McAlister said. “It’s being lazy. You have the chance to get outside and have fun, make friends, and some people just want to stay inside. [They don’t realize] that there are these spaces where they can learn. Sitting with your phone or laptop all day? That’s kind of boring.

“Kids need to learn that nature is really beautiful and powerful. People need to know what to do about the outdoors and climate change.”

Damon transferred to Agnes Gray from Regional School Unit 10 when he was in fourth grade. His previous school had no outdoor education programs and now he cannot imagine not learning outside.

“I would be upset if I had to go back,” he said. “I would really miss being outside. You get more education about outdoor stuff [here].”

When hearings begin about current bills under consideration next month, Timm, Damon and McAlister will return to the Capitol and testify on behalf of the proposed legislation.




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