I support the funding of L.D. 1682: An Act to Create the Maine Experiential Education Program. As a former community partner to Portland Public Schools, I have seen the incredible impacts on students’ learning engagement and retention, and the investment it grows in children and families to care for their local living environment and take pride in their learning.

I have also seen how challenging funding these positions is. It took three years of all 17 schools advocating as the PPS School Garden Network, and COVID funding, to launch an experiential garden and food programs pilot at two schools — a process that, in total, took eight years. All eight land-based elementary schools now have this programming. With precarious budgets, this could not have been accomplished without a boost from outside funding, which is similar to the fund this bill sets up in the state.

A huge benefit of this program is that it takes place where the student will spend a majority of their time year after year, including visits during the summer and weekends for playgrounds, out-of-school programs and sports fields. Growing curiosity, knowledge and investment of experiential education right in a student’s own community is the most impactful way to raise stewards of our community. Please invest in L.D. 1682, to help Maine become a state where all students learn to understand their living environment, food systems and bring education to life, right in their own communities.

Lily Chaleff

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