Bright Ideas

Maine Early Childhood Educators Meet to Advance Environmental Education

Betty Olivolo

Thanks to leadership from Eric Topper, Director of Education and his staff at Maine Audubon, early childhood educators in Maine gathered to discuss early childhood environmental education opportunities across the state. The meeting was attended by about 20 preschool educators, Head Start professionals, and state environmental education leaders.
We discussed  barriers for the field in Maine, as well as suggested solutions.  For example, one solution was to create a directory of Maine early childhood education professionals—a listing of people available for mentoring and assistance. Olivia Griset, President of the Maine Environmental Education Association, was in attendance and stressed that as federal funds are likely to come down to each state with the new Every Student Succeeds Act, we need to be ready for how we can use it to support early childhood education in Maine.
The meeting concluded with an informative presentation by renowned educator and writer, Angela Hanscom, who founded TimberNook, a nature-based child development program, and is the author of the upcoming book Balanced and Barefoot (due out in April).  She stressed the need for young children to move, spin, and roll, and how nature engages all the senses. She also talked about how nature is therapeutic—it fosters listening, visual skills, and a sense of touch. She argues that children should go barefoot, listen to the birds, and play in dark outdoors. And she suggested how we can enhance children's play experiences: adults should step back, extend the time outside, have fewer rules, have loose parts available, and let children be free to get dirty.