We believe in getting children outside to explore the woods, fields, and mudflats — to see and hear and feel nature for themselves.
Environmental topics are increasingly integral to the curricula in classrooms around Maine. At Maine Audubon, we offer the opportunity for children to experience nature firsthand. Maine Audubon’s natural history programs are based on the philosophy that curiosity and awareness of natural wonders excite an interest in learning, and that the learning process stimulates further awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the environment and a concern for its protection. Our objective is to help develop the next generation of wildlife and environmental stewards.
We know that most people who develop a strong conservation ethic do so because as a child they got outside, enjoyed it, and became aware of the natural world around them. With awareness came awe, appreciation, understanding, and ultimately a commitment to act on behalf of our environment. Today, many children are spending their time inside watching television, playing video games, or surfing the web. Even if some of these virtual experiences have a nature theme or content, it is not the same as being outdoors.
Many of our programs can be modified to reflect topics being discussed in the classroom. With the implementation of the Goals 2000 and Learning Results, Maine’s approach to education is evolving. Maine Audubon’s programs are readily incorporated into the Learning Results initiative. By stressing such concepts as life cycles, systems, relationships, and exploration, all of these programs help students “comprehend the similarities, diversity, and interdependence of living and non-living things in the environment.”
During the COVID 19 pandemic, our educators are creating content every week to keep students, teachers, and parents connected to nature.
Family Fun Connections: Molly Woodring, Early Childhood Education Program Manager, offers a mix of activities and open-ended prompts for outdoor and indoor nature exploration for children ages 2-5 and their families.
Elementary Connections: Catherine Griset, Maine Audubon’s K-2 Youth Programs Manager and K-5 Day Camp Director, shares resources and activities for elementary learners.
In the Middle Connections: David Lamon, Fields Pond Manager, posts engaging activities around environmental science focused for grades 6-8 to add to your science curriculum.
Educator Resource Center
Information about taking advantage of Maine Audubon’s resources for educators — including checking out our taxidermy mounts and kits — is available in this flyer [pdf].
Maine Audubon regularly offers customizable workshops and trainings for educators on conservation and environmental topics.
iNaturalist is a web site and community for reporting observations of plant or animal species around the world. Special projects can be designed for any specific location such as a school or local natural area.
Teacher Resources Related to iNaturalist
- How to Record Your Observation on iNaturalist Using a Remote Device (Word Doc)
- iNaturalist Worksheet 1 (Word Doc) – Created by Maine Audubon. Designed to be used if you do not have access to devices to input data in the field.
- iNaturalist Worksheet 2 (pdf) – Created by King Middle School, designed for a specific project focusing on plants and insects.
Signs of the Seasons
Using their backyards as laboratories, participants in the Signs of the Seasons program help scientists document the local effects of global climate change. You can use an App, Nature’s Notebook, that makes recording data for Signs of the Seasons much easier.
Beginning with Habitat
A very useful tool for educators is a set of habitat maps of your area. Free maps are available as either downloadable digital maps or large format paper maps. Not all Maine towns /regions have been mapped and maps older than two years are out-of-date and unavailable. Check to see if your town is available or to request maps. Available Maps:
- Map 1 – Water Resources & Riparian Habitats
- Map 2 – High Value Plant & Animal Habitats
- Map 3 – Undeveloped Habitat Blocks & Conserved Lands
- Map 7 – Wetlands Characterization
- Map 8 – USFWS Priority Trust Species Habitat
eBird is a real-time, online checklist program for recording birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird is amassing one of the largest and fastest growing biodiversity data resources in existence. Species maps and data can be downloaded and there is an App that makes recording data much easier.
Teacher resouces related to eBird
- eBird Page for Maine
- Bird Sleuth – A resource for using eBird with students
- More Free Bird Sleuth Resources
Yardmap is an interactive citizen science project that allows you to draw maps of yards, parks and community gardens. You share valuable habitat data with Lab of Ornithology scientists, connect with people around the country and learn about your ability to impact birds.
Vital Signs partners Maine students with scientists and citizen scientists to investigate current issues and contribute valuable data to real environmental research.
FIG and forest ecology
Maine Forest Inventory Growth (FIG) is a field based, exploratory program developed by Maine Project Learning Tree that connects students to Maine forests.
FIG plots are areas of forest set up as long term sampling areas by forestry professionals, University of Maine professors and high school science teachers. Year after year the same measurements and observations made at FIG plots. Some teachers and students have been collecting data for over 10 years!
The long-term data sets created by monitoring FIG plots tell us about the health of forests and help researchers determine how forests are changing over time. Foresters have been using these data sets to manage forests for ecological health and economic productivity.
There are many ways to link FIG to your high school or middle school curriculum. Below are some links to resources created by Maine Audubon, as well as other citizen science projects and resources that can help you frame the FIG experience in ways that work for your learners.
Maine Audubon supports Project FIG and other direct means of helping teachers and students utilize hands on citizen science to develop 21st century skills and contribute meaningful data to ongoing ecological field research. Maine Audubon also seeks to engage students and the public in rich opportunities to study and experience the countless benefits of Maine’s forests to both people and wildlife.