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Lawmakers approve $2 million in funding to expand climate education in Maine schools

The State House is seen Thursday, May 17, 2012, in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
The State House is seen Thursday, May 17, 2012, in Augusta, Maine.

Lawmakers have approved more than $2 million dollars in funding to support climate education in Maine's public schools. The Climate Education Bill will establish a three-year pilot program to provide professional development funding for teachers to study climate education and bring it back to their classrooms. Kosis Ifeji of the Nature Based Education Consortium said the bill will prioritize funding for schools that lack climate science education.

"It's important that all students have access to climate education, but specifically for people in low income communities," Ifeji said. "We have to make sure it's equitable for them and that they're not left behind."

Ifeji, a Bangor High School senior, said she did not have climate education and has spoken with students across the state who want to learn climate science at their schools. The Nature Based Education Consortium is a network of organizations focused on building access to outdoor learning opportunities for all Maine youth.

Melissa Luetje, a science teacher at Kennebunk High School, said inspiring students to address climate change can start in school.

"What can we do collectively and individually to move the needle a little bit?" Luetje said. "A good climate education program across the entire state — that's going to be huge. It starts there."

Students and educators from the Nature Based Education Consortium crafted the bill. The Climate Education Bill will also create a position at the Maine Department of Education to help districts apply for and implement climate education professional development. Nearly 100 students, teachers, and organizations testified in support of the bill.