E.L.L.M.S. Project

Environmental Living & Learning for Maine Students logoIn January of 2010, UMaine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond, UMaine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Tanglewood, Chewonki Outdoor Classroom for Schools, and Ferry Beach Ecology School began work to create Environmental Living and Learning for Maine Students: the ELLMS Project. With their belief in the critical importance of experiential, holistic environmental education and recognizing the economic challenges currently facing public schools, these four Maine educational nonprofit organizations have formed a partnership to help provide residential environmental education programs to Maine public school students.

The long-term goal of ELLMS is to make residential environmental education accessible to students from all socioeconomic backgrounds in Maine by establishing a financial aid fund for public upper-elementary and middle schools to attend programs at one of the four ELLMS partner sites. Through the ELLMS financial aid fund, these schools will be able to apply for grants to help send their students to any of our four organizations.

The mission of the ELLMS Project is to encourage students to develop a lifelong commitment to environmental sustainability and stewardship, outdoor exercise and recreation, good nutrition, community-building, and civic engagement through positive, nature-based activities, lessons, and challenges. Living outdoors bridges gaps between students, enlivens learning, fosters a sense of group unity, and creates an atmosphere in which trust and exploration can flourish. ELLMS participants will gain a deeper understanding of the natural world and their place within it; higher self-esteem; greater enthusiasm for learning; and an understanding of the “green economy.”

Governor LePage, DEP Commissioner Aho honor the ELLMS Project for environmental excellence

The four-way collaborative receives a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence alongside other 2012 recipients including IDEXX, CLYNK, George R. Roberts Co., Maine Energy Systems and the Washington County Council of Government.

GORHAM – The Environmental Living & Learning for Maine Students Project, known as “The ELLMS Project,” has been recognized as part of the first state-sponsored environmental achievement awards handed out in Maine since 2005.

The collaborative was honored as one of six stewards of sustainability presented with the 2012 Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence by Governor Paul LePage and Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia Aho in a ceremony Thursday at Jøtul North America’s headquarters in Gorham.

The awards, administered by the Maine DEP and scheduled in conjunction with Earth Day (April 22), recognize entities voluntarily going beyond regulatory requirements to creatively and collaboratively initiate innovation that is both environmentally and economically sustainable.

The ELLMS Project, a partnership between the Chewonki Outdoor Classroom for Schools, Ferry Beach Ecology School and the UMaine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond and at Tanglewood (in Lincolnville), won in the “Nonprofit” category.

Formally launched just last year ago, the unprecedented collaborative creates a financial aid fund that has already subsidized residential environmental education for nearly 2,000 Maine students from 33 schools. Through the fund, schools are able to apply for grants to send their upper-elementary and middle school students to any of the four partnering organizations for hands-on environmental learning programs that last between three and five days, with aid scaled from 25 to 95 percent based on the number of students eligible for the National School Lunch Program in the applicant school.

“All of us who are a part of The ELLMS Project collaborative are honored to have been selected for the 2012 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence. The ELLMS Project is working on ways to assure that all Maine students, regardless of family income, have access to residential environmental education. The ELLMS Project will allow our organizations to share best practices and work together to teach a rising generation how to be responsible stewards of their environment, their own health, their communities and their state,” said Ferry Beach Ecology School Executive DirectorDrew Dumsch.

Other winners included IDEXX, of Westbrook; CLYNK, of South Portland; George R. Roberts, Co., of Alfred; Maine Energy Systems, of Bethel; and the Washington County Council of Governments.

“For many Maine employers, Earth Day isn’t just one day a year, but a constant commitment to stewarding our natural resources and ensuring a sustainable economy. These Governor’s Award winners illustrate the interdependence of Maine’s economy and the environment, and why the choice between the two should never be ‘either or’ because it must always be ‘both,’” said Governor LePage.

Commissioner Aho said it was important for the state to start acknowledging Maine’s many environmental leaders who are modeling her department’s vision of a mutually healthy environment and economy.

“Maine has long been a national leader when it comes to environmental excellence and our 2012 Governor’s Awards recipients are carrying on that legacy,” Aho said. “As Maine’s foremost environmental organization, it has great meaning when we respect and recognize these leaders and that the innovation improving our environment and our economy comes directly from Maine employers and people. I want to thank all of the nominees for their commitment of creativity, time and resources toward our shared vision of making Maine a better place to live, work and play for ours and future generations.”

Aho added the awards program is one of the many activities the DEP has advanced under the LePage administration that further the agency’s culture of cooperation with the regulated community. Others include expanded technical assistance, permitting process improvements and pragmatic regulatory reform.

Based on the success of this year’s awards, Maine DEP intends to continue the annual recognition program with nominations for the 2013 Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence opening in late 2012. More information can be found at www.maine.gov/dep or by contacting Samantha DePoy-Warren at 207-287-5842 or samantha.depoy-warren@maine.gov.

Governor Paul LaPage presents the ELLMS Project Governors Award