Youth need time outdoors to be happy, healthy, connected and curious.

A troubling report in the Portland Press Herald stated, “In Maine and across the country, the number of adolescents who attempt suicide has risen dramatically.”

We have an immediate opportunity to care for ourselves and our youth with more exposure to the natural world. Nature is an ally in our healing, and it is accessible in many forms.

Here in Maine we are lucky to often be proximate to nature, but that does not mean it’s accessible. We need programs, training and even requirements to keep us from backsliding inside.

Outside Magazine reports that many schools are making pandemic-initiated outdoor classrooms permanent, finding that outdoor learning helps students stress less and focus more, and improves equitable access to nature.

Teach ME Outside helps all Maine youth to have access to hands-on environmental learning opportunities. And Teens to Trails’ partnership with the Maine Department of Education is paying schools to start outdoor clubs. We are offering an Outdoor Leadership day Sept. 24, open to any school staff interested in offering social and emotional support in an outdoor setting.

Let’s elevate outdoor time at school and ensure that co-curricular activities are given the same priority as competitive sports. If sports are in session, field trips should be, too.

We can help our youth heal and thrive with time together, outdoors.

Alicia Heyburn, Brunswick, Teens to Trails executive director

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