Portlanders for Outdoor School
Outdoor School is a venerated 50-year Oregon tradition when all sixth graders spend one week in a residential outdoor camp for hands-on science education. For the past 15 years, funding for this tradition has been at risk. In 2002 Co-Director Jeanne Roy organized a coalition of interested citizens and former camp councilors to raise $420,000 in two months to save Outdoor School from closure for Portland Public Schools. Once a program year was missed, the tradition would likely be abandoned forever. The money was raised and the tradition continued for ten years.
In 2012 Outdoor School was again cut from Portland Public School’s budget. Jeanne immediately recruited colleagues, including Celeste Lewis, a longtime Center leader in our Portland Eco-School Network, to form Portlanders for Outdoor School. The team organized a campaign to find financial support to save the program for that school year but for only a three-night program instead of five nights. The team sprang into action again and was able to secure funds from the soil and water conservation districts, parent donations, and grants to complement traditional sources. In 2015-16 Outdoor School finally returned to a full week.
To enable all 6th grade students in Oregon to benefit from outdoor education, a statewide group, Outdoor School for All, formed under the leadership of colleague Rex Burkholder. We helped collect signatures for a ballot measure to provide state funding, and in November 2016, it passed! Even so, the Legislature has the power to reduce or eliminate the funding requested by the voters.
Outdoor School remains a very high priority for the Center. If the statewide funding is at risk, the Center will once again get involved.