OREGON SETS NATIONAL PRECEDENT FOR OUTDOOR EDUCATION: WILL OTHER STATES FOLLOW?

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OREGON SETS NATIONAL PRECEDENT FOR OUTDOOR EDUCATION: WILL OTHER STATES FOLLOW?

OREGON SETS NATIONAL PRECEDENT FOR OUTDOOR EDUCATION: WILL OTHER STATES FOLLOW?

Among the many threats to our planet, one of the most serious is a declining awareness of the natural world and how it works. 

In the famous words of Baba Dioum, “In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught." How can we expect young people to care about this amazing world without a chance to experience and learn--by getting muddy, by analyzing water quality, by measuring the height and carbon content of trees--about the world they live in?

Our ability to solve present and future environmental crises, such as changing climate, the loss of plant and animal species, food insecurity, water resource depletion and soil degradation, depends upon immersing our children in nature and giving them the tools to understand the forces that govern this planet.

Today, kids spend an average of seven hours-plus daily in front of a screen and less time outside than ever before. That’s a significant problem because kids who grow up without a connection to the natural world are less likely to be passionate about conservation in their own lives, support policies that enhance sustainable communities or vote for pro-environment leaders. We are losing the battles between distraction and engagement, consumerism and stewardship, and cynicism and healthy, scientific skepticism.

Yet hope is not lost. We can inspire and motivate young people and we’ve seen it happen in Oregon. This November, Oregon voters passed a funding measure to provide hands-on, field science for middle-schoolers statewide, make it the first state in the nation to guarantee a full week of Outdoor School. Save Outdoor School for All (Measure 99) is a landmark decision for many reasons, with wide-ranging and precedent-setting implications for environmental and social justice groups throughout the country.

Oregon’s decision recognizes that the future of environmental leadership takes education, coalition-building and inclusiveness. While the next four years may bring epic battles over environmental policy at the national level, we encourage environmental organizations and their members to support local outdoor education efforts. Here are three key takeaways from Oregon’s successful campaign:

  • Building concern and passion for the outdoors means getting kids out of the classroom and into nature. By passing Measure 99, Oregonians recognized that the path to really understanding the environment begins through rigorous science education. Unlike learning inside the classroom or from a textbook, getting kids outside awakens their innate curiosity and love for nature. Much more than a field trip, Outdoor School-type programs provide tools and insights needed to understand critical concepts such as ecosystem interdependencies as well as for understanding complex issues such as climate change. We found that voters understand that this type of education at a young age sets in motion a lifetime of environmental awareness, while also contributing to a healthy, active lifestyle.
  • Outdoor education offers an invaluable opportunity for science learning and intellectual development. Data and teachers both confirm that Outdoor School reaches children at a critical age, expanding not only their intellectual capacity but also their personal growth— teaching collaboration, problem solving and resilience. New economies and job markets value these skills more than ever. If our nation is going to produce future generations of dreamers and doers then we need more programs like Oregon’s Outdoor School.
  • Inclusiveness is essential to the future of environmental progress. Connecting with the natural world bridges ideologies and cultures, and is valued by both rural and urban communities. Natural resource companies, including timber and agriculture, found common ground with outdoor and environmental organizations in endorsing Measure 99. By ensuring Outdoor School is available to all students, Oregon’s program will build a more equitable, diverse and shared connection to nature that will make tomorrow’s conservation movement stronger and far more diverse, responding to America’s changing demographics.

 

While all states are challenged by limited education funding and competing priorities, Oregon’s success in passing funding for Outdoor School ought to inspire the environmental community. Change can happen. It starts first and foremost by awakening the love of nature in the next generation. And what better place to do it than where we find them every day—in school.

 

Signed,

Nick Hardigg, Executive Director, Audubon Society of Portland

Jim Desmond, State Director, The Nature Conservancy, Oregon Chapter

 

 

 

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We are thankful!

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We are thankful!

We love this time of year: It’s an opportunity to reflect and give thanks, and renew our spirit of gratitude and hope.

In challenging times, that’s especially true. Challenges inspire by testing our mettle, bringing us together as a community and reinforcing our collective commitment. 

That’s certainly the case in Oregon. When faced with a landmark decision to support kids, education and Oregon’s natural resources this November, Oregonians pulled together and overwhelmingly said Yes to Measure 99, resulting in a landslide win to Save Outdoor School for All Oregon kids. As such, Oregon is the first state in the nation to offer a full week of outdoor education to all middle schoolers. 

It’s an incredible accomplishment, and thanks goes to the thousands of supporters and partners who worked together to made it happen. The benefits of Outdoor School--from reconnecting kids to nature to improving student performance in school--are coming at a time when our state needs them the most.

However, in celebrating victory, we’re also reminded that the biggest challenges often don’t conclude with an initial win. Given that Oregon lawmakers will face a huge budget gap estimated at least $1.4 billion for the coming year, the competition for funds will be undoubtedly fierce. While voters have clearly spoken, we have much work ahead to protect and secure the funding from Measure 99.  Thankfully, we have a great network of allies across the state, including legislative leaders and Oregonians like you, who when needed, will take action to help Oregon do what is best for our kids and our future. 

In the coming months, our next steps include finalizing the process for how schools will be able to utilize funding for their Outdoor School programs, which will be administered by the OSU Extension Office. For more information, visit here. We’re looking forward to sharing more plans with you, and as more details are solidified we will be sharing that important information with you.

In the meantime, I hope this holiday season fills you with inspiration and excitement for the positive difference we’re making towards the future. As the success of Measure 99 shows, challenges really can lead to solutions when we all work towards a common cause. 

Thank you so much for your ongoing support and dedication, and please don't hesitate to email or call me with any questions.

 

With appreciation, 

Caroline Fitchett

 

Campaign Director
Outdoor School for All
c: (503) 888-1233

 

PS. In our gratitude for the hundreds of organizations and businesses who selflessly stood up in support of Measure 99, we ask that you consider showing your support by doing business with our Yes On Measure 99 endorsers as you plan your holiday season this year.

 

 

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We are the proof that Outdoor School changes lives.

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We are the proof that Outdoor School changes lives.

We are the proof that Outdoor School changes lives.

When it comes to Measure 99 and saving Outdoor School for Oregon kids statewide, most people say that it’s great for learning about science and reconnecting kids with nature, especially in this world of technology we live in.

But speaking on behalf of many students who have been fortunate enough to be able to attend, we know the lessons of Outdoor School go much deeper than that. 

Put yourselves in the shoes of today’s middle-schooler. There are plenty of kids who feel like outsiders. Others find it difficult to make friends, especially with kids who may be different from them. Some simply find it impossible to trust, based on a difficult home life and daily struggles in school. In a typical, highly structured day in the life of a student, it can be extremely hard to break free of that trap. Suddenly, you can find yourself stuck and feeling hopeless, just trying to get by while coping with the sense of isolation, loneliness and low self-confidence.

You might wonder how Outdoor School changes that. What’s so special about being away from home for an entire week? Or being surrounded by kids who are different from you and figuring out how to learn, live and play together? What’s to be discovered out in nature, away from phones and TVs? How could this type of experience help turn a young person’s life around, both at home and at school, for the better?

We are living proof that Outdoor School does change lives. It is the one middle school experience that, for many kids, teaches them to stand on their own and learn what it means to trust–not only in themselves, but in other kids, counselors and mentors. Outdoor School is a chance to discover that when we strip everything else away–the materialism, the social pressures, and all the technology–kids are kids, no matter where they are from, what community they grew up in and what they believe. All of us have concerns and challenges, dreams and hopes. But Outdoor School teaches us that when we work together, form close bonds and let down our guard, a new world of opportunity can open for us. 

Maybe it’s about getting back to nature and learning in new ways, but maybe it’s about something deeper. Outdoor School gives us a chance, often for the first time, to dig deep and discover who we are–together and as one.

Whatever it is, all we know is that Outdoor School is one of the best programs we have for middle-schoolers in Oregon and every kid should be able to experience it. Please vote Yes on Measure 99 this November to help Save Outdoor School for All. 

by Tana Barnett, Age 19
Mt Hood Community College Student & Outdoor School graduate

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The Nature Conservancy launches new ads in support of #YesOn99

The Nature Conservancy launches new ads in support of #YesOn99

The Nature Conservancy launches new ads in support of #YesOn99

Unplugging kids from technology for a week of hands-on, science-based learning in an outdoor environment is what #YesOn99 and the effort to Save Outdoor School is all about.

Four new ads unveiled by The Nature Conservancy highlight these benefits with messages such as “Unlimited Streaming,” showing kids studying aquatic life in Oregon’s waterways, and “No Roaming Limits,” picturing students traipsing through Oregon’s forests. Other campaign ads - “Wireless Networking” and “Shared Data Plan" - highlight the social benefits that spending a full week at Outdoor School offers middle schoolers, lessons they simply can’t get from inside a classroom. 

“With studies indicating that kids now spend an average of seven hours a day in front of screens, we need programs like Outdoor School more than ever. Helping kids better understand, learn to appreciate and discover the joys of Oregon’s outdoor way of life fosters our next generation of stewards and leaders,” said Jim Desmond, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Oregon. “That’s why we support and are encouraging all Oregon voters to vote Yes on 99.”

The ads will be shown statewide via a variety of digital platforms, starting this week through the end of the election cycle. A special thanks to The Nature Conservancy in Oregon and to NORTH, a Portland agency that created all of the ads probono in support of #YesOn99.

Make New Friends But Keep The Old

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Make New Friends But Keep The Old

Make New Friends But Keep The Old

By:Leslie Pugmire Hole.
Published October 19, 2016 in the Wilsonville Spokesman

Full disclosure: This is not a clever observational personal column. And it’s not a stodgy anonymous Editorial Board missive. It’s somewhere in the middle. 

Professionally, politics and ‘causes’ are a part of daily life working for a newspaper. I have to follow them, research them, debate them and write about them. But personally, it takes a lot to get me fired up about politics (maybe because I’ve used up all that energy at work). 

But this election cycle, I actually sat up and took notice of a ballot measure on a personal level for the same reason any of us do: it meant something to me. 

Ballot Measure 99 would restore stable funding for Oregon’s unique environmental education program, Outdoor School. Once an annual rite of passage for all 11-to 12-year-olds in Oregon, the Outdoor School program has fallen victim to different fiscal priorities and become either nonexistent for some school districts, available only to those whose parents could finance it, or watered down to a couple of short days. 

Typical of the Oregon Legislature, in 2015 a bill was passed that directed the Oregon State University Extension Service to assist school districts in providing outdoor school programs — but it declined to provide any money. 

Outdoor School, it seemed, was something everyone agreed we should have but no one wanted to pay for it. 

Measure 99 would use annual Oregon Lottery funds, currently allocated to the Administrative Services Economic Development Fund (and expected to average $5-$22 million per year) for statewide Outdoor School funding. The measure prohibits any allocation to Outdoor School that would reduce lottery monies to education or parks and natural resources. 

Why is Ballot Measure 99 the one to catch my interest and support? I’ve been following the campaign of M99 supporters, listened to passionate pleas for help and even attended a fundraiser for the measure. There I heard my story spoken by others, time and time again: Outdoor School was one of the most impactful experiences I had from grades 1-12. It introduced me to the treasure of natural resources we have in Oregon. It taught me how exciting science can be. Outdoor School is an even-playing field learning environment, where everyone leaves their former classroom baggage behind. Being a counselor at Outdoor School exposed leadership skills I didn’t know I had. 

In a nutshell I heard: Outdoor School helped me see how amazing Oregon really is and how important my role in it can be. 

As an Oregonian, there a few things that make me particularly proud: public beaches, the Bottle Bill, Crater Lake vodka, the St. Johns Bridge and the Oregon Shakespeare Company. And Outdoor School. 

Over my adulthood when living in other parts of the country I have told many people about Outdoor School. When I returned to Oregon after years away I was heartbroken to find that many schools had cut Outdoor School from the curriculum. 

Now we have a chance to bring it back and help restore its role as a transformative educational experience for Oregon students. I for one will be voting yes on Measure 99 and I hope everyone else is considering the same. 

Leslie Pugmire Hole is editor of the Wilsonville Spokesman.

Read article on the Wilsonville Spokesman's site here.

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Portlandia stars Fred & Carrie show their Outdoor School spirit to support #YesOn99

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Portlandia stars Fred & Carrie show their Outdoor School spirit to support #YesOn99

Best known as stars of Portlandia, the wildly-popular TV comedy series, Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen get serious when it comes to the need to Save Outdoor School for All in a just-released video supporting Oregon's Ballot Measure 99. 

As Brownstein states in the video, Outdoor School "helps kids get reconnected with nature and gets them off their phones."

Reconnecting kids with their environment and "taking a break from technology can only be a good thing," Armisen concludes, urging viewers to vote Yes on 99

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