Advocating for the Oregon Outdoor School Program (by Guest Writer Karla Henson)

Introduction and Question:

KARLAThis term I (Karla Henson) had the opportunity to step outside of my normal daily activities and be involved in my surrounding community. Through this work I was introduced to great programs offered in Oregon which educate and connect our children to our great outdoors. Unfortunately, these kinds of programs are being majorly reduced or all together cut from school curriculum. I was prompted to write on this topic because without these programs, how will our kids- the future – experience, connect, and take personal ownership of the environment, leaving a greater legacy for the next generations?

Research Collection

Note: The Research Collection is a collection of sources designed to shed light on or answer the research question.

Source #1:

Profita, Cassandra. “Meet The Creator Of Outdoor School.” » News » OPB. Oregon Public Broadcasting, 16 May 2012. Web. 29 May 2013.  This article shares the story of the creator of the Oregon Outdoor School, his vision for the school, journey, and importance of the program. I will be using this to back-up the importance of program such as these available to our public schools.

Source #2:

What Has NCLB Done to Environmental Education? . No Child Left Inside. Retrieved July 20, 2011, from  This is an article with about the No Child Left Behind Act and it’s effects on school programs, like Outdoor School- showing the value of not only educating about the environment but how the experiences lead to positive results such as aiding in childhood depression and obesity.

Source #3

(2011, July 14). Reed & Kirk Introduce Bipartisan “No Child Left Inside Act”. Jack Reed: US Senator for Rhode Island. Retrieved July 27, 2011, from gresham/index.ssf/2011/05/budget_woes_forc.  This is of a quote from a Senator about the importance and positive results of environmental education.

 The Public Writing 

Dear Oregon Legislator:

I have recently learned about the Oregon Outdoor School and the recent budget cuts that affect such programs in our public schools. I am writing to you because I believe programs such as this- teaching our children not only about the environment but also instilling a sense of ownership- are a vital key to changing our environmental legacy from one of destruction and chaos to one of nurture and good stewardship of the world each generation leaves for the next.

Over the past several months I have been enjoying the opportunity to participate in community service programs. I worked with two organizations- SOLVE and Leach Botanical Gardens. SOLVE is an Oregon non-profit organization with a simple mission: to “(b)ring Oregonians together to improve our environment and build a legacy of stewardship.” ( Through a SOLVE hosted event, the Alberta Street Clean-Up, I participated in giving back to my home community. I worked beside fellow community members of all ages, picking up litter from the streets, cleaning staples and old flyers off telephone poles, and scrubbing graffiti from building walls. Although this cleanup was on a small scale I was able to view the impact our work had in improving our immediate surroundings, and found myself interested in expanding this sort of work to affect the same kind of change on a larger level.

Next, I worked with my friends at Leach Botanical Gardens. The garden is located in South East Portland and has been a part of the city’s history for some time. Its original owners, John and Lilla Leach, left the garden as a gift to the City of Portland upon their passing, in the hopes that the grounds would become a space for environmental education, a model of environmental sustainability, and an overall place of beauty and respite. My volunteer work at Leach Botanical Gardens was at their annual Children’s Nature Fair. The generosity of volunteer time and the efforts of local community members has kept the fair going for years. It is a free family event, open to the public with hours of fun activities, ranging from wood-cookie making, slug races, flower planting demonstrations, volcano making, and much more.

During my time spent at the Nature Fair I watched as families piled out of their cars, children beaming with the excitement of the great outdoors and eager to play in its backyard. I was reminded of the important role the outdoors played in my young life, and I realized this may not be the case for upcoming generations. The fast-paced, media-driven lifestyle we have all come to know so well often gets in the way of the simple pleasures in life. Without events like the Children’s Nature Fair children miss the opportunity to slow down and appreciate what nature has to offer.

Programs like those offered by the Leach Botanical Gardens, and others such as the Oregon Outdoor School, offer children something they would not otherwise be exposed to- the much needed opportunity to create a bond and foster a relationship with nature. Without these programs children may not develop an understanding of the importance of preserving and sustaining our natural resources. Yet programs like these have lately fallen victim to budget cuts.

The Oregon Outdoor School has been a part of the sixth-grade curriculum for the past forty years. It offers children the opportunity to engage nature, seeing and touching an aspect of the outdoors they would otherwise only read about in text books. But through a series of cutbacks fewer children are able to participate in this program, denying many others this vital opportunity.

This cannot be allowed to happen. Children are our future and nature is the environment they will inhabit. Without programs like the Oregon Outdoor School, we risk not instilling in our children an understanding of the value of the environment in their future. As legislators you have the power to ensure environmental education programs receive the funding they deserve. We cannot afford to gamble the advances toward sustainability we have made as a society. It is our job to teach better behaviors and practices to our kids so they will leave a better legacy for future generations, and environmental education is the key.


Karla Henson


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