Oregon considers outdoor school for all
- Oregon voters will decide in the November election whether a portion of the state lottery funds should cover the cost of outdoor school for kids in every town, giving them environmental education that could shape their lives.
- The Hechinger Report writes the ballot initiative would allow schools to apply for funding to send fifth or sixth grade students to week-long, overnight outdoor schools, a concept supported across party lines in the state.
- A series of well-established outdoor programs across the state have given a million middle-schoolers a chance to live and learn outside since 1957, and researchers have found students have higher attendance rates following the programs.
Outdoor programs give students a chance to delve into project-based lessons. They can study wildlife habitats and learn about the physical limitations of structure design while setting up their own outdoor shelters. They can learn survival skills and benefit from taking greater responsibility in the woods. For kids who grow up in urban areas, school-sponsored outdoor education may be the only camping experiences of their childhoods. It is a way to learn about the diverse terrain of a sprawling country.
But funding is a perennial issue for such programs nationwide. The lottery money could provide a consistent funding source for schools in Oregon, but elsewhere, schools that struggle to offer all the traditional curricular elements have to fight to set aside funds for a program that is often seen as an extra. Some turn to outdoor programs, like Outward Bound, as summer learning opportunities, limiting their impact — especially among traditionally underserved groups.
- The Hechinger Report What if every kid got to go to summer camp … during the school year?
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