BAKER CITY, RURAL DISTRICTS ENJOY NEW OUTDOOR SCHOOL OPPORTUNITIES
Friends of Outdoor School was created in 2003. Since that time, with your support, it has evolved toward a singular vision: Every Oregon student attends a week of Outdoor School. That’s why, beginning in 2014 with Senate Bill 439 and then in 2016 with Measure 99, Friends of ODS and our passionate advocates vigorously campaigned for establishing the first-ever statewide Outdoor School program funded by lottery dollars. Together, we won!
Now, Oregon educators and students all over the state are experiencing its benefits! One wonderful example is the Outdoor School program in Baker City. Ongoing since 1992, area residents and educators believed so strongly in the advantages of the program that, even when other local Outdoor School programs were shortened or eliminated, they kept theirs going through fundraising and volunteers. For decades, Outdoor School for Baker was a day camp on private land. However, because of the new state funding, this year students got the chance to experience a four-day, three-night program!
Now, for the first time ever, students lived at camp, took part in evening team-building activities and campfires, and learned from six additional lessons. The extra time allowed instructors to focus on a theme: salmon. Students learned the life cycle and path of local fish through the watershed. Proximity to the watershed was a bonus: Meadow Creek flows onsite, subsequently running into the Snake River and the Columbia River before reaching the ocean. A member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla discussed the importance of the fish to the tribe and culture, showing the dried salmon made earlier that week. A Bureau of Land Management (BLM) representative engaged the students in a fish survey.
Due to the needs of the new format, Eastern Oregon University education students, who were preparing for student teaching, were tapped to help instruct and supervise at ODS. In keeping with the tradition of making Outdoor School relevant to each place it is held, Baker County Search and Rescue spoke to the group about wilderness survival skills.
Volunteer Outdoor School coordinator Dorothy Mason, retired wildlife biologist and manager at the Bureau of Land Management, noted, “We really try to incorporate applicable take-home messages into our lessons, so students really see how the information they are learning makes a difference to their lives and their forest.” Dorothy continued, “Measure 99 has opened up opportunities for rural school districts to explore programs they could not have considered before statewide funding was available. Not only has Baker City gone from a day camp to an overnight program, but La Grande has resumed ODS after a hiatus and North Powder has launched their own Outdoor School, a totally new program for them.”