Frequently Asked Questions:
Oregon Outdoor School

On November 8, 2016, Oregon voters passed Ballot Measure 99, authorizing funds from the state lottery
to provide all fifth- or sixth-grade students in Oregon access to a week of Outdoor School. 

To contact OSU Extension with questions or comments about the Outdoor School funding program, submit here.


Your Top 5 Questions Answered:

1. What does Measure 99 do?
It provides the funding for a currently existing law, Senate Bill 439 (ORS 327.390), which gives each child in the state, regardless of background, ability or ZIP code, the opportunity to attend a fully funded Outdoor School program for up to a full week. (See Question 5)

2. When will the money be available?
Award notifications for the 2017-2018 school year have been dispersed to school districts statewide. Funds were requested/awarded to support approximately 75% of Oregon fifth- or sixth-students to attend ODS this school year.  Applications for funding for the 2018-2019 school year will be available Spring 2018.

3. Are my taxes going to be raised now that Measure 99 has passed?
No. (See Question 15)

4. Will Outdoor School be mandatory? Will we have to change our existing program?
No. All school districts and education service districts (ESDs) will have the opportunity to access the funds, but participation is voluntary. Current programs will likely remain the same. (See Question 33)

5. I’ve heard there are stringent requirements that Outdoor School programs must meet to receive funding. Is this true?
Reasonable standards for Outdoor School programs, outlined in the law funded by Measure 99, are intended to ensure that all children can access a quality outdoor educational experience , within a safe, supportive environment. (See Question 9). The goal of Measure 99 and the Outdoor School law is to provide access to all children in the state, not just some. (See Question 7)

Full List of Frequently Asked Questions

Outdoor School

1. What is Outdoor School?
Outdoor School is a field science program. These programs typically take students in fifth or sixth grade from their school classrooms to the outdoors to learn. While learning about natural science and conservation, they apply acquired knowledge and skills in mathematics, social studies, language, health, art, and music. They use these skills to investigate, measure and report their discoveries in the natural sciences.

2. Where and how did Outdoor School begin?
The first Outdoor School in Oregon was held near Medford in the spring of 1957. Its success led to a pilot program that was promoted across the state. In the spring of 1958, a class from Crooked River Elementary School in Prineville became the first group of students to participate in the new program. They spent five days at Camp Tamarack, a private camp located in the Oregon Cascades. Learn more 

3. How many students currently go to Outdoor School? How many are expected to go once the funding is available?
Currently, approximately 27,500 students attend Outdoor School, or a similar program, annually. The funding is designed to cover all 55,000 Oregon students in fifth or sixth grade to attend up to a week of Outdoor School.

4. How much does it cost to send one student to a full week of Outdoor School?
Regional costs vary, but on average it costs approximately $400 to send one student to a fully funded, five-night, six-day program with professional staff. This includes tuition, teacher stipends and transportation expenses.

The Outdoor School Law

5. What is Senate Bill 439? What does it do?
The Oregon Outdoor Education Coalition (OOEC),  an alliance of nonprofit organizations, businesses and individuals that formed in 2014 to promote outdoor education throughout the state, introduced and championed SB 439. The bill was passed in 2015 by the Oregon Legislature and codified into law as ORS 327.390. Although the Legislature passed the measure without the requested funding, the bill succeeded in creating the structure, framework and management system for the first-ever statewide Outdoor School funding and assistance program. In November 2016, voters passed Measure 99, which provided the funding mechanism to implement the law.

The Outdoor School law (SB 439) assigns to Oregon State University Extension Service the responsibility to:

  • Assist school districts and education service districts (ESDs) in providing Outdoor School programs
  • Create model Outdoor School curriculum consistent with statewide education requirements (including the current Oregon Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards)
  • Administer a grant program
  • Provide grant program maintenance and leadership
  • Award grants to qualifying Outdoor School programs

6. When will this funding program take effect?
Per the initiative, the state made funding available to OSU Extension Service in July 2017.

7. Now that Measure 99 has passed, who will be able to attend Outdoor School?

Every Oregon public school student in fifth OR sixth grade, including home schooled and charter school students, has the opportunity to attend up to a week of Outdoor School, or an equivalent outdoor education experience that reflects local community needs, provided their school district or education service district (ESD) applies to receive funding for an eligible program. ORS 327.390 limits eligibility for Outdoor School Program grants to school districts and education service districts and as such private schools are currently not eligible for state funding.

8. Why fifth OR sixth grade?
Different regions and schools have different age preferences for Outdoor School, and this language was designed to empower schools to make this decision.

9. How does the Outdoor School law define an "eligible Outdoor School program"?
The law provides guidelines for eligible Outdoor School programs, so that each student has the opportunity to attend a quality educational program within a safe, healthy environment. These guidelines recommend, but do not mandate, that programs:

A. Provide a six-day, residential, hands-on educational experience, or an equivalent outdoor educational experience that reflects local community needs and contexts, featuring field study opportunities for students learning about:
     a.     Soil, water, plants and animals;
     b.     The role of timber, agriculture and other natural resources in the economy of this state;
     c.     The interrelationship of nature, natural resources, economic development and career opportunities in this state; and
     d.     The importance of this state’s environment and natural resources.
B.     Are integrated with local school curricula in a manner that assists students in meeting state standards related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and international standards related to science.
C.     Provide students with opportunities to develop leadership, critical thinking and decision-making skills.
D.    Address the inequity of outdoor educational opportunities for underserved children in this state.
E.     Provide students with opportunities to learn about the interdependence of urban and rural areas.

10. How will OSU Extension Service select funding recipients?
The goal of the funding program is to provide all Oregon school districts and ESDs straightforward access to funds and expertise that will enable them to provide students with a quality outdoor educational experience, tailored to local wants and needs, within a safe, supportive environment.

OSU Extension Service is the lead agency for administering this program and, in accordance with the law, is working with the  Advisory Committee and Resource Groups (required by SB 439) to develop the funding program framework, including curriculum, professional development and program development recommendations; support camp facilities; create evaluation and assessment processes; and build innovative partnerships and opportunities for Outdoor School. These groups reflect geographic and demographic diversity and include representatives from the environmental community, the natural resources community and fifth- or sixth-grade educators, among others.

OSU has resources and expertise in all aspects of administering camp programs, curriculum design and development, staff training, etc., as well as expertise in building partnerships and collaboration through community engagement. OSU Extension’s resources and knowledge will provide an opportunity to work collaboratively with partners to provide high quality and equitable Outdoor School experiences for every student. The program will continue to be improved and refined each school year.

11. Who are the members of the Advisory Committee?
The members of the Advisory Committee and Resource Groups are listed here under "Advisory Committee and Resource Group information."

 12. How may I share my thoughts about how Outdoor School programming can meet our local needs and wants?
The OSU Extension Service has a long and distinguished history of engaging constituents, stakeholders, and communities in conversations, strategies, and decision-making. You can submit your questions and comments to the Outdoor School grant program contact form.

13. Will all Outdoor School programs now be provided through OSU Extension? Will we lose control of our local program?
All Outdoor School programs may continue to be run by their current providers. Participation in the funding program and/or assistance from OSU Extension is completely voluntary. In areas with no current Outdoor School program providers, it is expected that OSU Extension will be able to lend its expertise and provide resources to assist schools, ESDs and camps. OSU has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion.

14. Are there enough camps right now for all students to attend?
Capacity is being assessed across the state, but a 2016 survey of all known camps in Oregon, conducted by the Oregon Outdoor Education Coalition, showed that there is high interest in hosting the program, and suggested sufficient capacity for all of Oregon’s students. A “ramp-up” period is expected as current camp facilities become Outdoor School hosts, new facilities are built or improved, and Outdoor School programs are created or expanded

15. Where does the funding money come from? Are we going to raise or create taxes to pay for Outdoor School?
No taxes will be created or raised. The funds will be financed by a small percentage of unallocated Oregon State Lottery money slated for economic development that is normally distributed every two years by the Oregon State Legislature.

16. Will this program take lottery money from funds already dedicated to education or parks?
No. The Outdoor School Education Fund will not use any Oregon State Lottery proceeds dedicated under the Oregon Constitution to education, parks, beaches, watersheds, fish, or wildlife.

17. Why is the funding coming out of lottery money?
Lottery revenue is intended to be used for projects and programs that benefit all of Oregon. And over the years, Oregonians have placed additional priority on education and our environment. Outdoor School sits at the intersection of both these issues.

18. How much money does Measure 99 provide?
The fund will provide a maximum of $22 million annually, adjusted annually pursuant to the Consumer Price Index, as defined by ORS 327.006.

19. How is the lottery money spent now?
The Oregon Lottery generates almost $10 billion in revenue every year, the vast majority of which goes to prize winners and lottery game retailers. From that $10 billion, $500 million is available each year to help support various statewide projects and programs. Currently 57% goes to education, 27% for economic development, 7.5% for parks, 7.5% for watersheds, and 1% for gambling addiction.

20. How much of the unallocated economic development money (27% of lottery money) will be left behind once the $22 million is taken out?
The measure states that 4% of economic development monies be dedicated to Outdoor School, up to $22 million per year. This leaves 23% for other economic development projects.

21. What won’t be funded, since Measure 99 has passed?
This is the decision of the Legislature and the Governor, as they are in control of the state’s budget. The state has the ability to direct general fund revenue to the programs of its choice. On August 11, 2016, Gov. Kate Brown stated her support for Measure 99, saying, “There’s no better way to develop a bond with our natural environment than spending time outdoors. That connection is an important part of growing up in Oregon and is fundamental to instilling the values of conservation in our children... While I support the measure, I will preserve funding for important economic development programs currently funded by the lottery.”

22. Why was economic development money chosen to fund this effort?
Supporters of Outdoor School for All believe that the Outdoor School law is a solid investment in Oregon’s economic future. It is estimated that the new law will generate $27 million in economic development for the $22 million invested—supporting 600 FTE jobs around the state, mostly in rural communities. The Legislature and the Governor can direct additional revenues to economic development from the general fund, if they wish.

23. How long will this funding program be available?
The program is permanent, provided that the Oregon Lottery Fund continues to exist, the Legislature does not alter the law, and that no future law is passed to defund the program.

24. Will there be standards in place for inclusiveness and supporting students with additional needs?
It is a core value of Outdoor School to provide services to ALL students. Although school districts are ultimately responsible for accommodating the needs of their students, Outdoor School programs work closely with school district personnel to ensure that each and every student is able to access this transformational experience alongside their classmates. Parents, teachers, and Outdoor School programs, led by school district personnel, work together to meet students' needs.

25. Will the funds cover the extra costs associated with schools going to Outdoor School, such as interpreters for the deaf/hard of hearing, paraprofessionals/classroom
aides who work with students in special education classrooms, equipment and transportation for disabled students, etc.?

These extra funds will be provided by the school district or ESD. Although school districts are responsible for providing these services, many Outdoor School programs recruit experienced community volunteers to provide one-on-one accommodations for students. Outdoor School works with the school districts to provide the most inclusive service possible to every student.

Applying for Funds/Eligibility

26. How do I apply?
Please visit the Outdoor School website on OSU extension's website for information.

To receive updates on the Outdoor School Funding Program, join OSU Extension’s email list by sending an email to To receive updates and other information about Outdoor School, join Friends of Outdoor School’s mailing list.

27. How do I find out if my program is eligible?
The Outdoor School law outlines overarching eligibility requirements (see question 9 above). OSU Extension, with recommendations from the Advisory Committee and Resource Groups, will determine specific eligibility requirements or special circumstances. The goal is for every student in Oregon to have access to the program.

In addition to administering the funding program, OSU Extension will assist Outdoor School programs with eligibility by creating model Outdoor School curriculum consistent with statewide education requirements, developing best practices for providing Outdoor School programs, and providing staff training related to Outdoor School programs.

28. Is there enough money provided so that all schools districts or education service districts (ESDs) can receive funding?
The $22 million was calculated to include funding for all students. Due to the state budget shortfall of $1.6 billion, nearly all state programs received reduced funding for the 2017-2019 budget cycle. The ODS funding program received $24 million, slightly more than half the expected amount. Friends of Outdoor School, the Gray Family Foundation, and other supporters are working diligently to ensure full funding is received for the next budget cycle.

29. What specifically does the funding pay for?
The funding was calculated to cover student tuition, teacher stipends, transportation to/from camps, and funding program management.

30. Is the money a reimbursement or a grant? Would school districts or education service districts (ESDs) receive the money in a lump sum?

For the 2018-2019 school year, funds will be approved through the funding application process in late spring 2018. Funds will not be distributed until the conclusion of a school’s outdoor school program and final report is submitted by the sponsoring district.

 31. I’m a program provider. Am I eligible to apply for funding?
The Outdoor School law states that funding shall be awarded to school districts or education service districts (ESDs) with qualifying Outdoor School programs. Program providers interested in offering Outdoor School programs are encouraged to form relationships with school districts and ESDs, who will choose service providers.

32. Must programs be residential (i.e. overnight) and last for a week?
The Outdoor School law, as passed, specifies the provision of “a six-day, residential, hands-on educational experience, or an equivalent outdoor educational experience, that reflects local community needs and contexts.”

33. We already have an Outdoor School program in place. Will OSU Extension make us change our curriculum?
School district and ESD participation in the funding program is completely voluntary. If they choose to participate, the program must meet minimum standards. As set by the law, there will not be a “prescribed” curriculum, but, rather, a framework of minimum standards that allows flexibility for Outdoor School programs to determine focus areas and place-based features. We expect assistance will be available to those wanting to develop or revise their Outdoor School curriculum, as well as access to model Outdoor School curricula.

34. Do I need to reapply for funds each school year, or will it be renewed?
The funding process is conducted annually.

35. What will the reporting requirements be for the providers/schools? Who will be responsible for reporting? How often?
Reporting requirements for the 2017-2018 school year can be found here or by visiting the OSU Extension Outdoor School website.

36. How can we engage the existing funders of our current program, while we take the advantage of these public funds?
Now is the time to begin engagement with your existing donors. You can invite current supporters to either fund your other programs or your current Outdoor School costs that might not be covered by the public funding. In addition, you can educate donors about other local opportunities to support outdoor education.