Improving Education at Our NW Portland Wildlife Sanctuary

Help us rebuild the Wildlife Care Center and renew our campus and educational spaces – visit ForPortlandAudubon.org to learn more and donate to support our capital campaign.

 

by Emily Pinkowitz, Director of Education

A new Wildlife Care Center and updated campus facilities will help Portland Audubon engage and educate the public on today’s most pressing wildlife issues and how each of us can be stewards of our shared environment.

Portland Audubon offers a welcoming and inclusive place to connect with the natural world and each other. Our environmental education programs create tomorrow’s healthy and engaged changemakers by inspiring people of all ages to explore and connect with the natural world, helping to build a sustainable future for all life. Our vast array of hands-on programming sets the stage for people to learn, play, explore, and develop a personal relationship with nature. In a typical year, over 3,000 schoolchildren, 1,000 campers, and thousands of adults and families visit our campus to learn about nature and wildlife and the role Portland Audubon plays in preserving species and habitat.

Youth campers exploring a rocky stream at the Sanctuary

These visits come to life with experiences at our Interpretive Center and in our Sanctuary, with our Animal Ambassadors and in our Wildlife Care Center. However, our educational programs, day camps, lectures, interpretation, advocacy, rehabilitation, and administration are all taking place in buildings designed decades ago for a smaller organization. With your help, Portland Audubon’s buildings will be renewed and revitalized to help us better serve our members, volunteers, youth, and the general public.

Seeing Animal Care Firsthand

The Wildlife Care Center is an integral part of education at Portland Audubon. Educators stop outside the WCC to teach children about the primary causes for animals entering the facility. We then use this as a tangible bridge to discuss the roles each of us can play in protecting wildlife.

Programs are paired with a trip to our Animal Ambassadors: five birds and one turtle. Our expert educators use these visits to call attention to animal adaptations and behaviors and to discuss how these animals wound up in our care. A modern Wildlife Care Center is vital to the Animal Ambassadors’ health and safety, and your support of this capital campaign ensures we can continue to give them high-quality care and the best life possible.

Ruby, photo by Kiana Rose

In years past, this learning was augmented with observations of Care Center staff in action through viewing windows. However, as the WCC has grown beyond its original footprint, the viewing areas have disappeared. The new building will reestablish these areas for children and the general public that better respect the patients’ need for privacy while in treatment. In addition, it will enable 60 children in our popular Junior Wildlife Vet camp to once again visit the Care Center and see firsthand the facilities and equipment we use to treat our patients. The building will include new informational graphics at key points throughout the public-facing parts of the WCC, enabling us to enhance this learning even more.

Connecting with Nature

At the core of this capital campaign is the need to protect and restore our most important teaching tool: the Wildlife Sanctuary. Just as a museum uses art or artifacts to teach, our “collection” is made up of the trees, plants, and animals of our 172-acre wildscape. In this outdoor natural history museum, visitors are able to see elements together at play in robust ecosystems, including a creek, a pond/wetland, and an old-growth forest. Through observation and study of these ecosystems, complex science concepts literally come to life. Participants of all ages learn powerful lessons about the importance of habitat preservation, the interconnectedness of urban greenways, and the role each of us can play in protecting wildlife.

Natural history—a domain of inquiry involving animals, fungi, and plants in their natural environment—thrives on observation. To appreciate the true value of Oregon’s natural resources, young people need to spend time in natural settings and understand the relationships between humans, plants, animals, water, land, and air. Our educational program helps foster a lifelong appreciation for Oregon’s unique natural resources and teaches youth about the role and responsibility of every Oregonian to be a steward.

When young people are engaged with peers in outdoor experiential learning, they feel, see, and smell their lessons—some of which they’ll remember forever. We have seen students who struggle in the classroom decide on their life’s direction as biologists, science teachers, or wildlife specialists while spending their days with Portland Audubon, exploring and learning.

The Portland Audubon Sanctuary provides a unique landscape for this contemplation, learning, and play, whether in our programs or during an informal weekend walk. By improving the conditions on our trails and reimagining our interpretive signage, we will strengthen visitors’ confidence to explore nature together. The new signage and displays will improve wayfinding, foster learning and exchange, and bring science and research to the fore, increasing access to the outdoors and deepening visitors’ understanding and stewardship of our community’s natural environment.

Campus-wide Education

    • New interpretive signage along our trails and in our Care Center will serve school groups, campers, and the general public for years to come, teaching them about both nature and conservation.
    • Informative and accessible displays in the Interpretive Center will provide engaging learning experiences for 40,000 annual visitors.
    • Expansion of our beloved Animal Ambassador program will provide more accessible public facilities for our resident birds, including new enclosures. (Completed 2020)
    • Increased opportunities for youth education through programs like Junior Wildlife Vet and school visits.

Portland Audubon classes, trips, and camps spark curiosity, foster a deeper understanding of the natural world, and inspire people to protect native wildlife and their habitat. Our education program reaches over 10,000 children and adults each year, and has connected with hundreds of thousands of people throughout our history. We believe that time outdoors generates a spirit of exploration that is a powerful catalyst for personal growth, connecting with others, and taking action for our community. With improved educational facilities, we’re resolved to engage and empower the public as never before, creating a new wave of participatory stewardship in this region and throughout Oregon.

If you’d like to help us rebuild the Wildlife Care Center, renew our campus and educational spaces, visit ForPortlandAudubon.org to learn more and donate to support the capital campaign.