Bring Outdoor School to Every Child in Oregon

How does a state become a national leader in conservation? By giving youth a foundation in environmental education.

Oregon has offered Outdoor School, a program that has inspired youth to love and protect nature, since 1957. The goal of Outdoor School was to ensure that every 5th or 6th grader in Oregon had the opportunity to spend a full school week in the woods learning about nature.  Unfortunately, today, less than half of all students in the state are given the chance to participate and the majority of programs that do exist have been reduced to only a few days. That’s a significant drop from the 1980s when upwards of 90 percent of students took part in the program. With benefits like improved learning, critical thinking, leadership skills, and social skills, as well as a hands-on look at the natural sciences, Outdoor School should be a part of every child’s education. And now, we have the chance to make it happen.

Bringing Outdoor School to Every Child in Oregon

In the spring of 2015, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 439, providing nearly unanimous support for Outdoor School programs. However, the bill does not provide funding, leaving it up to advocates to secure the financial support. With the goal of making Outdoor School a reality for all children, Audubon Society of Portland has joined the Outdoor School for All Coalition to gather the necessary funding through a statewide ballot initiative to be voted on this November.

The ballot measure will provide up to $22 million annually from Oregon Lottery proceeds, while protecting current lottery allocations for conservation and education. If the ballot measure passes, it will provide funding for every 5th or 6th grader in the state of Oregon (including students in public, private, charter, and homes schools) to attend a full week of Outdoor School. That’s more than a half-million students over the next decade, an effort that would help to build a sustainable future for the state and all its inhabitants.

Fortunately, polling on the measure looks positive, but it will require help from the public to fund the initiative, collect over 100,000 signatures to get it on the ballot, and to educate residents that they need to vote “yes!” for “Outdoor School for All” in November.

At Portland Audubon, our mission is to inspire all people to love and to protect Nature. One of our greatest opportunities to inspire all Oregonians — from all walks of life, all regions, and all economic backgrounds — is to provide dedicated and full funding for Outdoor School. Every child needs to experience the beauty and magic of the wild outdoors, and to become an advocate for its protection.

Sign the Petition

The campaign to ensure all students in Oregon are able to attend a full week of outdoor school is off and running, collecting signatures throughout the state. If you haven’t had an opportunity to sign the petition at one of our events, we will be collecting signatures seven days a week in our Nature Store at our sanctuary in Portland.

You can also download and sign the petition
Download and print as many single signer petition sheets as you need here. Follow the instructions on the sheet. It’s easy!

Mail the completed sheets to our campaign at:

Audubon Society of Portland
Attn: Micah Meskel
5151 NW Cornell Road
Portland OR, 97209

Get Involved:

For more information on the initiative: www.outdoorschoolforall.org
To sign up to assist Portland Audubon with signature gathering email mmeskel@audubonportland.org
For our Executive Director’s column on the importance of Outdoor School, click here.

To discuss Audubon’s Outdoor School or any of Portland Audubon’s other conservation priorities, contact: bsallinger@audubonportland.org 

Donate Here:

One of our greatest opportunities to inspire all Oregonians – from all walks of life, all regions and all economic backgrounds – to love and protect nature is by advocating for complete and sustained funding of Outdoor School. Your gift will support our efforts to make Outdoor School a reality for every child in Oregon.