OSU Outdoor School provides funding to implement outdoor school within requirements of the law (ORS 327.390). OSU can only award grants to public School Districts, Education Service Districts (ESD) (“district”), or to the four state-sponsored charter schools. Individual schools and local charter schools need to coordinate activities with their district or ESD. Outdoor School definition and requirements can be found within ORS 327.390.
The process includes an annual application and report. Find details on each of the processes below. If you are ready to apply or report, use the Outdoor School Application and Reporting System.
The OSU Extension Service manages the distribution of public funding to Oregon’s public school districts for outdoor school (per ORS 327.390).
The Extension Service was also tasked with reporting that publicly-funded outdoor schools in Oregon are a success.
To do this, the Extension Service created and staffed the Outdoor School program office.
The Outdoor School program also supports the efforts of public school districts and outdoor school providers to improve outdoor school for all students.
We do this by:
Outdoor school is a week of effective, inquiry-based science education in the field.
Launched in 1957, outdoor school is an innovative field science program started in Southern Oregon. Within a few short years, pilot programs in other regions of Oregon took hold. In 1965, federal grants aided this process, leading to regional outdoor school programs. Communities across Oregon embraced this chance for students to move from classrooms to the outdoors to learn. By the 1970s, Outdoor school was being offered to students in school districts from the coast to the central high desert.
Over the decades, these outdoor schools have been places for students to learn about the natural world. Topics of study have included soil, water, plants, animals, habitats, and natural cycles. Also highlighted have been natural sciences specific to the local community and economy. In the early years, outdoor school focused on conservation education and natural resources. Over time, the focus grew to include environmental education and science inquiry. All along, outdoor school has provided an interactive and engaging experience to students.
For many children, outdoor school is their first experience hiking in a forest. It could also be their first time exploring a sandy beach, or singing songs around the campfire. For others, outdoor school deepens their understanding about the natural world. Outdoor school can create lifelong memories and relationships. It also provides an energizing, inclusive, and often emotional experience in the outdoors. Students report feeling connected to nature and making friends. Some students say they develop a passion for being outside, feel their life is changed, or even “find their calling”.
Whether organized by a school district, an Educational Services District (ESD), a non-profit organization, or a partnership with natural resource professionals, outdoor school is an important common thread for Oregon students. As outdoor school grows in participation, programs aim to develop culturally responsive and inclusive curriculum.
Outdoor school providers statewide lean into questions such as:
And most importantly, outdoor schools must continue to ask:
Together, we strive to fulfill the promise of “Outdoor School for All”!
In July 2014, a passionate and committed group of community leaders, deeply concerned about the legacy of Oregon’s investment in outdoor education and stewardship of our natural resources, joined together to found the Oregon Outdoor Education Coalition (OOEC). Core support came from former Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder, the Gray Family Foundation, Friends of Outdoor School, the Metropolitan Group, and Multnomah Education Service District Outdoor School, among many other partners. From there, the Oregon Outdoor Education Coalition expanded into a bipartisan statewide movement led by educators, businesspeople, and tribal and community leaders with Friends of Outdoor School, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, acting as their fiscal sponsor.
The OOEC successfully championed the passage of the historic Outdoor School bill (SB 439) in the 2015 legislative session. The bill created the structure, framework, and a management system for the first-ever statewide Outdoor School grant and assistance program.
The next phase was a campaign to secure the necessary public funding for outdoor school programs via a November 2016 ballot initiative known as Measure 99. This effort was led by the Outdoor School for All campaign and supported by the OOEC.
As a result of the passage of Oregon Senate Bill 439 in 2015, and the passage of Measure 99, SB 439 was codified into law as ORS 327.390. With ORS 327.390 in place, the Governor and Legislature worked to dedicate lottery dollars in their biennial budget, establishing a permanent, stable source of funding for outdoor school
In 2017, Oregon State University Extension Service (OSU Extension) was given responsibility for distributing funds to school districts and education service districts (ESDs) to establish and operate outdoor school programs. Thus providing every Oregon public school student the opportunity to benefit from a hands-on week of science-based outdoor education in fifth or sixth grade.