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Current Research Projects

Beyond the Wood Cookie: High School Leaders Deep Engagement in Outdoor School in Oregon

Purpose of the Study:

There is little research that explores how Outdoor School providers recruit and train high school students, the varied roles they are responsible for, and how this experience impacts a high school student's career or major choice as they look beyond high school. We saw a need for a large-scale, statewide evaluation of outdoor school programs that utilize high school leaders as volunteer staff, and how high school staff impact outdoor school programs. Throughout Oregon’s outdoor schools, high school students often serve as cabin leaders and assistant field instructors. While engaged in outdoor leadership at outdoor school, High School Leaders also serve as a vital component to the 5th and 6th grade students’ outdoor school programs. There are multiple avenues for high school involvement in outdoor schools across Oregon. Outdoor schools are place-based and rooted in their respective communities. Therefore, Oregon outdoor school programs have the agency to recruit, train, and involve high school leaders in whatever ways work for their programs. For many programs, using high school student leaders to help deliver outdoor school to 5th and 6th grade students is critical to the delivery of the program. This research explores high school students deep engagement with 5th and 6th grade outdoor school programs in Oregon.


Phase 1: Student/Teacher/Provider Survey distribution, participant observation of highlighted regional program high school leader training, high school student and staff interviews Spring 2019

Phase 2: Begin Data Analysis (Fall 2019-Spring 2020)

Phase 3: Oral history data collections (Spring 2020-put on hold due to COVID-19)

Preliminary Findings released Summer 2020

White Paper Published Fall 2020

Research Questions:

How are existing outdoor school programs recruiting, training, and supporting  high school leaders in outdoor school?

What can we learn from outdoor schools that have explicitly developed curriculum (in the form of training) to prepare high school students to be personally and socially aware, skilled, and responsible?

How can social emotional learning strategies be employed at outdoor school be focused to meet the needs of high school students from diverse socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic schooling contexts?


Critical Orientations: Indigenous Studies and Outdoor Education

Purpose of the Study:

There is a need for further research to explore how outdoor educators, both formal and non-formal, see themselves and their teaching in relation to Indigenous students and issues. This study addresses this gap by providing formal and non-formal educators with a day-long workshop which will introduce a “Critical Orientations to Outdoor Education” curriculum rubric and case studies that specifically document Indigenous issues in outdoor education. The purpose is to examine how the use of the “Critical Orientations” rubric and the case studies deepen outdoor educators’ knowledge of Indigenous issues in outdoor education and support formal and non-formal educators in viewing their teaching in relation to these issues. The findings from this study will contribute to the field of outdoor and environmental education research that aims to prepare formal and non-formal educators to effectively support Indigenous students in their classrooms and schools, both indoor and outdoor, and address Indigenous issues in educational practice and curriculum.

Research Questions:

How does engagement with Indigenous studies concepts complicate and enrich outdoor educators’ curriculum and pedagogy?

What are outdoor educators’ responses to the Indigenous-themed case studies?

How do Indigenous-themed case studies challenge outdoor educators’ existing beliefs about Indigenous issues in education?


Workshops: In-Person March, May, August, and September 2019

Online Workshop and Collaborative Learning Community: In Development. Launching Fall 2020

Data evaluation: Spring/Summer 2020

Report in progress


Please don't hesitate to contact us at or 541-737-4391 if you have any questions about the Outdoor School Program!