During a given week of outdoor school, 5th graders from a small school are immersing themselves in the high desert at the same time as 6th graders from a larger school explore tide pools on the coast. Because of the rich diversity of outdoor school programs, there is no single curriculum that can meet the needs of every program and every community in every location. The Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service Outdoor School program does not provide or mandate a standard curriculum for school districts and outdoor school providers. Rather, we provide support for programs to develop curriculum that centers equity, meets the requirements of Senate Bill 439, and supports students' academic and social-emotional growth.
Instructional Resource Self-Evaluation Tool
Our Instructional Resource Self-Evaluation Tool (IRSET) supports the review of instructional resources (such as lesson plans, songs, and field studies) that make up an outdoor school curriculum. The IRSET outlines characteristics of high quality instruction within three areas: 1) Context and Settings for Learning, 2) Content and Integration, and 3) Instruction and Pedagogy. The IRSET can be used as a tool in developing, reviewing, and/or updating curriculum.
During the 2015 legislative session, the Oregon Senate passed Bill 439 (SB 439), which was codified into law as ORS 327.390. This statute created the structure and framework for the statewide Outdoor School grant and assistance program. The bill also outlines expectations for outdoor school curriculum. The bill includes expectations about program content (for example, that students will learn about soil, water, plants, and animals). It also includes skills that students should develop during outdoor school, such as communication skills and an increased ability to think creatively.
Oregon Environmental Literacy Plan (OELP)
The Oregon Environmental Literacy Plan (OELP) is a roadmap for K-12 environmental literacy education. The plan is built around five strands: 1) systems thinking, 2) physical, living, and human systems, 3) interconnectedness of people and the environment, 4) personal and civic responsibility, and 5) investigating, planning, and creating a sustainable future. The plan breaks each of the five strands into smaller ideas that could be addressed in a lesson, unit, or course of study.