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Launching, Managing and Sustaining an Outdoor School Program
The Oregon Community Foundation
The Plan’s five “Environmental
Literacy Strands” articulate a com-
prehensive learning framework for
K-12 students.
Upon graduation, environmentally
literate students will demonstrate
the following proficiencies:
Understanding our interdepen-
dency with the physical and bio-
logical world.
Understanding and applying sys-
tems thinking and related con-
cepts and tools.
Understanding the individual’s
interdependency with local,
regional, national and global
Planning and creating a sustain-
able future.
Achieving personal and civic
The Plan also positions Oregon
to receive federal funds through
NOCLI legislation, which is included
in the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act. With the Oregon En-
vironmental Literacy Plan in place,
the state will be eligible under this
federal initiative for $1 million to $2
million in new annual funding to
support plan implementation.
To learn more about the Oregon
Environmental Literacy Plan, go to
The Beginning of
Outdoor School
Programs in Oregon
Oregon’s outdoor school programs
have a rich history dating to the
late 1950s. The beginnings of some
programs are documented in books
and reports; others have been passed
down to us through the oral tradition.
(Note: The
section in-
cludes histories, mission statements
and program details for a cross
section of Oregon’s outdoor school
Outdoor school in Oregon started
in the spring of 1957. Under the
direction of Dr. Irene Hollenbeck of
Southern Oregon College of Edu-
cation, fifth- and sixth-graders and
teachers from the Westside El-
ementary School of Medford spent
a week at Dead Indian Soda Springs
Camp, located east of Eagle Point
on Little Butte Creek.
Recognizing the need to intro-
duce this program to administrators,
teachers, parents and the general
public, Margaret Milliken (Oregon
State University), Bob Brown (Soil
Conservation Service) and Austin
Hamer (Oregon State Game Com-
mission) promoted pilot projects in
school districts throughout the state.
These pioneer educators decided
that Oregon’s program should take
an “ecological plot study” approach
that focused on the interrelationship
of natural resources. They developed
the guidelines that many Oregon
school districts used to implement
their outdoor school programs.
In the spring of 1958, the pi-
lot project launched in the Crook
County School District. Ellen Mc-
Cormack and 32 sixth-grade pupils
from Crooked River Elementary
School in Prineville became the first
group to participate. They spent five
days at Camp Tamarack, a private
camp located near Suttle Lake in the
Oregon Cascades.
Source: Margaret Milliken, Scott Meier and
Gary Winter,
Outdoor School
. Corvallis, OR:
OSU Book Stores, Inc., 1982.
Four Program
Outdoor school programs usually
follow one of four basic models:
1. ESD-based.
An education
service district (ESD) plans,
funds and operates the pro-
gram. Financing may comprise
school district, state and federal
funds, as well as tuition from
2. School-based.
A specific school
plans, funds and operates the
program. Financing may come
from school funds, tuition, local
donors, in-kind contributions
and other sources.
3. Provider-based.
An organiza-
tion separate from the ESD or
school provides the program.
The provider charges a fee for
the program, which typically in-
cludes curricula the school can
customize to its needs.
4. Partnership-based.
A coali-
tion collaborates to plan, fund
and operate the program, often
working with the school district.
The model you choose will de-
pend on your community’s re-
sources, culture and needs. It may
fall into one of these categories or
share elements of several.
Although programs operating
under a given model may vary, the
following descriptions provide basic
details on budgets, staffing and
other components.
1. ESD-Based
Multnomah ESD
Outdoor School
Outdoor school started in Mult-
nomah County in 1966 as a week-
long residential program designed
to enhance school instruction and
reconnect an increasingly urban-
ized student population with nature.
Today, Multnomah ESD offers
outdoor school to every school
district in Multnomah County and
also contracts with schools outside
the county.