This summer, Children’s Forest partners had the opportunity to connect with hundreds of students through district-sponsored summer schools. After a school year when most field trips were on hold, and partners led “outdoor” field trips virtually, partners were thrilled to connect face to face with students. A team of nine educators from six different organizations came together to reach 697 elementary and middle school students in Bend, La Pine, and Redmond, plus the Migrant Education Program through the High Desert ESD. For the most part, activities occurred in the schoolyard, but some students were able to go on walking field trips to the Dry Canyon. With programs primarily occurring in August, there were a handful of days when students could not go outside due to unhealthy air quality and excessive heat.
Outdoor learning has been proven to have many positive impacts, including enhancing academic achievement, improving focus, appealing to different learning styles, and even improving behavior. Working with the students this summer, it was easy to see how beneficial even a couple of hours of outdoor learning can be, especially after this challenging year. Students were definitely adjusting to being back in a school setting and benefitted from some fresh air, active games, and connection to nature.
The partners involved in the program included Trout Unlimited, Discover Your Forest, Bend Forest School, High Desert Museum, and Upper Deschutes Watershed Council. These partners collectively brought an amazing diversity of activities and lessons for the students. Students engaged in everything from a schoolyard BioBlitz to building stream models in stream tables to birding to nature art. One of the benefits of the Children’s Forest network, is being able to bring all these partners together to achieve a larger goal. None of these partners would have been able to reach this number of students alone, and the Children’s Forest was able to provide coordination between partners and the school district.
These programs were made possible with a K-12 Summer Learning grant through the Oregon Community Foundation. We greatly appreciate their support!