A long standing program of outdoor education for all students is being reviewed as Oregon weighs whether all kids should get outdoor education guaranteed through use of lottery funds.
Over 50 years ago, the Outdoor School program started and encouraged Oregon students to visit campsites from the coasts to the forests to the desert. At one point, 90 percent of sixth graders spent a week studying fungi and topsoil, and testing water samples. Today, only half of Oregon’s students participate, through grants, fundraising, charitable donations, and parent fees. Some school districts have discarded the program or limited it to a few days.
A new statewide ballot measure proposes using some of the state lottery proceeds to guarantee a one week session of Outdoor School for all students. If passed, Oregon would become the only state with dedicated funding for outdoor education. This would also include charter, private, and home schools.
Opponents are concerned that passage would result in deep cuts to the state agency that receives lottery funding for continuing economic development. They warn that the measure would impose urban values on children in rural areas, where outdoor experiences are a way of life, at a cost to the economic development of those rural areas.