Deal to bring more educational opportunities to area

By Katy Nesbitt, The Observer April 04, 2014 10:48 am

Cottonwood Crossing State Park on the John Day River will provide natural resource learning opportunities after representatives of Eastern Oregon University signed an agreement Wednesday with the state parks department.
Cottonwood Crossing State Park on the John Day River will provide natural resource learning opportunities after representatives of Eastern Oregon University signed an agreement Wednesday with the state parks department.
 

EOU enters agreement with state parks

Eastern Oregon University and Oregon State Parks and Recreation are bringing kids and nature together for a unique learning experience. 

Representatives from the university and parks signed an agreement Wednesday to provide natural resource learning opportunities for Oregon high school students. The Cottonwood Crossing Summer Institute will pair students and high school teachers, serving as advisers, with college students and faculty for an experience to not only bring kids to the park, but to introduce them to college-style learning, said Eastern senior Michelle Mudder.

By 2015, Mudder said, the university intends to have a pilot program in place. 

“It’s a great opportunity for high school students who aren’t geared toward college,” she said. “It will be a classroom without walls.”

University faculty will be on hand at the institute along with college interns to help teach in the field, Mudder said.

Cottonwood Crossing is the second largest state park and the newest, opening last September. It is a former ranch located on the John Day River among wheat fields between Condon and John Day, said Chris Havel of the communications and research division of state parks.

Randy Jones of the Eastern Oregon Regional Solutions Center said the agreement strengthens relationships between higher education and a state agency. 

“One of the things the center does is get agencies to collaborate. The public expects agencies to talk to each other. This memorandum of understanding opens those gates,” he said.

Through natural resources and education, Jones said the agencies can find common ground. 

“It leads to appreciation, better management and stewardship of the land,” Jones said.

Jones said the Regional Solutions Centers around the state are strategically placed on college campuses to encourage economic decisions that can be supported by the state.

“The MOU makes the relationship systemic and long lasting and assures the organizations are committed to a worthwhile project,” outgoing EOU President Bob Davies said.

Engaging high school students about the possibilities of a college degree is another goal of the agreement, Davies said, which can help with the college’s recruitment.

John Hoffnagle of the Oregon Parks Foundation was a signer of the MOU along with Havel and Davies. The Foundation is a fundraising arm for the state parks system. To get to where the university wants to go with the institute, money raised will go to building and funding an Experience Center where students and instructors will live in the summer. The facility will also serve as a visitors and education center and grange hall for the community of Condon.

Hoffnagle said the idea is to get the programs and possibilities out in front of the public first. 

“We want to have the congregation before the church,” he said.


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