Katie Boula

About the author

Katie Boula, of La Grande, is an archaeologist and the Heart of the Blues program coordination for the Blue Mountains Conservancy.

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O utdoor education has been a treasured Oregon tradition for more than 50 years, yet today fewer than half of all Oregon students have the opportunity to participate. Unfortunately, many rural districts like ours have had to reduce or cut their programs entirely. Recognizing that funding gap, Blue Mountains Conservancy, a local conservation organization, provided a half day Outdoor School program for La Grande Middle School sixth graders last May.

The Oregon Legislature recently passed SB439, which authorized a statewide weeklong Outdoor School program but did not identify a funding mechanism. Ballot Measure 99 proposes to fund the program through Oregon Lottery funds, making Outdoor School possible statewide.

Why should we support Measure 99?

Outdoor School reinforces areas in study critical to future success in the 21st century job market — particularly in science, technology, engineering and math. Outdoor School provides kids with hands-on, experiential learning. This is a great way for all kids to learn. For kids who struggle with science in a classroom setting, the engaging environment of Outdoor School can send them back to class with more confidence in their academic abilities.

Outdoor School is a smart investment. Measure 99 requires no new taxes. It proposes setting aside 4 percent of discretionary Lottery funds to fund a full week of natural science field study for all Oregon fifth or sixth graders.

Up to 50,000 students will have the opportunity to participate in outdoor science education over 10 years.

Outdoor School supports local economies. Outdoor School expenditures go directly into the local economy, paying for things like camp upkeep, transportation to and from camps, teachers, staff and supplies.

Outdoor School is important to our children’s understanding of natural systems and the importance of good stewardship of our natural resources. Natural resources are critical to Oregon’s economy and quality of life, but many of our kids know very little about Oregon’s forests, farms, wetlands and grasslands.

Outdoor School fosters a sense of community. Educators, teachers, university students, agency scientists, civic organizations and community volunteers can all contribute to a common goal of academic achievement and engaged citizenship through Outdoor School programs.

Outdoor School has been shown to help kids learn better, develop critical thinking and social skills, and to appreciate the role of nature in their everyday lives. All this and s’mores — what more could a sixth grader ask for?

Please support Measure 99.