CORVALLIS, Ore. – Eighty-one percent of Oregon’s eligible fifth- and sixth-grade students participated in the statewide Oregon State University Extension Service Outdoor School program in the 2018-19 school year, according to a new Oregon State University Extension Service report.
A total of 37,965 students took part in Outdoor School, spending a total of 148,887 days outside. That’s a 6% increase over the 2017-18 school year.
Kristopher Elliott, an OSU Extension assistant director who leads the program, said those numbers will continue to increase in 2019-20.
“We anticipate 43,362 students will attend Outdoor School this school year, increasing the participation rate to 94%, and the cumulative number of days spent outside to 173,515,” Elliott said.
OSU Extension’s Outdoor School research agenda continues to focus on how to better serve students who historically haven’t had access to the program. This will better inform the program’s outreach campaign targeted to schools with high numbers of students from historically marginalized groups.
According to the OSU Extension Outdoor School 2018-19 year in review report:
- Schools in all 36 Oregon counties participated
- Out of the 504 funded schools, 197 offered the program for the first time – a 140% increase over 2017-18
- Three of the four state-sponsored charter schools in Oregon were funded for Outdoor School
Outdoor School has a long tradition in Oregon, with some programs dating back 60 years. But not everyone has had access to the program.
That changed in November 2016, when Oregon voters passed Measure 99, providing all Oregon fifth- or sixth-grade students the opportunity to attend a week-long outdoor school program or comparable outdoor education program.
Measure 99 created an Outdoor School Education Fund and charged Oregon State University Extension Service with supporting, administering, and funding an outdoor school program as set forth in Senate Bill 439, which approved $24 million for the program’s first two years.
Earlier this year, the Oregon Legislature approved $46 million for the next biennium for Outdoor School.
Measure 99 funds are limited to students who reside in Oregon and are enrolled in a public school or charter school. The Extension Service Outdoor School program, Friends of Outdoor School and the Gray Family Foundation are committed to ensuring an Outdoor School experience for every Oregon fifth- or sixth-grade student.
Many public schools allow temporary enrollment for homeschool and/or private school students in order to access services such as special education, sports programs and foreign language courses. Families of private school or homeschooled students may, at the discretion of the local district, temporarily enroll their students in their local public school for the duration of Outdoor School programming offered by that district.
“This means any student enrolled as a public-school student at the time of Outdoor School would be able to attend the district’s public-school Outdoor School programming through Measure 99 funds,” Elliott said.