Decades ago, when many of us were just kids, making the annual outdoor school trip as a sixth-grader was a rite of passage. In what was often the first time away from home, we cooked hamburgers on homemade Bunsen burners, slept in sleeping bags in old “rustic” cabins, ate meals together, shared chores to keep the camp running smoothly, sang songs and maybe most importantly learned about nature and interacted with each other in new and different ways.
Memories were made and knowledge was gained that has lasted a lifetime.
Unfortunately, today that kind of outdoor school experience simply does not exist in local school districts. Due to budget cuts, most of the traditional school district funded away-from-home outdoor school experiences were removed from the curriculum. However, Camas and Washougal school districts are using the funds they do have available, as well as donations from individuals and organizations that see the value in continuing the education that outdoor school provides, to offer students with equally memorable experiences outside the classroom.
Through the Vic Clausen Youth Education program, for the past seven years sixth-graders in the Washougal School District have had the opportunity for a modified outdoor school experience that this year took them to the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Beacon Rock State Park and Hamilton Mountain. According to an article in today’s Post-Record, the students learn about landscapes, animals, trees and details on how the Columbia River Gorge formed.
Through this program, these students from Canyon Creek and Jemtegaard middle schools get their own unique outdoor school experience, tailored to include locations right in their own backyards. Just as many of us did years ago, they get to experience education outside of the classroom and open their minds to a whole new set of experiences.
In today’s Hometown article, one organizer commented that she truly hoped the Washougal outdoor school program would have a lasting impact on these students. If past experiences are any indication, she can be assured that these are memories they will treasure for a lifetime.