Much has been written about the positive benefits of learning outside the classroom. Research has linked outdoor, experiential learning to children’s physical, emotional and cognitive development. A recent study in Frontiers in Psychology adds to the evidence. The study found that students who participated in an outdoor education program as part of their science curriculum reported significantly more intrinsic motivation to learn, and felt more competent.
Unfortunately for many students, these outdoor experiences aren’t accessible – due simply to the high cost of bus transportation. When budgets get tight in a school district, field trip funding is often the first thing to be cut.
This inability for schools to afford busing is often all that stands in the way of more Oregon students getting outside to experience Oregon’s forests. In response, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) has long been a leader in committing funding to help schools overcome the financial hurdle of offering field trips. In a simple process, teachers apply online through our website for K-12 educators, LearnForests.org, and are approved by email for field trip funding. The district is responsible for billing OFRI after the trip has taken place.
I’m proud to say OFRI’s bus funding program helped make it possible for 25,000 students and their 5,000 teachers and parent chaperones to take part in forestry education programs outside the classroom, in just the past year. Multiply that number by the years OFRI has provided funding, and it’s more than half a million students who have had the opportunity to get outside to learn!
One program that leverages OFRI resources is our partnership with Oregon State Parks’ Ticket2Ride program. When a school requests funding for a trip to a forest in an Oregon state park, the Ticket2Ride program is often available to fund it.
We’re fortunate in Oregon to have many quality outdoor forestry programs, including OFRI’s Oregon Garden Natural Resources Education Program, Forests Today and Forever in Lane County and Port Blakely’s program in Molalla, to name a few. I’m happy OFRI is able to help students participate in these and other programs – they help build a lifelong appreciation for Oregon’s forests and natural resources.
Director of K-12 Education