Outdoor Schools
Mapping Our Future: Outdoor Schools WA
Gov. Inslee Signs Bill to Make Outdoor Ed a Reality for All Students
Shelley Barker
Director, School Engagement, Outdoor Schools WA
Evaluation Criteria: Improving Instruction, Engaging Families & Communities, Closing the Gap Section: Staff Articles
An exciting outcome of this year’s legislative session was the passage of HB 2078, Outdoor School for All. With outstanding bipartisan support, the bill was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, making outdoor education a reality for ALL kids in Washington! We were fully prepared to see this bill go the way of so many great ideas that come before lawmakers, so imagine our surprise when this important piece of legislation, sponsored by Rep. Alicia Rule (D-Blaine), made its way through committees and landed on the governor’s desk! And what an inspiration to see the governor bring his dad’s ice ax and hiking boots to the signing table, signifying the importance of outdoor experiences in his own childhood! To those of us at Outdoor Schools WA, this is a significant moment: the start of something amazing and impactful! Yes, we’ve always had outdoor schools in Washington. In fact, the first outdoor school on record in the nation was right here in our great state (Taneum Canyon near Ellensburg, 1939). However, spending time learning in nature has always been considered an “extra” meaning schools and families had to fundraise or write checks to send kids to outdoor school. With the passage of HB 2078, we are moving to a system based on equity, which makes outdoor school experiences available to everyone, not just kids from schools and families with disposable income.
Teachers report that after outdoor school, students are more connected to each other, more willing to participate in class, and engage in the work.
Plenty of research shows how important time in nature is to human well-being. In fact, some mental health practitioners are prescribing time outside to combat anxiety and depression. Teachers report that after outdoor school, students are more connected to each other, more willing to participate in class, and engage in the work. Teachers also report fewer incidents of behaviors that require an intervention and an improved classroom culture. The benefits are very real and now all kids in Washington will have the opportunity to spend a week in nature, not just those whose families and schools can afford it. With the passage of HB 2078 comes funding. While not enough to fully fund outdoor school yet, we see this as a place to begin. Our goal is to fund as many students attending outdoor school as possible (as well as supporting schools and sites in their program development) with the $10 million dollars allotted by the state budget for the coming year. HB 2078 assigned OSPI as the agency to coordinate the function of outdoor schools. We are awaiting details that will let us know our part in this amazing new facet of our state’s education culture! While we love dreaming about the future, here in the present we still have money available to fund outdoor school experiences for this spring and possibly next fall! We can reimburse schools up to $75 per student per day for outdoor school program/lodging/food fees and $50 pers student for transportation. Once you’ve chosen an outdoor school site that works for you (we can help you with that process!), go to our website and make your reimbursement reservation. If your chosen outdoor school site requires a deposit, we can help with that too. Once outdoor school is done, head back to the website and fill out paperwork for your reimbursement. It is that simple! It is not too early to make plans for fall! Many outdoor school sites fill quickly, so get your reservations in now! Please let us know how we can assist you. We wish you a glorious spring! If your students are heading to outdoor school in the coming weeks, we hope they have the best time immersed in nature-based learning and making memories that will last a lifetime. If we can help you in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out (support@outdoorschoolswa.org).
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Association of Washington School Principals
Washington Principal | Volume 3 – 2021-22