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Association of Washington School Principals
Washington Principal | Volume 2– 2021-22
Outdoor Schools
School leaders gathered for Outdoor School WA's first multi-day training at Lazy F Camp on Nov. 7-10.
Outdoor Schools Washington: Year One Review
New partnerships, pro dev training and more students connecting with nature statewide
Shelley Barker
Director, School Engagement, Outdoor Schools WA
Evaluation Criteria: Improving Instruction, Engaging Families & Communities, Closing the Gap Section: Staff Articles
Happy anniversary to us!
Outdoor Schools WA has been in existence for just over a year. While in our day-to-day work to make outdoor school part of our state’s education culture, we tend to get tied up in the details, not always taking time to stop and look at the big picture. That’s why we decided to compile a list of our 2021-2022 school year accomplishments. So, here it is, a year in review! In our first year:
  • We helped send over 25,000 5th and 6th graders to outdoor school at sites all over our state.
  • Those 25,000 students came from 244 schools in 90 school districts.
  • We allotted $4.2 million to reimburse schools/districts for outdoor school fees. Those fees covered program costs, equipment costs, room/board, and transportation fees.
  • We allotted $1 million to outdoor school sites to assist with reopening and COVID-related issues.
  • We formed an advisory council, made up of the BEST people out there, representing all facets of outdoor education.
  • With help from supportive state lawmakers, legislation was passed that makes outdoor school a part of every public school student’s education experience (HB 2078).
  • With new funding for the 2022-2023 school year, we allocated $5.9 million to reimburse schools/districts for outdoor school experiences.
  • These funds were, as directed by legislation, to serve schools with higher needs (e.g., students receiving free/reduced lunch, student populations that have been historically underserved, schools working within the school improvement framework programs).
  • Outdoor Schools WA planned and carried out our first professional development training for public school teachers and outdoor school site staff, where they learned about outdoor school curriculum, how to incorporate JEDI practices into outdoor learning, and the support resources available throughout our state.
  • We’ve formed solid working partnerships with Pacific Education Institute, OSPI, the Environmental and Sustainability Literacy folks, Elementary and Secondary Science staff at the state level, Washington Outdoor Schools Consortium, the Recreation and Conservation Office, Washington State Parks, and of course, AWSP/AWSL.
  • We attended the AWSP/WASA Summer Conference for superintendents and building administrators in Spokane. We held a session (standing room only!) on outdoor school possibilities and sponsored two early mornings of “A Walk with Outdoor Schools” through the beautiful park adjacent to the conference center.
So, there is our first year in review, which logically leads to the question, “What’s next year going to look like?”
If you’ve been considering outdoor school for your students, feel free to contact us at support@outdoorschollswa.org. We are happy to answer questions, share resources, and help create life-changing experiences for the kids and staff at your school!
Our 2022-2023 plans include:
  • Planning our second training for public school teachers/staff and site staff for the first full week of November. See our website (www.outdoorschoolswa.org) for more information.
  • Creating a certification program for outdoor school sites to make sure our children are getting the best possible outdoor learning opportunities.
  • Developing a statewide program for high school students who are interested in being outdoor school counselors in their sophomore, junior, and senior year.
  • Collaborating with PEI and OSPI to create a high school pathway to graduation for outdoor education. We envision students, graduating from high school, prepared to work at outdoor schools as field instructors/naturalists. We also see this as an experience that could lead students to become formal certificated teachers and eventually, school administrators. Our statewide program will be the first in the nation.
  • Assisting facilities like summer camps in becoming outdoor schools through one-on-one program designing and professional development training.
  • Assisting teachers and schools in developing their own programs through structuring outdoor learning to enhance learning in the classroom.
  • Growing partnerships and bringing more organizations on board because we truly believe “Together, we are better!”
  • Advocating for funding outdoor school for each and every child in Washington’s public schools. This task is complete when outdoor school for all is a fully funded and established part of education in our state.
If you’ve been considering outdoor school for your students, feel free to contact us at support@outdoorschollswa.org. We are happy to answer questions, share resources, and help create life-changing experiences for the kids and staff at your school!