Letters to the editor
by: L.E. BASKOW Despite protests, the Portland School Board voted this week to shrink Outdoor School from five days to three, saving $625,000 from next year's budget. Other districts are also reducing or eliminating Outdoor School for students in a third year of state education funding shortfalls. Letter writers weigh in on the controversial decision.

It's unfortunate an experience as priceless as Outdoor School has been reduced to a price tag and defined as expendable (Let's make the world like Outdoor School, May 26).

The author articulated the values of outdoor school so well, I can only add a hearty affirmation - especially to the closing two paragraphs.

Linda 'Froggy' Byrd


Writer speaks for school supporters

You have the ability to put into words exactly what makes this program so amazing and necessary.

I love this (op-ed) and I love outdoor school.

Alex Hickey

Northeast Portland

Program transforms children into leaders

It is also important to note that Outdoor School does more that make Portlanders 'outdoorsy' or environmentally conscious (Let's make the world like Outdoor School, My View, May 26).

I know that as a student leader, I showed the girls in my cabins that I wanted and expected them to succeed, and for one girl in particular, I know I was the first person who had expected that from her. Outdoor School is a place where children are valued as people, and unfortunately for some kids, that is a unique experience.

As a student leader, the Outdoor School program taught me that I mattered, that I could make the world a better place, and that everything I did was important to someone. My weeks at Sandy River Outdoor School gave me the self-worth and confidence I still have today.

The six weeks I spent at Sandy River transformed me from a shy girl who didn't know who she was or what she wanted to do in the world to a young woman who is a leader, improving her own community and who will one day work within the government to improve the education system in this county.

There is nothing else quite like this program and it is a shame we are electing to stifle it.

Elise 'Zoot' Downing

Northeast Portland

Get kids unplugged, exploring nature

Outdoor School changed my life in high school (Let's make the world like Outdoor School, May 26).

I grew from a sad, insecure teenager to someone who could teach, be accepted, and learn to love myself. The exposure to nature was so valuable, and my experience as a student leader shaped who I am today. I went on to study natural resources and continue to educate people on the beautiful, interesting and vital world around us.

To cut Outdoor School is to cut oxygen to our children. In this day and age, more than ever we desperately need outdoor school to get kids unplugged and exploring, playing, creating and living.

Talia Jean Filipek

Southwest Portland

Develop outdoor school into farming

If outdoor school is considered too expensive, try other options (Let's make the world like Outdoor School, May 26).

I asked a wealthy farmer who spoke at the City Club why she hired immigrants who may be illegal. She said they couldn't get citizens to do the work, and the food needed to be harvested. That it used to be done by the youths but not now. She suggested a summer camp for kids.

Perhaps teens could earn their own outdoor schooling. During the days they could work and learn about farming, and during the evenings they could sit around the bonfire and roast or toast their food while they tell stories, sing or maybe learn to square dance like in covered-wagon days.

And there are other ways: Years ago my nephew went to a 'school without walls' in Chicago, where students went to where they wanted to study.

Forest Park needs loving care, and on sunny winter days the kids that are caught up on their studies might want some exercise and the extra credit for doing community work.

On this outing, they should be given the opportunity to learn about nature lore on the job site.

Sharon Joy

Northwest Portland

Outdoor program enhances lives

I hope they find a way to fund this program (Let's make the world like Outdoor School, May 26).

I remember my days at Outdoor School oh-so long ago, but I know this program has changed my daughter's life - from being a student leader several times during high school and even after, and now as a staff member. She's so known as 'Junebug' that I sometimes think that is her real name!

It's a wonderful learning piece to teach young children about what makes Oregon a great place to live and explore, but enhances their lives as well.

Good luck to everyone and I hope the program can be saved.

Donna Evenhus

Southeast Portland

Children should have same experiences

I am a huge supporter of Multnomah Education Service District's Outdoor School program. During the years I have participated in it in many aspects: as a sixth-grade student, high school student leader, college student, Program Leader (paid on-site staff), program secretary, procurement/delivery of food and supplies and on-site registered nurse.

And I am hopefully optimistic that Portland's long history with and strong support for Outdoor School will help it survive the current financial crises and lack of school funding relatively intact.

I can't wait for my daughters (currently ages 5 and 2) to be part of the life-changing experience that is Outdoor School.

Thank you for publishing Rachel Byron-Law's wonderful (op-ed) in the first place!

Christine Smith

Northeast Portland

Earth stewardships begin with preschool

My sons both went to Wood Haven preschool (Preschool in the woods, Sustainable Life, April 21). The older one is graduating from high school this year to do a full immersion residential outdoor education program with Trackers PDX.

Wood Haven (then Magic Garden) started him on the path that will lead to lifelong stewardship of the earth.

Linda Hefferman

Southwest Portland

Imaginations run wild outdoors

In response to Sustainable Life's 'Preschool in the woods' (April 21), kudos to the folks over at Wood Haven preschool for having the courage to branch off in a new direction.

Not only have they given a gift that has the potential to benefit our future environment, but they have also given children the gift of play. Imaginations will be unfurling at rapidity unknown in an indoor classroom environment.

Tree climbing, full-throttle running and squealing fueled by anxiety, fear and joy at the chase in an old-fashioned game of tag are what childhood memories should be made from.

I cannot think of a better environment for curious minds to soak up knowledge, along with some fresh air and sunshine - OK, most likely rain, but come on: Let's hearken back to childhood and use our imagination.

Heather Higbee


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