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Forests Inside Out!
summer 2010, about 350 children from Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington
took part in “Forests Inside Out!,” a program that provides outdoor
education opportunities to students from underserved communities. The program,
which ran from August 2 through 31, was partially funded by the American Recovery
and Reinvestment Act.
“Nothing compares to getting students outside,” said Rob Pierce,
education director with the World Forestry Center, one of the program’s
Now in its second year, Forests Inside Out! took children ages 6 to 10 from
communities in the Portland and Vancouver metropolitan area to sites in the
city and along the Columbia River Gorge. During the program’s 2-day format,
the students explored the World Forestry Center and Hoyt Arboretum and then
went on ranger-led interpretive hikes to Wahkeena and Latourell Falls. Participants
came from the Boys and Girls Clubs in Portland and Hillsboro, OR, Portland-
and Vancouver-area community and child development centers, and Portland’s
SUN community schools.
As part of the program, eight high school students were hired as mentors to
work with the younger participants and help them to connect with nature during
their trips through sketching and journaling. These student mentors also participated
in the Inner City Youth Institute (ICYI) natural resource camp (another outdoor
education program targeting underserved middle and high school students) earlier
during the summer.
“Forests Inside Out! provided a great opportunity for ICYI students
to spread their enthusiasm for the outdoors to a younger audience,” said
Becky Bittner, conservation education specialist with the U.S. Forest Service’s
Pacific Northwest Research Station, sponsor of both Forests Inside Out! and
ICYI. “Our hope is that these younger kids are inspired to participate
in outdoor programs like ICYI when they get older.” Another round of
camps is scheduled for summer 2011.
Forests Inside Out! is a partnership of the Forest Service, World Forestry
Center, and the ICYI. The program’s activities are structured around "Project
Learning Tree," a nationally recognized curriculum that is aimed at fostering
an understanding of how forests and the environment work.