Spirit of outdoor school still alive via cooperative effort

DALLAS — When Sawyer Finegan, Polk Soil & Water Conservation District’s outreach coordinator, got a call from a pair of schools interested in hosting their own “outdoors school” this spring, he was overjoyed.    Karin Nembach, PSWCD’s manager, said he walked around the office with a smile on his face, thinking of ideas to help the schools, Perrydale and Luckiamute Valley Charter.    This year PSWCD sadly announced it had to end its outdoor school program — an overnight educational camp teaching students about wildlife, ecosystems and outdoors survival — that Finegan had been a part of for eight years, since joining the organization as an intern. Karin Nembach   “I was excited because somebody picked it up and it was still going,” he said. “I was excited that the kids were still going to get that experience.”   Finegan said the schools did the coordinating, booking the Oregon 4-H Center in West Salem for the overnight camp and scheduling presenters. The schools called Finegan for technical assistance — and to ask if he would present a seminar on aquatic insects — for the outing that took place March 10-11.   “It worked really well,” Finegan said. “A lot of the people who were involved in it were involved in our program … . It was extremely similar in layout and very well run.”    Finegan said he is planning to meet with the teachers who organized the camp to review what worked and what may need to change.   “I’m going to help them go over that information — go over the reviews we’ve had from the past — and … help them be able to improve their own program,” Finegan said. Sawyer Finegan   Nembach said that will be just one piece of PSWCD’s effort to keep its educational programs going. She said the organization is willing to work with schools on in-class presentations, day field trips or a combination of both.    She said in the meantime, PSWCD is exploring grants to see if there’s any funding available to boost current programs.   Though the organization’s involvement in the most recent outdoors school was limited, Finegan would like to encourage other schools to participate in a similar arrangement and offered his assistance to make that happen.   “I would like to see all the schools doing the same thing, all the students getting the same education, same experience,” Finegan said. “My goal is, some sort of a way, whether the schools lead it, whether we lead it, or someone else leads it, that all of the schools in the county are doing the same program.”   For more information, call Sawyer Finegan, PSWCD outreach coordinator, at 503-623-9680, ext. 113.


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