Multnomah County: Teacher workshops at Tryon Creek State Park inspire fun new ways to meet the latest science standards.

Teacher workshops at Tryon Creek State Park inspire fun new ways to meet the latest science standards.

It takes courage for an elementary school teacher to take his or her class outside for a science lesson. While fun, it’s also a bit unpredictable.

“If they don’t have a strong background in science, and they’re teaching all the other subjects, coming up with science activities is challenging,” says Matthew Collins, Education Director at Friends of Tryon Creek.

“We’re there to support them in that.”

During Saturday workshops, his organization hosts teachers at beautiful Tryon Creek State Park in Portland. With funding from the Gray Family, the workshops, which are called Connect2Science Through Nature, have guided more than 30 teachers to take fun outdoor lessons back to their own classes. The goal is to help teachers meet the latest science curriculum standards using assets they already have at hand. For instance, a sunny day in the schoolyard can inspire a lesson where students measure the movement of their shadows over time.

One teacher started a regular Wednesday walk with his fourth graders in which they simply observe the soil, water, plants and animals around them. On these walks, an ordinary earth worm or storm drain suddenly becomes an opportunity to discuss a bigger science concept like decomposition or the water cycle.

As part of the grant, teachers who complete three Connect2Science workshops receive a stipend to bring their students to the park. Thus far, four teachers have brought 120 students back for field trips.

“We wanted to incentivize teachers to take it back to their classrooms but also to come back to Tryon Creek for a culminating experience,” Collins says. “The Gray Family has been incredibly supportive.”

John Gray was a longtime supporter of Friends of Tryon Creek, having established an endowment for the organization in 2011.