Clackamas County: A long tradition of Outdoor School is a cornerstone of the district’s award-winning sustainability programs.

A long tradition of Outdoor School is a cornerstone of the district’s award-winning sustainability programs.

In the smallest school district in Oregon, everyone knows each other—and everyone goes to outdoor school.

“I’m proud to be in a district where this is something that every child gets,” says

Leslie Robinette, Communications Coordinator and Grant Writer for Gladstone Schools. “We have a very environmental ethic here.”

With 2,200 students in just 2 square miles, the Gladstone School district has four schools, and they’re all green. From elementary to middle to high school, students are enriched in an award-winning culture of sustainability.

But it all centers on outdoor school.

Each spring about 120 Gladstone sixth graders experience five transformational days on the Oregon Coast at Twin Rocks Friends Camp. With support from the Gray Family Foundation, this 41-year tradition is staying alive.

“It’s special that we’ve been able to hang on to a five-day program,” Robinette says. ” It’s a launch point for our middle schoolers to get them on the right track early in their secondary education.”

Campers take full advantage of nature for every subject. An art teacher leads students drawing massive hieroglyphics on the sandy beach. A history teacher tells stories of Oregon’s past around the campfire. And science teachers challenge students to build a model demonstrating how water carries pollutants.

“Some of these kids grew up in the city and rarely get to leave the neighborhood they live in,” Robinette says. “What a grand adventure to go out and explore our beautiful Oregon.”

A hallmark of Gladstone’s outdoor school is its high school councilors. Each went to camp when they were sixth graders. As juniors and seniors, they compete for coveted spots to return as camp councilors. Kraxberger Middle School teacher Patti Bisenius has had the privilege of training these high schoolers in her role coordinating Outdoor School over the past five years.

“Watching our campers having the time of their lives learning alongside these wonderful young adults is rewarding beyond words,” she says.

A 2014 grant from the Gray Family helped offset the $200 family contribution to attend outdoor school to ensure every student can go.

“There are some families for whom that’s not possible,” Robinette says. “We really wouldn’t be able to have outdoor school without this support.”