Crook County: Teachers gain confidence in place-based education and launch outdoor service projects with their students.

When their elementary school was set to close in 2010, the rural community of Powell Butte came together to create something extraordinary—a public charter school rooted in place-based education, with the goal of connecting K-8 students with their community and the natural world around them.

In 2016, Powell Butte Community Charter School utilized a grant from the Gray Family Foundation to expand training programs for the school’s 11 instructors to lead outdoor lessons and place-based community projects.

The logistics of a class outside can be intimidating. The grant allowed for the school to hire a place-based education coordinator to guide teachers individually.

“Her support at the beginning of the year is really giving the teachers the confidence to plan and execute these field experiences without support,” says Jenn Berry-O’Shea, the school’s administrator.

The training empowered the Kindergarten teacher to plan two field trips independently, proving that even the youngest students can benefit from learning outside.

Meanwhile, the seventh graders worked with the city of Prineville and the Audubon Society to develop a new community park and wetland. The students visited the wetland six times, conducted bird surveys and collected data. In April 2017, the students proudly unveiled a new informational kiosk they designed for the wetland.

Berry-O’Shea says the seventh grade instructor took a fledgling project and really ran with it.

“The students are super engaged, and they’re really connected with community partners in meaningful ways.”