Almost everyone who loves the outdoors as an adult spent time outside as a kid. If we don’t get kids outside, and away from their computer screens and phones, all of the outdoors will suffer in the future. Here are five local organizations that get kids outside in nature and that need and deserve your support.
Friends of Outdoor School
For thousands of kids in Oregon, a week of Outdoor School is a life-changing ritual: learn about ecology for a week while staying at camp on the coast or in the Cascades during their formative middle-school years. When Outdoor School budget cuts made Outdoor School a privilege for kids from well-off school districts, Friends of Outdoor School stepped in to fight for funding to send every kid to Outdoor School. Funding for Outdoor School passed by an overwhelming landslide in 2016, and they’re continuing the work.
The Student Conservation Association
A national organization, the Student Conservation Association is to outdoor careers what Outdoor School is to loving nature. By placing high school students, gap years, college students and recent graduates in outdoor internships and jobs—from building trails to collecting data on wildlife and teaching young kids—that often lead to outdoor jobs and careers.
Columbia Slough Watershed Council
Most Northwesterners live in cities, and we need to get kids outside where they live. The Columbia Slough Watershed Council helps people rediscover one of Portland’s most forgotten—and surprisingly wildlife-rich—waterways, via canoeing, hiking in parks and urban wildlife refuges, and catching bugs and other critters. They’re a great example of many other organizations that help kids find nature around them every day.
The African American Outdoor Association
In the Pacific Northwest, access to nature has unfortunately been found to be limited by income and racial disparities. Getting to the mountains or the rivers requires transportation out of the city, time off from jobs, and someone who knows the outdoors—all of which are easier when you have financial security. The African American Outdoor Association tries to break this cycle, providing family outings for Portland’s African American community.
Portland Audubon Society
Housed on the edge of Forest Park, the Portland Audubon Society is probably best known for either the Wildlife Care Center, where they rehabilitate injured wild animals, or advocacy on behalf of wildlife habitat. But they also run education programs that take kids outside in urban areas, bring nature into classrooms, train teachers, and teach adults about the natural world.