“Not only are we hoping to ignite some sparks as far as science education and education in general with them, but we see some kids who have never walked three miles in their lives. And then they are proud of themselves when they get there,” explained Katie Ryan, executive director of Opal Creek.
Located on the western slope of the Cascade Mountains in the Willamette National Forest of Oregon, Opal Creek became a protected area in 1996. The location had been mined for copper, lead, zinc, and silver since 1859. In 1992, the mining stopped, and the 151 acres of Jawbone Flats and old-growth forest was gifted to Friends of Opal Creek. Since 1996, Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center has focused on education about the land with workshops for students, families, and adults.
From April to November, approximately 1,200 school children participate in an outdoor overnight workshop. The goal is to get kids out and doing activities while learning about their surroundings and about scientific processes for studies.
The children spend most of their time outdoors and hike in to the facilities from the gate at the start of the day. Each class’ itinerary is crafted to complement what the teacher is presenting in the classroom. Subjects include ecology and forestry and feature hands-on surveys and experiential education. The children do such things as explore the bugs in the creek and record data. “The school program is aimed most at the kids who wouldn’t be having this experience otherwise,” revealed Ryan.
A Subaru of America Foundation grant will provide funding to the program. Essentially, it helps cover the costs for 80 kids from three schools to attend. “Without support from organizations like Subaru, our school program wouldn’t be possible,” explained Ryan.
Besides the children’s workshops, Opal Creek offers summer camps, family workshops, adult workshops, and on-site cabin rentals.
For more information on Opal Creek, visit www.opalcreek.org.
Subaru of America, Inc. believes in supporting the communities in which its employees live and work. To that end, Subaru builds community partnerships with organizations that share its drive and passion.