Concluding the fall, 2012 session at Outdoor School:
Now in its 47th year, MESD's Outdoor School has developed a broad-based funding mix from a network of public and private sources
Amid the fallout of budget cuts and tough choices, MESD's nationally-recognized Outdoor School has diversified its funding base with a combination of private and public support.
With contributions from a well-cultivated network of donors, ODS has cut costs for school districts to participate in either the traditional full week or the three-day program. This has led to a period of relative stability for the program, albeit with fewer staff and more compact programs.
ODS fundraiser Kim Silva and ODS Coordinator Dan Prince have teamed up to attract an impressive variety and mix of support. The pair is supported by a huge base of grassroots enthusiasm that seems to meet the challenges brought by each new budget season.
Metro partnership is key
Kim and Dan have worked hard to ensure that Metro, under a landmark agreement four years ago, continues to pay $60 per student attending at least a three-day session. For that support, ODS has integrated waste reduction and resource conservation principals into the curriculum. A recent evaluation gave ODS high marks for its partnership with the area's regional government.
Other public support has come from East Multnomah County Soil and Water Conservation District ($150,000 for PPS); West Multnomah County Soil and Water Conservation District($25,000 for PPS); $50,000 from the City of Portand and $5,000 from the Portland Water Bureau.
Through the Friends of Outdoor School and the E2 Foundation, Kim and Dan make regular visits with funders and potential supporters.
Families and foundations who treasure the program have stepped up with major gifts this year. According to Kim, the program received an anonymous gift of $10,000 and a $15,000 gift from the Flanagan Family Foundation.
"Dan and I had coffee with Shauna Flanagan and she asked us about the best way to help," recalled Kim. "The family is really supportive of environmental education."
Another $58,000 bequest came to ODS from the estate of Charles Rouse. All these funds will be used to offset costs for schools to send their students to the program.
4,000 attend fall session
Dan said that about 4,000 students participated during this fall - about three fourths of Portland Public School students attended a three-day session, along with all of Gresham-Barlow and about half of the Reynolds sixth graders. The session culiminated with the participation of several private schools including St. Claire, St. Agatha, Archbishop Howard and Northwest Academy and a full week for Corbett.
The popularity of the ODS companion programs is growing as well. Oregon Trail Overnight, begun in 1998, already has 95 classes signed up for the spring - an increase of 20 percent over last year. The program serves fourth graders and features field study across several subjects including history, the arts and science.
The hunt for money aside, Dan, said the key to a great program is always with the staff. He had high praise for this fall's group.
"This fall we had strong applicants for jobs and we ended up with a really strong staff," commented Dan Prince, ODS coordinator. "Forty seasonal instructors, four nurses, twenty cooks and four site supervisors."
Arrah Wanna staff, Fall 2012
Howard Staff, Fall 2012
Sandy River Staff, Fall 2012