The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office and Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has awarded $3.7 million in grants to provide students with outdoor learning experiences.

The Outdoor Learning Grants program was created by the Legislature in 2022 to develop and support outdoor educational experiences for public school students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. The program is administered by RCO in partnership with OSPI.

OSPI's Outdoor Education Program Manager, Sheila Wilson, says the grants are expected to have a big impact on students in a variety of ways.

"Our research has shown that getting students outside for learning improves their academics, their behavior, and their mental health. We've also found that these effects are greatest for the kids who need it the most."

The grants will help to fund outdoor learning opportunities for over 20,000 students in Washington, and Wilson says the OSPI will track the effect they have well into the future.

"We are very excited to see this opportunity become available for our students and look forward to being able to show some real results by the end of the current school year. We're also going to be conducting some research internally at OSPI to track the students involved in these programs over time, including how it's impacted their grades, their behavior, their attendance, and eventually even graduation rates."

In all, 27 grants were awarded for projects in 22 of Washington's 39 counties, including several in North Central Washington which include:

- $15,453 to the Foster Creek Conservation District for the creation of the North Central Washington Environmental Outdoor Learning Program.

- $48,721 to the Methow Conservancy for the creation of a schoolyard science program.

- $299,999 to the Methow Field Institute for support of the Nature Immersion Program.

- $190,986 to Educational Service District 123 (incl. Adams and Grant Counties) for outdoor art expression to build resilience.

- $49,940 to the Washington Native Plant Society (incl. Grant County) for providing youth ecology education through restoration.

- $147,236 to Cascade Fisheries (incl. Chelan, Douglas, and Grant Counties) for expansion of the Watching Over the Watershed Program.

- $200,089 to Wenatchee River Institute (incl. Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties) for adding native voices to outdoor learning in North Central Washington.

- $127,392 to Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group (incl. Grant and Kittitas Counties) for expansion of the Careers In Conservation summer program.

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