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Pilot Outdoor School program planned at Silver Falls State Park in 2020

Nov. 12, 2019

Silver Falls State Park will open its Silver Creek Youth Camp to Outdoor School students in 2020, part of a pilot project in partnership with Salem-based Straub Outdoors. 


Four schools in the Salem-Keizer and Dallas school districts will participate in the spring 2020 pilot program. Fifth- and sixth-grade students who attend school in Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Linn and Benton Counties will stay overnight at the camp Tuesday – Thursday during May and September for hands-on science and math education.


"Partnering with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department for Outdoor School will benefit students from diverse cultural, racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, many of whom have never before visited a state park,” said Rick Bastasch, Board President of Straub Outdoors. “Outdoor School is a place where learning, social-emotional growth and appreciation of Oregon's natural resources all come together. This partnership will help level the playing field so more students in our region can experience these important benefits." 


The public is able to reserve the facility Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. This is a change from recent years, when the facility was available for reservations every night in May and September. The reservation process has not changed: reservations can be made up to nine months in advance by calling 800-452-5687.


Camp facilities sit on 60 acres in the secluded southeast corner of the park. Built in 1938, the camp accommodates 250 youth and includes 34 rustic cabins, a recreation hall, a dining hall with commercial kitchen, a swimming pool and a pond.


“This facility was designed with the sole purpose of connecting youth with the outdoors,” said Silver Falls State Park manager Guy Rodrigue. “I am excited about the idea and potential for the camp to be used fully for the purpose in which it was intended, and that Oregon State Parks can help connect diverse groups of young people to this unique environment.”


The YMCA has used the facility for summer camp in June, July and August since 1938. In May and September, the facility was open for reservations, but often sat unused. The partnership with Straub Outdoors will bring in consistent revenue to help cover the cost of deferred maintenance and historic preservation of the buildings, which were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The camp is listed on the National Register as a Historic District.


Outdoor School is an immersive outdoor education experience for Oregon’s fifth and sixth graders in the world’s greatest classroom: nature. Students learn about themselves and their peers; the environment and natural resources; and the intersection of science, technology, engineering, the arts and math (STEAM).


Straub Outdoors is a nonprofit educational service provider based in Salem that offers residential and non-residential outdoor school at several natural areas in western Oregon. Inquiry-based lessons at Straub Outdoor School highlight wildlife, habitats and ecosystems in the Willamette Valley and Cascade Foothills. Straub Outdoors field instructors have expertise in science, natural resources and humanities. The organization's focus is helping to close academic achievement gaps for underserved students through equitable and inclusive educational opportunities.