The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Laurie Wilhite
For The Sentinel 

County students to benefit from get-outdoors grant

An insider's look at how the Outdoor School grant was awarded


Contributed: Laurie Wilhite

SO THAT'S WHAT THAT IS: A Fish and Wildlife Ranger helps a student identify bugs from the Little Klickitat River at Brooks Memorial Retreat Center.

A No Child Left Inside (NCLI) grant was recently awarded by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission to the Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute's Pathfinder Adventures Outdoor School. The grant application placed 5th out of 123 Washington State applications, and it will serve Klickitat County students in grades five through eight.

The grant application process started over six months ago. The grant application was submitted by the Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute in January to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. The $72, 819 will be used to offer four sessions of Pathfinder Adventures Outdoor School over the next year at Brooks Memorial Retreat Center. NCLI grant awards require a matching amount from local partners. Pathfinder Adventures Outdoor School will also receive $78, 500 in cash, donated equipment, and donated labor. That brings the project total to $151,319 for the benefit of Klickitat County students. The Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute is the fiscal agent for the grant money.

The Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute is a 501 (C)(3) nonprofit education organization created to provide educational opportunities, with an emphasis on stewardship and a sense of wonder, in the natural systems of the Columbia River Gorge. Bill Weiler, CGEI President, founded the organization over 20 years ago. According to Weiler, "Our programs are only possible through the support of caring individuals with a passion for education, the environment, children, and community." Drew Eastman serves as the program manager of CGEI at the Hood River office. Laurie Wilhite serves as the grant writer and Pathfinder Adventures Outdoor School facilitator. Visit the CGEI website at and find out more about the programs, upcoming events, how to get involved, and how to offer support.

According to the Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute's program manager Eastman, "Disconnecting from the places we live and less exposure to nature has been proven to cause increased psychological and physical effects: obesity, loneliness, depression, attention disorders, and greater social isolation." As described in the CGEI brochure, the nonprofit aims to: foster student connection and appreciation of the places they live, create vibrant partnerships between school and communities, boost student achievement, and promote ecological literacy.

Located 13 miles north of Goldendale on Highway 97, Brooks Memorial Retreat Center is part of the Columbia Hills State Park will be the location for all four camps. Students from across Klickitat County will get to spend two nights and three days at Brooks learning about math, science, and recreation through hands-on outdoor experiences. Invitation letters will soon be sent out to all Klickitat County school districts to participate in Pathfinder Adventures Outdoor School.

Partnerships with volunteers and school districts are important parts of Pathfinder Adventures Outdoor School. The following partners wrote letters of support back in January for the NCLI grant application: American Legion Post 116, Klickitat Valley Health, Goldendale Observatory State Park, Klickitat County 4-H Extension, Trout Unlimited, Educational Service District 112, Lyle Community Schools, Klickitat School District, Trout Lake School District, and Wishram School District.

Other Pathfinder Adventures Outdoor School partners who have agreed to volunteer for the camps include: Klickitat County Search and Rescue, Goldendale Trout Hatchery, Yakama Nation Fisheries, Columbia Gorge National Fish Hatchery, Klickitat County Recycling, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Klickitat County Conservation District, Klickitat Trail Conservancy, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Klickitat County Health Department.

Trout Unlimited's Klickitat Chapter 484 and its members from across Klickitat County have formed a key partnership with Pathfinder Adventures Outdoor School. The chapter will be teaching students about macroinvertebrates, elements of healthy streams, fishing, casting techniques, fly tying, and cold-water conservation. Washington State's Trout Unlimited chapters are among the leaders in the nation of introducing the curriculum called Science, Technology, Recreation, Engineering, Art, and Math (STREAM) Explorers. Franklin Tate, author of the STREAM curriculum, is Trout Unlimited's Headwaters Youth Program National Manager. He took the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) concept a couple of steps deeper by adding recreation and art components. According to Franklin, "Every person is a citizen of his or her watershed. By visiting a local stream and having the opportunity to observe it as scientists, anglers, and artists, students will have a complete picture of what their stream could mean to them."

The structure of the Pathfinder Adventures Outdoor School is designed to get students outside and moving. Students will rotate through eight outdoor learning stations at Brooks and work with mentors from federal, state, and county agencies. Session topics will include: STREAM Exploration, Pathways to a Healthy Life, Your Watershed 101, Animals & the Food Chain, Search & Rescue Strategies, Orienteer with GPS and compass, and Art in Nature Leathercraft. Another session will be the CGEI developed curriculum called SECRETS of the Shrub-Steppe Environment. The acronym SECRETS represents: Sense of Wonder, Ecosystems, Cycles, Relationships, Energy, Time=Change, Stewardship. Additional activities will be offered for learning about recreation opportunities in the afternoons. Troy Carpenter of the Goldendale Observatory will provide opportunities for students to learn about astronomy and viewing the night sky with telescopes at Brooks. Other activities will include presentations on water safety, music, campfire fun, art, hiking, and a stewardship project to improve the section of the Little Klickitat River that runs through Brooks.

Students will also get to select a State Park field trip for the third day of camp. On the last day they will head out to Klickitat County sites for activities that may include fishing at Horsethief Lake with Trout Unlimited, geology tour/hiking the Shrub-Steppe habitat at The Dalles Mountain Ranch, salmon habitat and hiking along the Klickitat River Trail, healthy outdoor cooking and recreation at Maryhill State Park, geocaching and astronomy at Stonehenge Memorial, and back county camping skills at Brooks. All field trips are designed to engage students in our area Washington State Parks and learn about recreation opportunities in the great outdoors.

A special emphasis of the NCLI grant program was to employ veterans. During the two nights and three days at camp students will be served healthy meals and snacks. A local veteran, Dr. James Ogden, has agreed to help at Pathfinder Adventures Outdoor School by working in the kitchen. His support and that of other veterans who will be working and volunteering at camp were key components of the successful grant application.

Gov. Jay Inslee is also a supporter of the No Child Left Inside grant opportunities and said, "Some of my best childhood memories area of being outside." Many of our kids don't get that opportunity today. That's why these local programs are so important. When children spend time outside, so many good things happen. Kids can improve their health and their grades. And that's a win for all of us." Senator Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) spearheaded the effort to reinstate the No Child Left Inside program after the Legislature ended it in 2009. He took the time to meet with a contingent of NCLI grant applicants in Olympia and was key in getting the program back in the budget.

The Washington State Parks grant for Pathfinder Adventures Outdoor School provides an opportunity for local students to connect with the wide variety of outdoor experiences and resources right here in Klickitat County. If you would like more information, please contact Laurie Wilhite, Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute, at 509-941-9979.


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