Inspiring our Next Generation
Multnomah Education Service District Outdoor School

Da Vinci Arts Middle School sixth graders

Da Vinci Arts Middle School sixth graders with their counselor, “Pawt Stikkr,” after a soil field study

Hands up: who’s licked a slug? If you attended the sixth grade in Multnomah County, we’re betting you may have … or that you brought back some other camp stories from Outdoor School, a sleepaway environmental education program that’s become a legendary institution since its inception in 1966. Free to most participants and part of the annual sixth-grade curriculum throughout the county, Outdoor School and its annual team of more than 1,300 high school volunteer counselors ensure every student experiences and learns about the natural world at camps near Corbett and Sandy. Students make leaf rubbings, observe migratory birds, and examine invertebrates under a microscope. (And on a dare, some might even sample “Oregon escargot.”) There are other lessons too: away from home and outside of embedded social patterns, Outdoor School creates a safe space for personal growth. “Even the students who were troublemakers in the classroom opened up and had the time of their lives,” says Katie Kramer, who spent five springs as an Outdoor School counselor and special-needs volunteer. “They got a taste of being part of something bigger than themselves: a community.”

Arts & Culture
Northwest Film Center

Northwest FIlm Center

A full house at the Northwest FIlm Center (front row, from left): Bill Foster, executive director; Jessica Lyness, public relations and marketing director; and Ellen Thomas, education director

In an era of Netflix and Hulu, it’s all too tempting to forgo the movie theater in favor of sweatpants and an easy chair. The Northwest Film Center offers a damn good reason to ignore that urge. An important regional resource for filmmakers, students, and visiting artists, the Northwest Film Center has been reminding us for 40 years that “film” embodies more than just the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Its hundreds of screenings each year include smaller films like “Pulp,” a short by an 11th grader questioning the violence in boxing, or The Klezmatics: On Holy Ground, a documentary about a Grammy-winning klezmer group that showed as part of the Jewish Film Festival. “Moving images are so central to the way our society operates,” says the center’s director, Bill Foster, “not just as entertainment, but as the documentation of social change and personal expression.” With classes like sound recording and screenwriting at its School of Film, the center inspires people of all ages to express themselves with movies. And each winter during the Portland International Film Festival, which drew a whopping 35,000 attendees in 2011, the Northwest Film Center spurs the rest of us to get out of the house and enjoy them.

Sustainable Planet
The Wetlands Conservancy

Wetlands Conservancy executive director Esther Lev

Wetlands Conservancy executive director Esther Lev at “Milwaukie’s best-kept secret,” Minthorn Springs Wetlands

The next time you sit down to a plate of cedar-plank Pacific salmon for dinner, be sure to raise a glass to the Wetlands Conservancy. Without the group’s effort to educate the public about the importance of wetlands in everything from preventing flooding to their essential role in providing healthy habitats for salmon, your plate might well be empty. Over the course of its 30-year history, the Wetlands Conservancy has helped raise awareness about these sensitive marshy areas with posters, TV spots, and even on-the-ground guerrilla efforts like the neighborhood gathering it organized in June to educate Tigard residents with yards adjacent to the Roger Hart Wetland Preserve about how to plant and care for their land with the wetland in mind (not using pesticides that will run off into the fragile ecosystem, for example). This spring, the group ran an Aqua Plate Special at local restaurants and grocery stores to raise awareness, identifying seafood that depends on healthy Oregon estuaries. The effort also netted $9,000 in donations. “We want people to understand how wetlands are more than just really cool spaces,” says the group’s executive director, Esther Lev. “They provide functions that intersect with people’s lives.” The Wetlands Conservancy isn’t just sis-boom-bahing wetland preservation, though; it’s an active player in acquiring land. Since the conservancy was founded three decades ago, it has procured more than 1,600 acres around the state, including a preserve in Yaquina Bay and 56 acres in Tualatin. “The Wetlands Conservancy plays a hugely important role in conservation in Oregon,” says Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland. “There are a lot of land trusts out there, but the Wetlands Conservancy stands out because they bring science and stewardship to the lands they protect.”