ARBOR SCHOOL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES (K-8)
4201 SW Borland Rd, Tualatin
Tucked behind a wall of old-growth firs and cedars, the Arbor School is a pristine slice of Oregon beauty. And for good reason: this former horse ranch has 160 pairs of hands helping with its upkeep. Every day, students care for gardens, feed goats, and remove invasive plant species as part of their education.
Conservation and eco-consciousness are at the core of Arbor’s program. Students have turned open fields into forests and orchards with reforestation efforts, applied principles of land surveying to make sustainable cross-country trails, and coaxed salmon and beavers back to the school’s creek with restoration efforts.
The school’s 21 acres have a lot to do with Arbor’s ability to engage students. Environmental awareness begins with the physical freedom to explore the outdoors, notes director and founder Kit Abel Hawkins. “When students leave,” Hawkins says, “they remember the sense of place, the sense of devotion to the landscape they had here.” Today, with alumni working as environmental lawyers and sustainability planners, the fertility of this arboreal oasis is indisputable: Arbor students see the forest as well as the trees. —Martin Patail
PACIFIC CREST COMMUNITY SCHOOL (7–12)
116 NE 29th Ave; pcrest.org
The future can seem a long ways off during those live-in-the-second days of high school. But from day one, Pacific Crest, a progressive Northeast Portland school, likes to raise its 75 students’ eyes to one of the most important horizons: the planet’s.
As part of the school’s commitment to service, students give up one day a month for stewardship. Some learn sustainable planting and harvesting at a community farm, while others have jumped into much-longer reforestation projects in Nicaragua.
The projects aren’t just whims: at the beginning of their freshman year students team up with a faculty adviser to identify the type of projects they’d like to contribute to. Over the next four years, the adviser helps the student track and record their service in a college-application-worthy portfolio. While the opportunities for service aren’t all environmental ones, the school’s expansive vegetable garden, student-run bicycle repair, and impending certification as a Green School (an Oregon program for auditing waste and conserving energy and resources) tend to keep the focus on the great outdoors.
And it’s a laser focus at that. To wit, when faculty and students entered the Bike Commute Challenge—a citywide contest to log the most miles ridden to and from work or school—in 2007, the team placed seventh in the city … behind jolly green giants like New Seasons. Now that’s getting somewhere. —MP
GERMAN AMERICAN SCHOOL OF PORTLAND (P–5)
3900 SW Murray Blvd, Beaverton
The school’s SolarLab, an interactive exhibit that showcases emission-free solar power, is a regular field-trip destination for many other local schools.
LA SALLE CATHOLIC COLLEGE PREPARATORY SCHOOL (9-12)
11999 SE Fuller Rd, Milwaukie
Students fulfill service requirements through farm immersion programs, in which pupils live with workers and learn how to maintain a community garden.