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CalSol: California Statewide Outdoor Learning

Research shows that outdoor education has numerous benefits for youth and society, yet very few Californians reap those benefits. Outdoor education affords students an opportunity to learn science outdoors, increasing the likelihood that they will retain more of what they learn. Students who participate in outdoor education perform better in school and on standardized tests in math, English, science, and social studies. Sadly, California has no statewide system to provide outdoor education.

A private family foundation has provided The Escondido Creek Conservancy (Conservancy) with funding to organize a campaign for statewide outdoor education (CalSOL) so that all California school children can experience outdoor learning at every grade level, and that such opportunities are an integral part of California public education. The Conservancy is launching the first year of what will be an ongoing campaign to achieve this goal.

This is an equity issue. Currently, receiving the benefits of outdoor education is a bit like winning the lottery. If you live in an area that has prioritized these programs, you may be lucky, but rarely will all children receive equal access to programming. Additionally, as programs are funded year-by-year through grants and short-term gifts, funding for outdoor education programs is unpredictable. Dedicated outdoor education funding at the state level would mean programs align with state and national education standards and all public-school children receive the benefits.

The first year of CalSOL will focus on identifying and organizing stakeholders around a central funding strategy and building an advocacy coalition that will be deployed in Sacramento and across the state. The Conservancy is also currently working with the California Legislature to secure more immediate-term funding, such as through bonds, that would provide the opportunity to implement pilot programs around the state to set the stage for statewide funding.

Stakeholders are already stepping up to assist. Please help us make outdoor learning for all California public schools a reality by supporting CalSOL, joining our mailing list, and signing our pledge of support.  Updates will be emailed regularly informing supporters of how they can best serve this effort. Contact Simon Breen, the Conservancy’s Education Director, at [email protected], or 619-481-2661, for more information.

For a more in-depth information about some of the benefits of outdoor education, read A Better Future Begins Outdoors.

“In my book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, I wrote: ‘An environment-based education movement—at all levels of education—will help students realize that school isn’t supposed to be a polite form of incarceration, but a portal to the wider world.’ The California Statewide Outdoor Learning (CalSOL) movement can open this portal, not just for the well being of our children’s health and minds, but for the health of our planet. California has the opportunity to be bold and lead the world.”

• Richard Louv, American nonfiction author and journalist.

Have a question about CalSOL? Please ask!

    “The goals that CalSOL aspires to are ones that I personally believe in. I am well aware that countless studies have shown that meaningful connection to nature in youth increases our connection to all things, creating better ability to interact and learn going forward.”

    • Greg Koch, Co-Founder of Stone World Bistro & Gardens