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County grows Outdoor Education and Recreation Program
The Benton County Natural Areas and Parks created the Outdoor Education and Recreation Program two years ago and continues to grow. One of the most successful ways the program has been able to grow is through partnerships with other organizations within our communities.
Learn more about Benton County Natural Areas and Parks’ Outdoor Education and Recreation programs at www.co.benton.or.us/parks/page/outdoor-education-recreation-program.
Forests, Organisms, Creeks, U Study! (FOCUS)
A partnership between Oregon State University Extension Service Benton County and Benton County Natural Areas and Parks department creates the FOCUS (Forests, Organisms, Creeks, U Study!). FOCUS is a 4-H school enrichment program at Beazell Memorial Forest & Education Center as both a base for the students and as indoor lab space.
In its third year, the FOCUS (Forests, Organisms, Creeks, U Study!) program brings 3rd-4th grade students to Beazell Memorial Forest for hands-on scientific learning experiences. Extension staff and trained volunteers lead the educational programs. Program topics include forest and riparian ecosystems, diverse wildlife habitats, native biodiversity, biological indicators of environment quality and critical thinking skills. The FOCUS programming addresses Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards. Students attending this year are from Philomath, Blodgett, Alsea, Wilson and Mt. View schools, and there is a waiting list for future years.
Family Mushroom Hunt
The Family Mushroom Hunt, also held at Beazell Memorial Forest, is a very popular event in the community. A collaboration with the Corvallis Environmental Center, educators and volunteers share the marvelous world of mushrooms and other fungus as the community hikes through the forest to visit interactive displays and activities. In its second year, this outdoor education and recreation program draws crowds of over 300 people.
Outdoor Summer Adventure Program
The Outdoor Summer Adventure program is a new collaboration between Benton County Natural Areas and Parks and Corvallis Parks and Recreation. Designed for 8 to 12-year-olds, the program provides youth with 4 days of fun, summer adventures that explore Benton County. Countywide scholarships for eligible participants enrolling in these specific programs are available. Registration for outdoor summer adventures is currently available through Corvallis Parks & Recreation at www.corvallisoregon.gov/index.aspx?page=253.
The first day kicks off in the coast range with rock climbing. The county and city collaborates with Cascadia Expeditions, Inc., to provide expert rock climbing instruction to youth. Participants will learn the “ropes” of basic beginner belaying, bouldering and many other climbing skills. Participants will start with an overview of the techniques and gear, followed by activities to learn how to climb. They will then “take it to the wall” to have fun with your new skills!
Day two takes youths “Back in Time” at Fort Hoskins. Participants will learn how to “geocache” using a compass to find hidden Kalapuya Native American “treasures” in the park, followed by playing old time games. In the afternoon, youths take part in historic re-enactments at the civil war era parade grounds.
The third day of the Outdoor Summer Adventure program provides youths with wildlife explorations at Beazell Memorial Forest. Participants take a hike to look for signs of wildlife (tracks, homes, and more) and the habitat along Bird Loop prairie. Water samples will be collected from Plunkett Creek for participants to view under the microscopes in the Beazell Education Center. Youths also learn about and see skulls, fur and nests of animals that live in the Beazell Memorial Forest. The day will end by learning about native game fish and practicing some fishing skills, such as knots, casting, baits and fishing safety.
The program concludes with a Willamette River boating and conservation adventure with Cascadia Expeditions, Inc. Participants will learn about riverside conservation at the Greenbelt Land Trust’s “Horseshoe Lake,” followed by learning basic boating skills and floating down the Willamette River to Irish Bend County Park. Registration for the Outdoor Summer Adventures program is available at www.corvallisoregon.gov/index.aspx?page=253.
Partnership with the OSU Early Childhood Development Center
A collaboration with the Early Childhood Development Center at Oregon State University provides access to natural areas and outdoor recreation at an early age. Children from 2-6 years old that are enrolled at the Early Childhood Development Center go to Beazell Memorial Forest to experience prairie and creek activities.
“Research is showing that if you can get kids into natural areas and parks, there is a higher likelihood they will have a lifelong interest and passion for the outdoors,” says Adam Stebbins, Natural Resource Coordinator with Benton County Natural Areas and Parks.
“We collaborate with the OSU Early Childhood Development Center and have their kids out at the Beazell Memorial Forest and Education Center. We teach them how to cast and fish, and about native wildlife’s habitats and life histories through hands-on activities.
“Our partnership with the OSU Early Childhood Development Center provides a connection to the families and communities that we want to experience the county’s beautiful natural areas.”
“The changing demographics in our communities make this experiential outdoor learning all the more important. We want to do a better job at reaching all families in our communities and providing access to rich natural areas, outdoor education and recreational opportunities, and embed an appreciation and love for the outdoors at an early age.”
Adair County Park Total Solar Eclipse camping
The county’s Outdoor Education and Recreation Program continues to grow. This August, as part of the Outdoor Education and Recreation Program, the department also will host a Total Solar Eclipse camping and viewing event at the Adair County Park. 150 tent camping sites and 12 RV sites are available for Sat., Aug. 19 and Sun., Aug. 20 for $100. Call 541-766-6871 for reservations. Proceeds from this event and all other Outdoor Education and Recreation fees are invested back into the program.