BATTLE GROUND, WA (September 26th & 27th, 2019) – This September we invited over 800 4th grade students to leave their classrooms behind and head to Lewisville Park for a day of outdoor science and nature learning. A Clark County tradition, the Columbia River Watershed Festival is in it’s 23rd year and is more relevant than ever.

As students spend more hours indoors and in front of screens, opportunities for outdoor learning are critical. This year the event was held at Lewisville park, which was transformed into an outdoor classroom, with tents, tables, chairs and stages for a variety of different learning presentations. Presenters engaged students with games, guided hikes, hands-on learning, song and story-telling to cover multiple important environmental issues.

Teacher Kim Stenbak reflected on the day of learning, “I thought it was amazing”. “The best part was seeing how engaged the students were overall and how much they were learning, ” said Taylor Boe, a teacher at Yacolt Primary. The goal is that at the end of the day students walk away with a greater understanding of the unique aspects of our natural region and how we can work together to keep it healthy. We asked some of the 4th graders what they thought after the event. “One idea I have for how to protect the watershed is to stop putting all of our waste into the garbage [and instead recycle and compost]… we can stop most of the Earth’s problems!” said Leland, age 9 from Yacolt Primary.

Now in it’s 23rd year, the Columbia River Watershed Festival is a powerful example of this community’s long standing commitment to educating youth about the environment. Organized by Columbia Springs with partners from the City of Vancouver, Clark Public Utilities, Clark County, Waste Connections, Mount Saint Helen’s Institute and more, this event takes a high level of organizational collaboration to pull off. With the help of many volunteers, event partners work together to ensure that it is free for all participating schools, including bussing. As schools face constant budgeting challenges, it is critical that this type of environmental learning has no financial barriers. Every year the event rotates to a new location and schools are invited to attend based on proximity. By moving the event each year transportation impacts are minimized and students have an opportunity to connect to a natural area near their school or home.

Columbia Springs is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit on the Old Evergreen Highway in Vancouver, WA. We are a 100 acre natural area and hatchery that provides educational programming both on and offsite.