OLYMPIA–Organizations offering outdoor education experiences for students now can apply for state grants.
The Outdoor Learning Grants program, created by the Legislature in 2022, provides funding to develop and support educational experiences for Washington public school students. Grant recipients must provide education programs with activities learning in, for or about the outdoors. Grant recipients are encouraged to incorporate tribal curriculum that infuses traditional ecological knowledge in field trips.
The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) jointly manage the grant program. Applications are being accepted now with pre-application due June 15 and final applications due July 13. Applicants can learn more about the program on the RCO web page.
“All students deserve and need access to the outdoors, but they don’t always get it,” said Sheila Wilson, the OSPI Outdoor Education Program manager. “This program literally will be a breath of fresh air for students, as outdoor learning will improve their mental and physical health, raise their grades and make them more likely to graduate and create better relationships with their peers. These grants will help get the most vulnerable students outside to reap these benefits.”
Federally recognized Native American tribes and outdoor education providers that are local governments (cities, towns, counties, port districts, park and recreation districts, etc.), qualified nonprofit organizations (501(c)3, 501(c)1, or 501(c)4 tax-exempt organizations), state agencies or federal agencies may apply.
The grant program was offered for the first time in 2022 and received 72 applications requesting more than $8 million.
“The large number of applicants for this new grant program shows the tremendous need for this kind of outdoor education,” said Megan Duffy, RCO director. “Getting kids outside is so important and teaching them while they are in an outdoor environment will benefit all Washingtonians as those kids grow up and become parents, employees, business owners, entrepreneurs and leaders. Investing today will pay big dividends in years to come.”