Oregon has a new resident! The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has set up roots in one of the eco-friendliest states in the nation. This strong, green foundation makes Oregon ripe for delivering environmental education into the hearts of homes and classrooms, just as Ranger Rick – our Guardian of the Wild Ambassador, makes his way into hearts and homes of eager children with every magazine delivered.

As a voice for wildlife, NWF hopes to shape and inspire the future generation of conservationists in Oregon and beyond, and we won’t be doing this alone. The National Wildlife Federation’s state affiliate partner, the Association of Northwest Steelheaders (ANWS), is right next door! ANWS is one of the oldest and most-cherished conservation and fishing advocacy groups in the Pacific Northwest. We couldn’t be more excited to share digs with the Steelheaders in Milwaukie, Oregon – just outside Portland – as we expand both our education programs into the Beaver State.

AmeriCorps member, Molly Orr, delivering salmon eggs to an Oregon classroom. Photo by Barnes Elementary School
AmeriCorps member, Molly Orr, delivering salmon eggs to an Oregon classroom. Photo by Barnes Elementary School

So how will we do this? Our new Oregon Education Coordinator is a start! Morgan Parks, a native Oregonian, joined the Northern Rockies, Prairies, and Pacific Region team this past spring to further education efforts across the state. To do so, she has the help of returning AmeriCorps member, Molly Orr, serving her second service year with the Steelheaders and NWF – a unique partnership for the Federation.

Together, they will expand NWF’s Eco-Schools USA program to create more sustainable schools by working with K-12 students, educators and the school community to green their grounds, buildings, curriculum, and student experience. Oregon is a welcoming place for environmental education partnerships with organizations such as the Intertwine Alliance and Environmental Education Association of Oregon. Encouraged by a plethora of like-minded organizations, NWF is poised to explore and establish collaborations to help further our mission.

Already, Morgan and Molly have been busy presenting at the League of United Latino American Citizens Youth Conference and the Oregon Environmental Education Conference, partnering on a teacher workshop with the Oregon Zoo, training to become Salmon Watch educators, and facilitating Eco-Schools workshops for schools in the Beaverton and Hillsboro area through a generous grant from the Gray Family Foundation.

St. Clare School
Teachers at the Oregon Zoo inventory and map their Schoolyard Habitats. Photo by Morgan Parks/NWF

Important to note, moreover, is NWF’s partnership with Oregon Green Schools, a non-profit that works with schools to reduce waste, recycle, save energy, and conserve water. Thanks to overlapping sustainability programs related to Consumption and Waste, Energy, and Water, schools can certify as an Oregon Green School and automatically become an Eco-School at the Bronze Award level through our co-certification partnership. Currently, there are over 250 Eco-Schools in Oregon!

Through NWF’s Schoolyard Habitats and Certified Wildlife Habitat programs, we will work with students, community members, organizations, and businesses to help pollinators like birds, bees, butterflies, bats, and bugs thrive by creating wildlife-friendly gardens. Food, cover, water, places to raise young, and sustainable gardening practices – the basic elements that all wildlife need – is an easy way for everyone to do their part to protect wildlife and become environmental stewards.

Pollinator; Bethany Lake Community Garden
Bee on a sunflower at a community garden in Beaverton, Oregon. Photo by Morgan Parks/NWF

And then there’s fish. Salmon are synonymous with Oregon and create opportunities for fun field trips! As part of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fish Eggs to Fry program, the Steelheaders deliver salmon and trout eggs to classrooms for students to observe, raise, release, and learn about our state’s keystone species. This is a highlight for students and Steelheaders every year. Molly is also assisting Oregon State University Extension Service with their Roots to Wings 4-H Club where fourth through eighth grade Latino students in Molalla, Oregon are using the Fish Eggs to Fry program as part of their bilingual, after-school science club.

We know that unplugging from screens and instead dialing into our connection with nature is key to our health. By connecting families to nature, we will inspire people across the Northwest to get outside, to not only improve their quality of life, but to strengthen a life-long appreciation of wildlife and nature. With events like Family Fish Camp, hosted by the Steelheaders, youth and adults alike can experience an overnight camp where they can learn about fish and angling from the experts. Mark your calendar for next year’s Family Fish Camp on March 17-19, 2017 at Camp Angelos along the Sandy River. Bring the whole family!

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