OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

A workshop empowers teachers to bring nature writing to their classrooms, resulting in students getting published in an established anthology

Not many second graders can say they’re published authors. But thanks to a Nature Writing Workshop at the Straub Environmental Center in 2014, a large group of Salem-area youngsters can boast just that.

For more than a decade, the Straub Environmental Center (SEC) has been a leader in environmental education in the Mid-Willamette Valley. It provides teachers with resources for environmental literacy, holds family nature nights, and leads outdoor retreats and summer day camps, among other programs.

Our hope is that our education programs teach and motivate people to become active stewards in their environment,” says Michelle Cordova, Executive Director. 

One of the SEC’s strengths is its strong relationships across the community, which unite partners and create big wins for everyone involved.

Such was the case with the Introduction to Nature Writing Workshop, which the Gray Family Foundation funded in 2014. Cordova had a relationship with a group called Honoring our Rivers, which publishes a youth anthology of river-related poetry, art, and nature writing. The anthology was looking for ways to get new submissions, and Cordova saw an opportunity.

She utilized a Gray Family Foundation grant to train 20 elementary and middle school teachers over the summer in how to lead nature-writing workshops with their students. The teachers took new skills and tools back to their classrooms. The result was a flood of wonderful submissions from students for the anthology, and some new opportunities for the kids to get outside.

“If you're talking 30 kids per class and 20 teachers, it's a huge impact. A lot of those kids are going to be officially published at the end. How cool is that, a second grader being able to say that they're published already?" Cordova says.

“I would love to do this every year. It is so in line with our mission, and so in line with Honoring our Rivers' mission, and it's reaching out to the teachers and supporting them where they needed help.”