Explore the Gorge Outdoor Education Program

Students in the Clausen program helping maintain Gorge lands.

What is Explore the Gorge Outdoor Education Program?
One of the keys to Friends of the Columbia Gorge’s success over the years has been building public support for Gorge protection. While we have been successful with several generations over three decades, today’s children are less connected with nature than any previous generation. Educators have begun to identify this lack of experience in the out-of-doors as a real problem. Issues include a tendency toward a sedentary lifestyle, fear of the natural environment, and a lack of environmental literacy. As a result, this upcoming generation may be far less equipped to take on the complex environmental challenges handed down to them. This could have grave consequences for the Columbia Gorge.

Check out the photos from the 2015 program!

Explore the Gorge is funded by the Vic Clausen Youth Education Fund. It was established in 2008 with a $65,000 gift from long-time supporter and Vancouver resident Phyllis Clausen in honor of her late-husband. With a strong environmental background, Phyllis saw the need to provide an environmental education experience. Explore the Gorge was established in 2008 in partnership with the Washougal, WA, School District, where it continues today. Over 1000 middle school students have participated in this program.

Read about the 2015 program!

The goal of the program is to expose local youth to the wonders of the Columbia Gorge, its significance as a national treasure, and the story of its preservation through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act. This two or three-day outdoor program strives to nurture the connection that Washougal students already have to the Gorge and builds on their sense of place to develop a land stewardship ethic. We hope this program provides powerful memories which the students may recall when considering the fate of Gorge protection as adults.

“I feel so encouraged to know that our program is growing and that in other places, too, people are remembering the values of outdoor programs for kids' long term health and overall development. You are doing something of significant worth.” - Phyllis Clausen

June 10, 2014, Camas-Washougal Post Record: A Connection to Conservation

June 11, 2013: Camas-Washougal Post Record: A Natural Classroom

2013 Lewis & Clark magazine article about this program.

June 21, 2011, Camas-Washougal Post Record: Empowering Observation

To learn more about this program and how you can get involved, please contact Maegan Jossy, Outreach Manager.

Support the next generation's outdoor education!

Make a gift
to the Explore the Gorge Fund today. Your gift will help continue and expand this valuable outdoor education program.