Summer Camps to Get Kids Outside

It’s hard to believe, but summer break will be here before we know it. There are so many great summer camp options for kids in Central Oregon – whether they’re interested in science, technology, art, theater, cooking, music, sports … the list goes on!

The warm months and longer days ahead will also give kids the chance to play outside more. It’s the perfect time to explore nature and maybe discover a new way to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. [Remember, you don’t have to travel far or plan a complex adventure to enjoy outdoor spaces. You can be in your own yard, community park or garden, or anywhere you feel comfortable.]

In addition to spending time outside as a family, here are some great local camps that can help your kids enjoy the outdoors this summer. Several are filling up quickly, and we omitted a few from this list that are already at capacity. And of course, this list is incomplete! What other camps do you love?

Shameless Plug…The Environmental Center team is excited for our own summer camps this year, Eco Hero and Forest Explorers, to help students build leadership skills, live lighter on the planet, and explore their interconnectedness to the natural world. You can learn more about those and register here.

Bend Endurance Academy: Do you have a young cycling enthusiast? BEA will offer Mini Bikers MTB for ages 6-8, Mightly Bikers for ages 9-11, and teen camps for skills-based group riding. They also have all-girls camp options for girls who want to ride together with female coaches.

Bend Montessori School: Two awesome teachers have put together an outdoor-based, 5-week summer program for children ages 3-6. Participants will spend the majority of their days at our Kansas Ave. Learning Garden, with regular outings around the downtown area. Sign up for one, a few, or all five weeks.

Bend Park and Recreation: Browse the Summer Playbook for a variety of summer fun, including several adaptive recreation programs. Your child can learn the basics of nature photography, gain survival skills, create artwork inspired by nature, explore caves, become a fly fisher, and more. Redmond and Sisters districts both have great outdoor summer programs, as well.

Bend Rock Gym: The camps may take place inside, but think of the confidence and skills your kids will build for outdoor climbing experiences! Bend Rock Gym offers Camp Pebble for ages 4-5 and Camp Rock for the older kiddos. There is also an all-girls outdoor day camp at Smith Rock!

Bend Science Station: the Bend Science Station on OSU’s campus offers a variety of themed camps for students of all ages. Register for elementary science days and scientist camps that will help your child understand the natural world around them, from critters to rainbows to fossils.

Boys & Girls Club of Bend: A 10-week summer program for current club members, featuring lots of outdoor time and visits to our Kansas Ave. Learning Garden. Space is still available for older grades.

Camp Fire Central Oregon: Camp Fire is offering several great programs, including: SummerKids theme-based camps for K-6, Tumalo Day Camp for K-8, and a Robotics Program. They also have teen summer programs focused on giving back and building leadership skills.

Camp Tamarack:  For over 83 years, Camp Tamarack has been providing kids with amazing summer experiences to inspire them to find their true potential. There’s very limited space left – but check out their website to see what camps you can still join.

Kid Made Camp: A week-long camp in Sisters and Bend for children entering K-8. Your child might learn to cook, run a food cart, produce a newspaper, design sustainable packaging, or put on a show. All along, kids learn how business can be a positive force in the world, promoting values like sustainability, creativity, and ethical entrepreneurship.

Little Naturalist Summer Camp: Ke Kula Pono Preschool from Hawaii will hold its first Summer Camp in Bend for littles ages 3-5. The camp will be here at The Environmental Center. Sign up to secure your child’s spot by calling Malia at (808) 635-1626.

R.A.D. Camps: R.A.D. Camp explores over 50 unique summer locations in the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests. Perfect for ages 7-17, campers will have the opportunity to explore pristine destinations while learning about their natural surroundings. R.A.D. Camps emphasize fun, free play, camaraderie, and an appreciation for the natural world.

Sunriver Nature Center & Oregon Observatory Summer Programs: A variety of summer camps and programs for children of all ages – including Kinder Critter Camp, Space Rovers, Rocket Science, and more. SNCO Members receive a 15% discount on camp registration fees.

Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe: Paddlers will gain confidence and awareness as they get ready for a lifetime of paddling the rivers of the great Northwest. Tumalo Creek’s team will emphasize both safety and fun as they introduce campers to moving water. Check out their paddle sports adventure week (SUPing, kayking, rafting and sailing) and the whitewater kayaking camp.

Upper Deschutes Watershed Council: Join the UDWC for their first ever summer program! This 4-day adventure camp will have participants exploring four different sites throughout our watershed. Campers will hike and explore some of our most beautiful sites along streams while engaging in hands-on scientific field studies.

Wildheart Nature School: Offering seven weeks of summer camp for children ages 5 -12. Popular themes include Unicorn Whisperers, Witches & Wizards, Juniper Jedis, Hobbit & Faerie Hunters, Mythic Mermaids, Dragon Riders, and more.

A Colorful Celebration of the Natural World

The Environmental Center will celebrate Earth Day by hosting its annual Earth Day Fair and Parade on Saturday, April 20, 2019. This free community event is a celebration of sustainable living and our natural world.

“The Earth Day Fair and Parade is a fun opportunity to celebrate sustainability in action right here at home,” said Mike Riley, Executive Director. “This event offers something for everyone, and will inspire you to connect with your community and surroundings in new ways.”

The event will kick off with a festive parade, complete with tunes from B Side Brass Band and families dressed up to honor a favorite plant or animal. Everyone is encouraged to create a costume for the parade. Community costume-making workshops are scheduled for April 6, 14 and 17.

No written words on banners or costumes, and no motorized vehicles in the parade.

Staging for the parade begins at 11:00 a.m. on Louisiana Avenue next to McMenamins. The parade will start promptly at 11:30 a.m., traveling through downtown Bend and ending at a street fair on Kansas Avenue in front of The Environmental Center. Immediately following the parade, local artist Teafly Peterson will share the story of the Earth Guardians, three large-scale puppets that are a creative highlight of this event.

The fair will be held from 12:00 – 3:00 p.m. and will include live music from Maxwell Friedman Group, food carts, a Kid’s Zone with interactive activities, and organizations/green businesses that are powering the local sustainability movement. The fair will also feature electric vehicle demos.

Volunteers are needed for this event. Please email Kersey or call (541) 385-6908 x18 to get involved. 

This event is presented by Strictly Organic Coffee Co.  For more information about this event, visit this webpage.

Green Spotlight: Tyler Wilson

Tyler is a sustainability educator at The Environmental Center, helping to deliver our growing EarthSmart program to even more schools. He teaches at Bear Creek Elementary, Pine Ridge Elementary, and Jewell Elementary. Tyler’s creativity and education background are a great asset to our youth ed team; he’s even provided our lessons with some refreshing updates! You can spot him riding his bike all over town, strapped down with EarthSmart materials – even our worm compost bin.

More about Tyler in his own words…

Where can we find you when you’re not working?

Hopefully outside! Whether I’m biking, hiking, running, or cross-country skiing, I love moving around in nature.  When I’m out on a quiet road or trail, I feel more alive. I breathe more deeply, think more freely, and exist in a genuine way I rarely feel indoors.

If you were to share a lecture on one topic you’re passionate about, what would you discuss?

I would share a lecture on the what, why, and how of mindfulness: what it is, why it’s important, and how to incorporate it into your busy life.

Recently, I have become very interested in mindfulness and meditation.  For the past month, I’ve been trying to meditate a little bit every day. For a few minutes every morning, I simply sit still and observe my thoughts.  This practice has been helping me to live in the present moment.  When I am more present and mindful, I am more flexible and creative when problems arise.  Also, I am better able to achieve goals both large and small.

What’s your favorite sustainable practice at home?

I love cooking and eating delicious vegan food!  In terms of personal sustainability, eating a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.  According to the book Drawdown, a “Plant-Rich Diet” is the 4th most important change humans can make to reverse climate change. Also, vegan food is delicious and fun! If you’re want to learn more about vegan cooking, check out the vegan cookbook section at the public library.

Green Spotlight: Kersey Marion

With donor support, The Environmental Center accomplishes a lot with a relatively small team of staff, Board of Directors, and several amazing volunteers and interns. And we consider ourselves very lucky that Kersey Marion has committed so much time and energy to make our work possible! Kersey has helped out in several programs and continues to find new ways to lend a hand and stay connected to our work, whether she’s digging in our Learning Garden or organizing the Earth Day Parade. She has a positive attitude, unwavering enthusiasm, and a leadership presence that is both inspiring and appreciated here at TEC. Kersey creates space each week to check in with our team to see what can be done to make an impact around here. Right now, she is providing marketing support around our Energy Challenge program while Lindsey is on maternity leave. What a difference this makes!

We’re so impressed with Kersey’s participation in our local community – in addition to her role at Commute Options, she also serves on the Board of Oregon Green Schools and supports several other local organizations and events. We are very grateful to see Kersey not only involved in our mission, but as a deeply engaged community member who is making Central Oregon a better place to live, work, and play.

Thank you so much for all you do, Kersey! 

In her words…

Kersey and her pup, Glory.

The Environmental Center is where community and advocacy meet in beautiful harmony. It’s a place to learn about our living environment and how we can better support it. It brings people together to explore in the dirt and clean up our trash. Most of all, I volunteer with The Environmental Center because of the supportive and passionate staff. Being of service is a value I hold high and the people at TEC allow me to embrace that while making sure that I’m learning along the way. What they do for our community has endless importance and I am always happy to make their jobs a little easier.

Currently, I am the Walking School Bus and Volunteer Coordinator for Commute Options. The program provides a service to students in the Central Oregon region who have culture and infrastructure barriers, making it difficult for them to have access to walking to school. The Walking School Bus program employs adults to lead groups of students to and from school on planned routes. As the Volunteer Coordinator, I have the opportunity to work with community members who want to lend a hand.

If you were to share a lecture on one topic you’re passionate about, what would you discuss?

I would share the importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion trainings for our community, both for our work and personal environments. No matter where you live, there are people from different socioeconomic classes, races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations, to name a few. We need to do the work in order to gain the necessary skills to know that we are inviting everyone and implementing inclusive practices every day.

Where would you most like to go in the world that you haven’t visited yet?

My next travel adventure will hopefully be to Italy with my mom. She has lived in Florida her entire life and has always wanted to wander around the art museums and eat all of the delicious food in Italy. It would be such a privilege to be the one who accompanies her to her favorite place that she’s never been to.

What’s your favorite sustainable practice at home?

Composting! Turning our food scraps, yard clippings and cardboard boxes into nutrient filled soil for our garden is a blast. We have our own science experiment growing in our yard. For me, it’s a way to reconnect to the Earth and contribute to our food system. 

Why Less Matters

Explore how the stuff we buy, use and get rid of everyday, is impacting our world. From furniture to food, our purchasing decisions and behaviors are where we have the most impact, both positively and negatively. We all know the 3 R’s: Reduce Reuse and Recycle, but while most people focus on the 3rd R, – Recycling – it’s Reduce that is the most important. Join staff from The Environmental Center’s Rethink Waste Project to learn more about why stuff matters, globally and here in Deschutes County, and leave with hands on tips to do something about it.

There are three events this series:

  • February 7 @ 6:00 pm – East Bend Library
  • February 8 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm – Sunriver Library
  • February 20 @ 12:00 pm – 12:55 PM – Sisters Library

Denise Rowcroft and Ani Kasch are Sustainability Educators with The Environmental Center, a local non-profit organization working to embed sustainability into daily life in Central Oregon. Denise has managed their Rethink Waste Project and Learning Garden since 2011, and enjoys creatively repurposing leftover and found materials. Ani has been coordinating our LED light bulb installations since 2016 and this past spring kicked off our community Rethink Food Waste Challenge. She is an avid bike commuter and loves cooking meals only with things found in her kitchen.

Mountainfilm on Tour to Arrive in Bend

WHAT: Two nights of culturally rich, adventure-packed and inspiring documentary films curated from the Mountainfilm festival held every year in Telluride, Colorado. The tour will soon visit Bend at the Tower Theatre on February 22-23 with films that explore themes connected to Mountainfilm’s mission: using the power of film, art, and ideas to inspire audiences to create a better world. Each night will feature different films!  

Proceeds from the event will benefit The Environmental Center, a local non-profit organization that works to embed sustainability into daily life in Central Oregon. The Environmental Center helps people live, work, play and learn in ways that will ensure a healthy future for people and the planet.

“Mountanfilm always reminds me why I love being outside,” said Mike Riley, Executive Director of The Environmental Center. “The mix of films about adventure, culture, and environmental issues is a great fit for Central Oregon. We’re thrilled to bring it back for the 16th year.”

The event includes a raffle sponsored by Mountain Supply, Crow’s Feet Commons, Cubicle, and Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe, with prizes that include backcountry ski packages and surf packages. Raffle tickets will be sold in advance online, and each night at the event.

This event is presented by The Gear Fix. Other event sponsors include: Hydro Flask, Lonza Pharma & Biotech, Spork, Area Rug Connection, Bend Craftsmen Company, Blaise Cacciola Architect, Central Oregon Radiology Associates, Dream Home Building and Design, Skjersaa Group, 92/9FM, The Source Weekly, and Wall Street Suites.

WHEN: Friday, February 22nd and Saturday, February 23rd at 7:00 p.m.  Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Different films each night!

WHERE: Tower Theatre – Downtown Bend

TICKETS: $22 in advance; $40 in advance for both shows; $25 at the door. Tickets are available at the Tower Theatre box office or online at You can also purchase raffle tickets online before the event. Get your tickets early — this event always sells out!

FOR MORE INFORMATION:  Call (541) 385-6908 x 18 or email Lauren.

Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation Supports Local School Gardens

The Environmental Center was awarded a one-year grant in the amount of $5,000 to fund a FoodCorps Service Member and to support the Central Oregon Garden Educators Network.

The Environmental Center is committed to increasing garden-based learning opportunities for schools across Central Oregon. Garden activities and education provide a wide range of positive benefits for kids, communities and the environment. Research indicates that integrating garden-based learning into the school environment generates a variety of positive outcomes for students – including physical, intellectual, psychological and more.

The Environmental Center has operated a learning garden for nine years at their facility on Kansas Ave in Bend. In 2017, we took our experience gardening with youth and expanded it to create a “Garden for Every School” initiative in order to support garden education in schools across the region. The Environmental Center now provides classroom and garden lessons with partner schools through a FoodCorps service member; organizes garden educator network events through its role as the regional school garden education hub; provides garden grants and technical assistance to local schools; and supports the school district in school garden development.

The Garden Educator Network, launched in 2016, provides regular opportunities for garden educators to connect through peer-to-peer learning, problem-solving, and resource sharing. In the coming year, these grant funds will provide the community with at least one training and two networking events, including a garden site tour.

The Environmental Center has hosted a FoodCorps service member annually since 2017. These dedicated individuals work with schools with the greatest need (Title 1 schools) to provide intensive support to sustain garden-based learning. Tracy Ryan, the current service member, provides nutrition and garden education services to Three Rivers Elementary School and Bear Creek Elementary School. In the coming year, these grant funds will support this partnership with FoodCorps, allowing Tracy to reach a minimum of 400 students.

“We are grateful to the Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation for the support of our work to expand garden based learning into schools, and to help connect kids to healthy food in school,” said Denise Rowcroft, School Gardens Manager.

Learn more about The Environmental Center’s school garden initiative here.

Grant checks were distributed during a ceremony on January 9, 2019. The Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation awarded a total of $496,550 to 73 organizations across Oregon.

Denise Rowcroft Receives Cooperator Award

Last month, Denise Rowcroft, Sustainability Educator at The Environmental Center, received a Cooperator Award from Oregon State University Extension Association. She was nominated by local extension Nutrition Educators Katie Ahern, Ashley Joyce, and Kaitlin Greene for her work in Deschutes County.

As shared during the presentation, “OSUEA has recognized cooperators for more than 30 years. Each year individuals and businesses are recognized for the significant contributions that have made to extension programs. It is through these cooperators that extension is able to accomplish so much.”

Congratulations, Denise!

Above photo: Denise is pictured with A. Scott Reed, Vice Provost and OSU Extension Service Director; and Wendy Hein, President of OSUEA.

A short excerpt from the awards presentation:

Denise Rowcroft is dedicated to connecting children to the basis of all life – food. She led the transformation of a vacant, weed-infested lot next to The Environmental Center into an outdoor classroom where children tend to the seeds they plant, make discoveries through observations and experiments, apply math and science skills, and get their hands dirty.

The OSU Extension Nutrition Education Program partners with Denise at The Environmental Center Learning Garden in sharing the growing cycle of plants to enjoying the garden bounty through nutrition education and recipe assembly. In partnership with Extension, Denise also created the regional School Garden Educators Network complimenting Extension work in healthy eating promotion at schools. Denise is changing the ways elementary schools are thinking about food, food systems, and learning, one school garden at a time.

Green Spotlight: Tatiana Guerra

“You look busy, how can I help?”

Let’s just say Tatiana Guerra is a super volunteer. And we mean really super.

Tatiana is on the right!

We met Tatiana in the spring of 2017 when her AmeriCorps NCCC team was based at The Environmental Center. Her team, Blue 3, primarily worked on our Energy Challenge program.

“We went around to houses and installed LED light bulbs, water efficient shower heads, and sink aerators in people’s homes,” she said. “Part of our team also stayed in the office to set up the schedule, answer phone calls, and take appointments.”

Blue 3 also helped in other departments – working in the garden each week and helping with outdoor school days, the Earth Day Fair, and a Repair Cafe.

When we received a phone call from Tati about 1.5 years later, we were thrilled to hear that she was moving to Bend! She told us that her time at The Environmental Center gave her a glimpse into life in Central Oregon, and she thought it would be a great place to live, play, and work. Once she decided to make Bend home, it’s no surprise she made her way back to The Environmental Center as a reliable volunteer, dedicated to helping our team in so many ways.

It’s common for Tatiana to reach out and simply ask, “What’s going on? Can I help with anything?” (How amazing is that?) We’re so grateful for her enthusiasm and positive attitude! She is currently supporting the same Energy Challenge program, prepping marketing materials and sending out letters, and assisting with the 2018 Green Tour. She’s also gotten involved in our Rethink Waste Program, preparing Eat First baskets that help people reduce wasted food. We’ve called on Tati to help with last-minute event support, data entry tasks, and more – and she’s been there! All of these actions make a big difference for our organization, and help us to achieve our mission.

Since moving back to Bend, Tati has continued on a service-based career path. She’s working with Commute Options, primarily with the Safe Routes to School program, educating students on bicycle and pedestrian safety. She also works for Bend Park and Recreation District in the Therapeutic Recreation Department. Here, she takes folks hiking, ice skating, cooking, fencing, and more.

If you can’t tell, we appreciate Tatiana’s dependability, upbeat energy, and all the time she’s given to our team. She’s a great advocate for us out in the community, and it’s evident that she is committed to making Central Oregon a better place. Thank you for all you do, Tatiana!

And just for fun, here is a little more about Tati in her own words.

Where can we find you when you’re not working?

When I’m not working you can find me on my bike, skiing in the winter, hiking and canoeing in the summer, enjoying coffee at a local shop, and of course, volunteering at TEC. 🙂

Where would you most like to visit in the world? 

I would LOVE to visit more of Asia…maybe Nepal or Cambodia. I visited India and China this past year and fell in love.

How do you practice sustainability in daily life? 

My favorite (and easy to remember!) sustainable practice is turning the heat off when not home, and turning all the lights off. Many folks forget that money and energy can be saved by simply flipping a switch.

2018 Sustainability Award Winners Recognized

The 2018 Sustainability Awards were announced by The Environmental Center on November 15th at a celebration at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon. The Environmental Center received 13 nominations and the winners were selected by a community review committee.

“Sustainability is a big, complex topic,” said Mike Riley, Executive Director. “Achieving it requires patience and perseverance in the face of often daunting obstacles. Our Sustainability Awards celebrate the citizens, businesses, and organizations in our community that are dedicated to overcoming these challenges and making sustainability real in Central Oregon.”

The Environmental Center presented six awards:

  • Local Food Catalyst – Nicolle Timm-Branch and Central Oregon Locavore
  • Local Food Innovator – Volcano Veggies
  • Business – Wanderlust Tours
  • Creative Re-Cycling – Bend Velo
  • Organization – Bend Science Station
  • Exemplar – Bethlehem Inn

A 13-member committee reviewed the nominations and selected the final winners. The committee members were: Allen Engle, Environmental Center Board; Becca Gilbert, Environmental Center staff; Cassie Lacy, City of Bend; Don O’Brien, Environmental Center Board; Indigo Teiwes, Hydro Flask; Jennifer Letz, Environmental Center Board; Karen Kassy, former Sustainability Awards winner; Kendra Hamerly, GreenSavers; Lauren Williams, Environmental Center staff; Mike Riley, Environmental Center staff; Serena Dietrich, Deschutes Brewery; Tom Elliott, Environmental Center Board; and Tom Rowley, Business Oregon. This year’s awards were designed and created by local artist Pete Servine of NW Modern Design.

The nominees were scored on the basis of their leadership, innovation, and operating practices with regards to sustainability, as well as their community involvement and promotion of social equity.

The 2018 Sustainability Awards are sponsored by Worthy Brewing.