The Dirt on School Gardens: Spring 2019

Our dream of a ‘garden for every school’ is becoming reality! Here are some recent highlights as kick off another season:

  • We approved garden grant requests for $10,000 to nine school garden projects in Bend, Sisters, Sunriver, and Prineville. These funds are helping schools implement garden-based learning in ways that meet their own unique needs and goals.
  • Our Garden Educator Network is now comprised of 117 educators in our region! The most recent workshop, “Spring Activities in the School Garden,” offered hands-on lesson ideas and a tour around the OSU Extension demonstration gardens.
  • Our FoodCorps Service Member, Tracy, is working with students at Three Rivers Elementary and Bear Creek Elementary schools. As part of a national pilot project with FoodCorps, she just conducted a ‘Tasty Challenge’ at Three Rivers, where students tried one vegetable prepared two ways and selected their favorite. Nutrition Services have since planned out a fresh food tasting once per month in the coming school year!
  • Bend-La Pine School District implemented a School Garden Development Application that we helped to develop. Last month, the first permanent outdoor raised bed garden has been approved by the district.

Lastly, our own Kansas Ave. Learning Garden is thriving! Swing by for Happy Hour in the Garden, a fun volunteer event, each Tuesday from 4-6pm.

Learn more about the Garden For Every School Initiative. 

Outdoor School Days Spring Internship

*Update 4/29: This position has been filled.

The intern will play a vital active role in providing outdoor school programming for elementary and middle school this spring. The intern will work directly with the Outdoor School Coordinator to deliver the education program. Program delivery includes: presenting lessons, providing student management, and educating students about natural resources and environmental stewardship.

Internship Dates: April 30th through June 3rd, 2019. Pre-planning/training meeting week of April 22nd (TBD). Intern must work all 11 outdoor school days: April 30th, May 2, 7, 9, 14, 16, 21, 23, 28, 30, June 3. Start time: 7:45 am / End time: 2:30 pm

The intern will spend approximately 90% of his/her time as an instructor. He/she will spend another 10% of his/her time assisting with outdoor day coordination and general program support (such as maintaining supplies and helping with curriculum).


  • Teaching experience and/or interest in traditional and/or non-traditional education programs
  • Enthusiasm for working with students in outdoor education
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Ability to work independently as well as being a strong team player, with minimum supervision
  • Ability to commit to the full term of service for which they are applying
  • Regular and reliable attendance
  • Currently enrolled in college or high school

The intern will receive hands-on experience in field-based education as well as opportunities to network with both formal and non-formal educators. In addition to gaining valuable hands-on experience delivering environmental education programs, the Outdoor School Intern will also receive an education stipend between $750-$1,000 for successful completion of 100 hours.

Read more and fill out the application here, then please email responses to Becca Gilbert, Sustainability Educator. 

2019 Garden Grants Award Winners

The Environmental Center is proud to announce the winners of their annual Garden Grant Program.

Through community, business, and foundation support, we approved requests for $10,000 to nine school garden projects in Bend, Sisters, Sunriver, and Prineville. Schools receiving award funds include: Crooked River Elementary School, Seed to Table Educational Farm for Sisters Elementary School & Sisters High School, Three Rivers School, REALMS High School, Waldorf School of Bend, Wonder Years Preschool, and Desert Sky Montessori School.

Projects include relocating a large donated greenhouse; building new raised beds; critter-proofing existing garden beds; turning an unused bike rack into a temporary mini greenhouse; improving outdoor classroom space; purchasing garden supplies and curriculum; and building a rainwater fed container garden.

“Once again we are excited about the innovative ideas that schools are coming up with to connect their students to plants, food and our environment through school gardens,” said Denise Rowcroft, School Gardens Program Manager with The Environmental Center. “These funds are helping schools implement garden-based learning in ways that meet the unique needs and goals of their own school community.”

The goal of The Environmental Center’s Garden Grant Program is to provide local funding for public and private Pre K – 12 schools in Central Oregon to build or support a school garden. Gardens can be indoors, or an outdoor classroom, depending on the needs and goals of each school.

“Local schools are fortunate to have opportunities like the Garden For Every School Program,” said Jackie Wilson, Bend La-Pine School District Sustainability Coordinator. “It helps students to connect to meaningful experiences outside the classroom and to become thriving and sustainability-minded citizens.”

Garden activities and education provide a wide range of positive benefits for kids, communities and the environment. Garden grants is one strategy in The Environmental Center’s Garden for Every School program. As part of this program, The Environmental Center also provides technical assistance to schools, has a FoodCorps service member to connect kids to healthy food in schools through garden and nutrition lessons, organizes local Garden Educator Network trainings and events, and operates the Kansas Avenue Learning Garden. Our garden grant funds this year were raised through donations from almost 60 local community members, generous businesses, and foundations.

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.

Garden For Every School Fall 2018 Update

We are excited to be kicking off another school year rolling out our Garden for Every School initiative – our community effort to support school garden development in a way that is unique to each school’s needs, and done so with long-term sustainability in mind. To begin the school year, 14 local garden educators (potentially reaching over 700 students) gathered at The Environmental Center in mid-September for a training with OSU Extension Nutrition Education Program staff on the topic of Building Capacity with a School Garden Committee. With support from the Oregon Farm to School & School Garden Network, we act as the Central Oregon Regional Hub for school garden education, and we organize these events that feature trainings, resource sharing, and school garden tours as one of our strategies to support a garden for every school.

Thanks to strong community support, our summer garden grant campaign successfully raised $10,000 to support school garden projects in Central Oregon. The grants application period is now open, and the application, information, and highlights from last years’ grants are all available here, under the Garden Grants tab. Deadline is November 19th.

We’d like to thank our 2018 Garden For Every School business sponsors who make this initiative possible:

We would also like to officially welcome our new FoodCorps Service Member, Tracy Ryan. FoodCorps mission is to connect kids to healthy food in their schools.

During the 2018-2019 school-year, Tracy will be serving in Bear Creek Elementary School in Bend and Three Rivers School in Sunriver. Tracy will support activities in Bear Creek’s outdoor garden and assist with with indoor gardening and healthy food lessons during their weekly Friday afternoon Garden Club. This club is offered as an elective class to all Bear Creek students. She will also facilitate their staff Garden Committee’s collaboration on how best to serve students through hands-on activities in both the garden (their outside classroom) as well as the indoor classroom.

At Three Rivers School, Tracy will be working with the school’s Wellness Committee and their very creative indoor “mobile garden” that is housed in their Garden Room. Tracy will utilize this room throughout the school year to provide hands-on activities and lessons in gardening and healthy food lessons for K-5 classes.

Tracy will also be serving in the cafeteria of both schools by role modeling healthy food choices as well as encouraging students to try new foods. She looks forward to supporting Bend-La Pine School District’s Wellness Policy goals of healthy eating patterns and increased physical activity, which are essential for students to achieve their full academic potential, full physical and mental growth, and lifelong health and well-being.

Here at our own Kansas Avenue Learning Garden, the 5th graders at Amity Creek Elementary School came full circle by returning to the garden to harvest what they planted last spring as 4th graders. Back at their school, students prepped and ate delicious roasted root veggies, kale chips and tomato bruschetta.

An additional thank you to all the volunteers who helped out in our Kansas Ave. Learning Garden during the Tuesday Happy Hour in the Garden series! Don’t forget we have one more fall work party on October 20th, if you’re available to lend a hand.

Water Cycle Education Program Highlights

The Environmental Center and the City of Bend are expanding our Water Cycle Education Program to include a pilot full-day field trip around Tumalo Falls. Our goal is to deepen students’ sense of watershed stewardship and boost their awareness through visiting utility facilities, interactive games, exploring models, and discussions with local water conservation professionals, hydrologists, chemists and water operations staff.

Last week, City staff guided students in their investigation of the Bend Municipal Watershed, watershed models at Tumalo Falls, and water testing at the Water Filtration Facility. The Environmental Center staff lead students in analyzing stormwater pollution models and a water cycle games at Skyliner Lodge.

Together over two days, we educated 300 6th grade students from Cascade Middle School about their watershed. The Water Cycle Education Program is ongoing and includes two field trips and four in-class lessons. During the 2018-2019 school year, we will continue to reach more middle school and elementary students in Bend!

Photo highlights thanks to photographer and Environmental Center intern, Grant Stein.

Green Spotlight: Bend Montessori School

On any given day of the week, around lunch time at The Environmental Center, it’s common to hear the laughs of preschoolers drifting upstairs to our office from the Kansas Ave. Learning Garden below. If you look out the window, you’ll see an excited group of Bend Montessori students in reflective vests (as they just safely walked across the street) who are now enjoying outdoor play time – digging in the garden beds, raking around gravel, and climbing on trees and picnic tables.

Bend Montessori School has been our neighbor since they opened their current location in 2013. Owner Jessica Born, Miss Jessica, has created a special place for 3-6 year olds and their families. Bend Montessori School’s mission is to cultivate the human potential in an authentic Montessori program. At school, students demonstrate a respect and love for themselves, others, and the world.

The school is in close proximity to The Environmental Center’s Kansas Avenue Learning Garden, Troy Field, and Mary Jane Park. Outdoor play occurs each day, and the children get to choose where they’d like to go. Being able to offer an outdoor play experience so close to the school is a huge part of the unique Bend Montessori approach. Born explained that unstructured play time allows the kids to discover a lot in the moment, and have a sensory experience that changes with each season. This has been a compelling draw for many of the Bend Montessori families. And even though these outdoor spaces may not have playground equipment, there’s no shortage of fun to be had in any weather!

Bend Montessori School manages three beds in our Learning Garden. One is full of strawberries that return each year; and one is used for practicing how to use garden tools and watering cans – the “digging bed,” as they call it. The students are also sprouting seeds using wet cotton balls back in the classroom. As soon as they sprout, the kids will transplant beans, sunflowers and corn to their third garden bed.

Miss Jessica’s favorite time of year is when children are able to experience the height of growing season, when food is being produced right before their eyes.

“When a child can pluck something from the vine or stem and taste it right then and there, it creates an instant connection to their food,” she said.

We’ve witnessed firsthand the kids’ excitement over chives, tomatoes, hot peppers and berries. Recently, chives have been the biggest hit! Miss Jessica said even the most selective eaters are willing to try new foods in the garden.

Students are also introduced to garden insects – butterflies, lady bugs and bees. Back in the classroom, students care for “Lady Bug Land” and raise caterpillars in a lesson about the process of transformation. In fact, the class will release newly emerged painted lady butterflies in our Learning Garden this week. The students also learn about the importance of bees and other pollinators. Throughout the season, they observe and become comfortable with our beehive in the Learning Garden. Eventually, they will differentiate bees from wasps and hornets, and begin to understand bees’ function in nature.

Miss Jessica is also committed to exposing families to alternate modes of transportation. She strongly encourages families to walk or ride bikes to school – and many do! In addition, she enjoys educating our community about riding the bus. Bend Montessori takes two field trips per year, and they take the bus roundtrip to their destinations. This provides the kids with a sensory learning experience, and it also encourages the parents to look more seriously at public transportation, since their kids are participating in the outings.

The first field trip is to Base Camp Studio, where students craft a group costume for our annual Earth Day Parade. Earth Month is a big theme in the Bend Montessori classroom, largely due to their relationship with The Environmental Center. In 2017 the class dressed up as buzzing bees in a swam; and this year, they were slithering snakes.

The second field trip is to Knott Landfill, a very visual experience for this age group. The excursion really drives home what kids practice in the classroom – sorting recyclables using labeled bins, and composting fruit and veggies. While at the landfill, students AND parents learn where our garbage ends up when it goes ‘away’.

“Through both of these field trips each year, we’re supporting our families through education, as well,” said Born.

Miss Jessica and the staff of Bend Montessori will wrap up the school year with a picnic in June. Learn more about the school here – check out upcoming events, sign up for an introduction workshop, and read more about the unique Bend Montessori community!

We’re Looking for a Water Education Program Intern!

Title: Water Education Program Intern

Supervisor​: April Farmer, Water Education Lead, Sustainability Educator

Position Type: Internship Position

Timeline: September through October and then in the spring April through June. Approximately 60-100 hours throughout the internship. Start date is September 3rd .

Organization Overview: The Environmental Center’s Mission is to embed sustainability into daily life in Central Oregon. For us, sustainability is about people, the planet and prosperity for all. We seek to build a society that meets human needs equitably, lives within our planet’s ecological limits, and build a prosperous economy for all. The Environmental Center’s (TEC) Sustainable Youth and Schools program provides sustainability education for Central Oregon youth and teachers. We educate youth about sustainability and how their choices can have an impact on the planet, through classroom presentations, school activities and projects, outdoor school days and other programs. We have approximately 10,000 student contacts a year through our EarthSmart Program, Water Conservation Program and Outdoor School days.

Position Summary: This position is a critical part of our sustainability education team, supporting the water education lead in the planning, delivery and evaluation of our education programs. Interns will assist staff with the City of Bend and City of Redmond Water Programs field trips. Training will start on September 3rd with flexible hours. September 13th and 20th from 8am until 3pm are mandatory. The ideal candidate will have a passion for sustainability and resource conservation and meet the preferred qualifications below. The position requires a willingness to teach in the classroom as well as outside.


The essential functions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Work with the water education lead program director to plan, promote, coordinate, schedule, deliver and evaluate youth education programs and activities
  • Assist in developing and updating youth education program curriculum and materials; ensure alignment with local, state and other educational standards, as directed by your supervisor
  • Guiding students through student led learning and facilitating student experiential learning experiences
  • Organizing and learning materials, pre and post program
  • Collaborating with the City of Bend and the City of Redmond to align educational lessons and materials to city conservation and wastewater goals
  • Teaching two separate and place based series about water in each city, focused on human interaction with the water cycle and wastewater treatment
  • Designing and teaching experiential learning lessons
  • Preparing, conducting, and targeting outreach to diverse audiences including Bend La-Pine and Redmond School District teachers and students
  • Designing and teaching water conservation, wastewater and climate change educational lessons to Bend La-Pine and Redmond School District students and faculty
  • Communicating verbally and through email to community members inquiring about conservation, climate change and wastewater education
  • Conducting evaluations of students and teachers in pre and post program surveys to identify areas for improvement for the coming year
  • Assisting program lead marketing the program at Teachers Night Out on September 13th
  • Tracking hours


  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Personal computer
  • Ability to work independently as well as being a strong team player, with minimum supervision
  • Ability to commit to the full term of service for which they are applying
  • Regular and reliable attendance of SEM workshops and onsite BOA’s
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Currently enrolled in college or recently graduated
  • Understanding of sustainability and conservation strategies
  • Desire to increase water conservation and learn about rules and regulations guiding water distribution, treatment and reclamation
  • Perform other duties as assigned by your supervisor

Intern Benefits Include: The intern will receive hands-on experience, teaching experience and water system management understanding.

To Apply: ​Please send a cover letter describing interest and qualifications and resume electronically to Please put – Water Program Intern – in the subject line.

Meet our 2018 Spring Outdoor School Interns

The Environmental Center’s outdoor school program offers students an all-day excursion outside the classroom to a natural area. We travel to sites throughout Central Oregon – including Sawyer Park, Cline Falls State Park, Shevlin Park, and Skyliner Lodge.

Students rotate through several different environmental education activities, allowing ample time for exploration and free play in the woods. The program aligns with the learning strands of the environmental literacy plan and correlate with Oregon state standards. Lessons are aimed at increasing general understanding of ecological principles, considering our relation to natural systems and communities, and more.

The outdoor school program depends on several interns each season in order to reach as many students as possible in our region. This spring, we have Brandon, Michelle and Antoinette as part of our team. We are grateful for all their hard work and dedication to sustainability education! Here’s a little more about these awesome interns…

Brandon Thurman (left):

“My favorite part of outdoor school is being able to facilitate a fun day in the outdoors and seeing how excited the students get when they are learning in an environment other than a classroom.”

Brandon is a soon to be OSU Cascades Tourism and Outdoor Leadership and Recreation Management graduate. He is an Oregon native and enjoys the outdoor education experience and exploring our natural areas. Brandon is a natural leader and provides a fun learning environment for students and for our staff. You can always count on him for a good laugh! He incorporates his love for our natural areas with the games and activities he leads, and you can be sure to find him playing right alongside the students he is instructing!

Michelle Van Hilten (middle):

“The best part for me is being able to spark an interest in kids about nature and facilitate learning about this beautiful place we live in. I love being able to work with them to share my passion to enjoy and preserve the outdoors, and show them why we should protect these natural areas.”

Michelle is a soon to be graduate of OSU Cascades Tourism and Outdoor Leadership and International Eco-Tourism. She is a true Bendite and has a passion for experimental learning in the outdoors as well as conservation efforts for our delicate environment. Michelle is a wonderful educator and provides a wealth of knowledge to students while ensuring they enjoy their time outdoors together!

Antoinette Weaver (right):

“The best part of outdoor school for me has been meeting a group of like minded people who care about what we are contributing to. It’s been great to work with people,both interns and volunteers, who want to be there and put a lot of effort into what we do.”

Just graduated from UNC-Greensboro with Environmental Science and Business degrees. A day after graduating, she packed up her car and drove across the country to move to Bend and begin an internship with TEC two days later. Antoinette has a passion for Mother Nature and our planet. Ask her about why she stepped into this role immediately after acquiring her degree and she will tell you, “There is no time for breaks when it comes to saving our planet!” Antoinette is an excellent source of fun in the outdoors and teaches with enthusiasm and passion, which rubs off on all of the students.

Excited kids outdoors raising hands

Register for Summer Camp

The Environmental Center is taking our education program out of the classroom this summer! We have two programs geared at teaching students to be leaders, live lighter on the planet, and connect to the natural world. If you have questions before signing up, please call or email Jackie Wilson at 541-385-6908 x 15 .

Register today! Click here and complete our Summer Programs registration form.

Eco-Hero Adventures

What is sustainability and how can I live lighter? Let your child answer these questions while biking, swimming, and playing this summer. We have partnered with Commute Options to explore and learn from the seat of a bike. Through this camp, we will teach you how to bike safely around the town while learning about sustainable living right here in Bend. Students will learn about sustainable food, renewable energy, outdoor recreation, environmental ethics, and will have fun; all from a bike!

Ages: 9 – 12
Times: 9AM – 5PM
Cost: $200 for 1 camper, $300 for siblings.
Location: The Environmental Center, 16 NW Kansas Ave
Session 1 : 7/9-7/12/2018
Session 2 : 7/30-8/2/2018
Session 2 : 8/20-8/23/2018

Forest Explorers

Nothing says summer like hiking, fort building, and exploring. Let your kids join us for two days of fun and play in the beautiful setting of Skyliner Lodge. Located 10 miles outside of Bend, we will learn about natural history, explore the forests, create forts, splash in Tumalo creek, and have fun with new friends in the woods.

Ages: 7-10
Times: 8:30AM – 4PM
Cost: $100 for 1 camper, $150 for siblings
Location: Skyliner Lodge, 16125 Skyliners Road Bend, OR, 97701
Session 1 : 8/9-8/10/2018
Session 2 : 8/27-8/28/2018