New Youth Educator: Geneva Mayall

This August, we added a new member to our Youth Education team. Meet Geneva Mayall. She was born and raised in Central Oregon and graduated from Gonzaga University with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies and Biology. Geneva has worked with kids in a variety of scopes including teaching science labs, leading a walking school bus program, and leading backpacking trips at a camp. Geneva will be our Water Education program lead and a sustainability educator for the EarthSmart program. Geneva has been at The Environmental Center a little over a month and has already shared her lively and entertaining spirit with us. We asked her a few “get to know you” questions, and hope you enjoy learning a bit more about her!

What excites you about working for TEC?
This is an organization that embodies the original small-town Bend that I grew up in.  It has a strong sense of community and that gets portrayed into the larger Bend community through events and outreach programs. I have fond memories of dressing up for the Earth Day Parade as a kid and taking pictures with the puppets. Three years ago when I moved back to Bend from my undergrad program, I told myself, “I’m going to work here someday.” Fast forward three years to working at TEC and being welcome with open arms. It’s a family. We care for our home and we care for each other, and I love that.

As a new educator in the classroom, what is something you hope to inspire students to learn or do?
Being new to teaching in a classroom setting allows me the freedom of adaptability. I come in with no preconceived ideas of the “right way” to teach. I’m trying to pull from my experience as a student and use techniques that I found helpful. I never did well with sitting still or staring at a PowerPoint, so my goal is to get these kids moving and actively learning through experiences and self-discovery. I hope to inspire students to ask questions, and then ask more questions about those questions!

Have you learned anything from a student yet?’
I love to have students guess how old I am when I introduce myself, and I heard a range from sixteen to sixty-seven. I’ll let you all keep guessing.

What do students call you?
Miss G!

As a new staff member at TEC, what is something you would like to share with others about the organization?
If you are looking to get involved in the community, TEC is a great hub for resources. I got started at TEC through my history volunteering with them. The people that work here know so much about their field and everyone has a plethora of community connections. Even if  you don’t have time to volunteer but have a question about sustainability, career opportunities, or even gardening, we can steer you in the right direction. We are always excited to make new connections. Come on in and say hi!

What do you like to do in your free time? 
When I’m not in the office or teaching, I am outside. I’m an avid mountain biker, trail runner (I just ran the Three Fingered Jack loop for the first time!) and as soon as the snow falls I’m up in the mountains backcountry skiing. My dream would be to start an after school program to take girls out to go running and mountain biking.

We hope you all get the pleasure to meet Geneva soon!

Green Spotlight: Jose Saldivar

Let us introduce you to Jose Saldivar, a Strategic Energy Management (SEM) Intern who’s making a big difference in our local schools! In December 2018, Jose joined our team to work directly with Jackie Wilson – our Education Director, who doubles as the Bend-La Pine Schools Sustainability Coordinator – on energy conservation projects across the district.

Jose has been working hard to gather and create baseline data for all Bend-La Pine schools for the 2017/18 and 2018/19 school years. Going forward, this data can be compared year over year and the district will be able to track progress toward energy reduction goals.

His favorite part of the job has been experiencing the direct impact of energy-saving efforts, such as unplugging appliances over long holiday breaks, and updating exterior weather stripping at SEM schools in the program (there are six of them).

Jose said he’s really enjoyed learning about Energy Use Intensity (EUI) – a “score” that’s calculated by dividing the total energy consumed by a building in one year, by the total floor area of the building. EUI enables us to compare different sized buildings across the district, and determine how well (and how efficiently) a building is functioning.

Jose is currently enrolled at OSU Cascades in the Energy Systems Engineering Program, and plans to graduate in 2021. This internship program is supported by Energy Trust of Oregon.

He has three boys in the school district, and is also a recent graduate of Mount Bachelor’s Ski or Ride in 5 program. So look out for him in the schools — or on the slopes!

Thanks, Jose, for all the great work you do for TEC and for our community. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with you!

Sign Up for 2019-2020 Youth Education Programs

This blog post is especially geared toward our phenomenal educators in Central Oregon.

Back to school, back to school! It’s time to sign up for FREE environmental education programs with The Environmental Center. This year, we are bringing more programs to you with a new educator (you’ll have a chance to meet her in an upcoming blog post, as today was her first day!), new and updated lessons, and more outreach across Central Oregon schools.

Here’s a rundown of our programs including a brief summary, grade levels offered, and how to sign up. Trust us – we wish we could be in every school each year, but with limited capacity and time, signing up early is key!

  • Earthsmart Series
    • Students discover their impact on the environment through their daily choices at home and school
    • The full series, complete with 6-8 classroom lessons and a field trip to the landfill (dependent on school district), is available for 4th and 5th grade
    • Lessons themes include: Natural resources, carbon footprint impact, waste impact in terms of garbage, recycling, and compost, food waste, water, and pollution (More detailed info about each lesson can be found here)
  • Sustainability Series
    • Aligned with Oregon State Health Standards, this two-part series examines the interrelationship between human and environmental health
    • Series consists of two lessons (typically back to back days) lasting a class period each; can be taught to multiple class periods per day
  • Water Education-Bend
    • In partnership with the City of Bend, The Environmental Center engages students in NGSS aligned hands-on learning about human interaction with the water cycle and how their choices can support a sustainable future for Bend’s water supply
    • Four classroom lessons for middle school students and two for elementary students
    • The classroom lessons are supported by optional half-day field trips to:
      * Bend’s Outback Water Filtration Facility and Bridge Creek Intake
      * Riverbend and Farewell Bend Parks to study stormwater
  • Water Education-Redmond
    • In partnership with the City of Redmond, The Environmental Center presents a free program focused on human interaction with the water cycle and wastewater treatment
    • Hands-on NGSS lesson that provides context for a half-day field trip to Redmond’s wastewater plant

To learn more and schedule any of our programs, please fill out the request form at the bottom of our Youth Ed program page.

We love working with dedicated educators each year throughout Bend LaPine, Redmond, Sisters, Culver, Madras, and Prineville! One student from Redmond reflected on the Earthsmart series:

“The lessons were fun and we learned to keep our earth healthy with smart choices.”– 5th grader

We’re looking forward to another great school year working with new and familiar faces. We hope to see you in your classroom!

–TEC’s Youth Ed Team
Jackie Wilson, Youth Education Director
Becca Gilbert, Earthsmart and Outdoor School Program Coordinator, Sustainability Educator
Geneva Mayall, Bend and Redmond Water Program Coordinator, Sustainability Educator

Outdoor School Days Conclude and Interns Shine!

Our Outdoor School Days program is possible with sponsorship from The Children’s Forest of Central Oregon. Over the course of 15 days, we saw 17 schools from Bend-La Pine, Redmond, and Prineville in grades K-5, which translates to over 1,100 students! Outdoor Days are experiential based hands-on learning, playing, and exploring in nature. Some students experienced the beautiful landscape of Smith Rock on the hotter days of early May, others enjoyed the rushing waters and open green spaces at Tumalo State Park, and the final four groups of students explored the wonderful learning spaces at Skyliner Lodge. Although the rains have been a downer on many of our Central Oregon planned adventures, we were lucky enough to have only one truly wet day, and even so, students had a ball splashing around and finding new ways to stay dry.

Thank you to The Children’s Forest of Central Oregon and our interns for making our Outdoor School Days happen. Teacher feedback is a great way to measure our effectiveness and their insight is always beneficial. Some said:

“Our favorite part was that our kids were learning outside!”

“We enjoyed the hands on activities for the kids. Appropriate information for kindergarten. Fun and friendly staff. Well organized. Patient staff with 5 & 6 year olds.”

“A great balance of direct instruction and games. I appreciated the staff’s flexibility with students that have behavior challenges and rolling with it!”

We couldn’t have put on these Outdoor School Days without our fabulous interns, though. They truly made learning special and unique and came with high spirits on a daily basis. Thanks to Ellysa, Hill, and Sherry, our outdoor days were fun and engaging!

Here is a bit more about all three of them as they wrap up working with us for the spring:

Hill Mannis is new to Bend and has a background working at a summer camp in New York. His presence truly made students feel welcome and his fun-loving attitude made it easy for students to connect with nature and with one another. Students enjoyed playing games, learning new vocabulary, and having one-on-one conversations with Hill. He engaged so many students in various ways, which is a wonderful natural trait!

Sherry Sellars has volunteered with The Environmental Center’s youth education programs before and truly loves being able to use her experience in outdoor education and providing students a fun, safe, and engaging learning environment. You can catch Sherry singing songs, teaching movements and dances, and incorporating funny words to her lessons in order for students to learn and explore!

Ellysa Lindenmaier is an OSU Student in the Nature, Eco, Adventure Tourism Program. She is a native Bendite and has a passion for being outdoors and a deep knowledge of our natural areas. Ellysa is an expert at connecting learning with games and hands-on activities so students loved all the tricks up her sleeve. She’s a natural fit for teaching students in the outdoors and leaves every day with a smile and a funny story!

Hill in his natural teaching environment!
“I love working outdoors and introducing kids to the beauty of nature. I know what it’s like to be in a classroom all day teaching. The best part is teaching kids who normally don’t get a chance to get outside.” -Sherry








“After working with Outdoor School, I’ve discovered that I love teaching environmental education and providing children with opportunities to learn about the natural world. It’s inspiring to see how one day outside can spark students’ curiosity and compassion for the outdoors. I believe that through the connections I made with the students, I taught them as much as they taught me.”

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.

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.