Outdoor School

Cultivating Connection

2022-2023 Outdoor School


Important Updates:

  • Outdoor School registration is now open!

The Crest is offering weekly 3-day Outdoor School sessions geared towards 5th and 6th grade students! Join us at Willow-Witt Ranch for a program immersed in the volcanic geology, wetlands, and organic farm.

We will explore the quiet forests, hiking trails, and turtle pond at the 445-acre property.

Program Offerings

Fall 2022 Program: September 12 – October 28
Spring 2023 Program: May 1 – June 16

Outdoor School is offered Monday through Friday each week. Pre- and post-program classroom visits and/or materials are available.

Three-Day Program:

Three consecutive day trips, 8:30am – 3:30pm. (Times can be adjusted according to specific time constraints.)

Residential Three-Day Program:

outdoor school bird nest activity

Outdoor School bird nest activity

Who We Are

The Crest is a place-based, educational non-profit located at Willow-Witt Ranch, a 445-acre in-holding in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument east of Ashland, Oregon. It is nestled in a valley at almost 5,000′ elevation. As the only farm-associated Outdoor School program, our unique setting allows students to interact with animals such as goats, chickens, ducks, and dogs, and assist with farm and garden tasks.

The ranch is located on the traditional homelands of the Shasta, Upland Takelma, Latgawa, and Athabaskan peoples. We acknowledge that this land was not given to us, but taken from others.


The mission of The Crest is to cultivate the integral connection between people and nature.  We learn from nature the interdependence of humans and the air, soil, food, forest, and water upon which we all depend and the earth to which we all return.


outdoor school students watching wildlife with binoculars

Outdoor School students watching wildlife with binoculars

As we acknowledge the traumas of the pandemic and regional wildfires, we are committed to creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture that integrates social-emotional growth and self care into the Outdoor School experience. Our staff is trained in practices that embrace various learning styles and address the individual needs of each and every student.

As per Measure 99, Outdoor School is funded by the State of Oregon for 5th and 6th graders. This requires 18 hours of immersive outdoor education. Other grades are welcome, but are not covered by the state. To apply for funding, visit:  Outdoor School OSU Extension Services.

Expedite the reservation process by completing The Crest Outdoor School Interest Form. This form helps The Crest understand and plan for your class’s needs.


From a Teacher’s Perspective

“My class really enjoyed their experience with The Crest at Willow-Witt. The activities were engaging and grounded in building environmental awareness and stewardship. The beautiful location made the perfect backdrop as students reflected on what they observed. I was impressed with the organization and planning that was evident in making the farm accessible and engaging to students. Thank you for a fantastic experience!”

Jessica Ward, Talent Elementary School

Our Facilities

Willow-Witt Ranch

  • School bus turn around
  • Education barn
  • Outdoor lesson spaces
  • Turtle pond with observation blind
  • Miles of trails for nature exploration

    More about Willow-Witt Ranch

    The Campground at Willow-Witt Ranch

    • Fully ADA-accessible
    • New wood stove-heated wall tents
    • Fully-equipped cookhouse
    • Fully-equipped bathhouse
    • Outdoor gathering space with tables and benches

    More about The Campground including photos

    Our Outdoor School Program

    • Program built to prioritize trauma-informed care and social-emotional learning.
    • Our facilities can host up to 60 students.

    • We aim for a 1:12 – 1:15 instructor to student ratio.
    • Instruction embraces various learning styles, while facilitating a healthy and respectful learning community.
    • Farm-fresh produce provided to students, as available.
    • On-site First Aid and CPR certified personnel.
    • Pre-visit lessons supplied to classroom teachers will orient students to both the ranch and the educational content. Upon arrival, students enjoy two introductory tours. Our “Farm Tour” explores the history and the inner workings of a diversified organic ranch. Our “Habitats Tour” investigates ecosystems as well as the traditional and current uses of native plants.

    Why The Crest?

    • Environmental education at Oregon’s only farm-based Outdoor School.

    • Located in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, this biodiverse landscape carries rich cultural and natural history.

    • Our programs prioritize trauma-informed care and social-emotional learning.

    • Flexible scheduling and lessons to meet the needs of your class.

    outdoor school campers petting a goat

    Outdoor School campers enjoy petting our hand-raised farm goats

    Lessons and Learning Objectives

    Discussions, games, crafts, hikes, hands-on science, self-guided explorations, traditional knowledge, and nature journaling are woven into our lessons and group activities.

    Farm and Food
    • Gain an understanding of regenerative farming as well as carbon capture and sequestration.
    • Learn more about seasonal, regional foods and supply chains.
    • Explore the importance of the water, seasonal, and composting cycles in farming.
    • Enjoy hands-on interactions with our farm animals and garden.
    Forests
    • Examine the important role forests play in modulating moisture and oxygen, and in sequestering carbon.
    • Study the interdependence of all parts of the forest, including soils, trees, shrubs, forbs, fungi, lichen, animals, and water.
    • Become a forestry scientist — arm yourself with tools and equipment to collect data and evaluate the health of the surrounding forests.
    Birds
    • Identify and study birds in various habitats using binoculars and sound mapping.
    • Examine the influence of humans, forests, and wetlands on migratory and resident bird populations.
    • What is life like as a bird? Explore bird biology and behaviors as well as nesting materials.
    Soils
    • Understand climate change and the carbon cycle as they relate to soil science.
    • Study soil structure and functions; explore the impact of rotational grazing on soil health.
    • Learn first-hand how and why compost is made, then put it to use with a seed ball craft.
    Wetlands
    • Understand the functions of wetlands and explore methods of wetland restoration and protection.
    • Get to know our resident Western Pond Turtles through observation, games, and activities.
    • Dissect a cattail to discover its many uses. Make a pond food web.
    Fire Science
    • Build and manipulate models to represent the effects of fire in various forest types.
    • Learn how to distinguish healthy forest fires from destructive fires.
    • Discuss the traditional Native American use of fire, examine the past century of fire suppression, and evaluate these influences on our valley.
    • Aligned NGSS Standards

    Farm and Food

    5-LS2-1 Ecosystem
    5-LS1-1 Structures and Processes
    H.E.7.4.2 Standard 7: Health-enhancing behaviors

    Forests

    MS-LS2-4 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, & Dynamics
    MS-LS1-5  Structures & Processes
    MS-ETS1-4 Engineering
    5-ESS3-1 Earth & Human Activity
    5-PS1-3 Matter & Its Interactions
    4-LS1-1  Structures & Processes

    Birds

    MS-LS1-4
    MS-LS2-1 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
    3-LS4-2

    Soils

    5-ESS2-1 Earth’s Systems
    3-5-ETS1-3 Engineering Design
    4-ESS2-1 Earth’s Systems

    Wetlands

    5-LS2-1 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
    MS-LS1-5 From Molecules to Organisms
    5-ESS3-1 Earth and Human Activity
    4-LS1-2 From Molecules to Organisms

    Fire Science (contact: Sarah Jones)

    ESS3.C Human Impacts on Earth Systems
    LS2.A Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
    LS2.B Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems
    LS2.C Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience

    Student Requirements

    Meals:

    A morning snack will be provided upon arrival. Lunch should be brought from home.

    Packing List:

    Your student should come prepared to get dirty! Willow-Witt Ranch is located at 5,000 feet elevation and campers should dress in layers.

    What to Wear:

    • Clothing layers of shirt, shorts, and/or long pants
    • Good walking shoes or boots
    • Wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap
    • Sunscreen

    What to Bring in a Backpack:

    • Water bottle
    • Sunscreen
    • Sweatshirt or jacket
    • A full lunch, preferably in zero-waste containers (The Crest will have emergency snacks available for those who arrive without a lunch)
    • A snack
    • A rain jacket if rain is in the forecast
    • A change of clothes, including extra socks
      outdoor school students on a hike on the ranch

      Outdoor School students on a hike at Willow-Witt Ranch (above) and participating in a birding survey (below)

      outdoor school birding survey activity

      Capacity

      Outdoor School is offered Monday through Friday each week. Want to combine your class’s Outdoor School experience with other teachers from your school? Multiple classes can come throughout the week, up to 60 students per program and up to two programs per week. 

      • One class: choose between Monday through Wednesday or Wednesday through Friday
      • Two classes: coordinate with us and another teacher from the same grade at your school to come at the same time
      • Three classes: two classes Monday through Wednesday and one from Wednesday to Friday
      • Four classes: two classes per session, two Monday through Wednesday and two Wednesday through Friday

      Please check out our most recent Outdoor School Booklet which contains more program details, a sample day schedule, and overview of lessons and learning objectives.

      Fall 2022 Outdoor School Booklet is coming soon!

      Get involved...

      The Crest is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization

      The Crest nonprofit organization relies on donations to support youth programs and give community groups the chance to experience the wonders of nature to learn about and feel a connection to the natural world. Please consider contributing to this natural legacy by making a tax-deductible donation.

      THE CREST

      658 Shale City Road
      Ashland OR 97520

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