With a return to in-person, indoor learning dominating education news amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Weston Middle School welcomed the return of Outdoor School May 24-27.

Outdoor School is a week-long event when at Weston Middle School students spend their days outside learning skills such shelter building, stream quality and stream life, cooking over self-made cook stoves and orienteering.

Much of the week was spent at ABC Mountain Retreat. Students also went hiking on trails near Corporation Organizational Camp along the Umatilla River.

Normally, the week is for fifth and sixth graders, but things were a little different this year.

The week had to be canceled in 2020 when there was no in-person school statewide in Oregon.

Athena-Weston School District staff didn’t want to see last year’s sixth graders miss out on the week, so sixth and seventh graders participated this year.

“We are grateful that the state provided funding this year for both grades so that our current seventh graders would also have this important educational experience,” Weston Middle School Principal Ann Vescio said.

This year’s fifth graders will get to take part in the fall, Superintendent Laure Quaresma confirmed.

Quaresma said there was a lot of enthusiasm for the week.

“Everyone from students to teachers to volunteers are exhausted after spending four days outdoors, but all return to school each day with exciting stories and big smiles,” Quaresma said. “What a great way to end what has been a difficult school year.”

She added that in a year that has been spent inside on computers all day, it was good to get children away from their electronics for awhile.

“Following a year of COVID screen time, this is the perfect time to get our students in an outdoors learning classroom,” she said. “For our students, getting unplugged and out in nature so close to home is a fantastic way to spend a week.”

Quaresma said Outdoor School is funded by state grants and Oregon State University.

Jeremy Burnham can be reached at jeremyburnham@wwub.com or 509-526-8321.


Jeremy covers education, as well as Dayton and Columbia County, for the Union-Bulletin. He graduated from Eastern Washington University in 2019 with a degree in journalism.