In 2010 the National Wildlife Federation released a study showing that children spend an average of 53 hours a week indoors watching TV, talking on the phone, and playing video games. Our children are experiencing obesity-related problems due in part to physical inactivity. In addition, Oregon has one of the lowest graduation rates in the country.

As a former police chief, having spent 27 years in public safety, I can tell you from first-hand experience that young people who do not graduate from high school are more likely to be arrested. More over, researchers from the Pew Center for Research, the University of Chicago, and other research institutions have consistently found that high school dropouts are more likely to be incarcerated.

But the good news is that Oregon’s Outdoor School program provides some sixth-graders with a full week of outdoor education and physical activity that increases their physical well-being, improves their performance in standardized tests, and increases high school graduation rates. If your children have attended Outdoor School, you know they loved it, and how much it helped them in school.

Karin Hansen, who experienced Outdoor School as a sixth-grader and as a high school student, can tell you that the leadership, organizational and communication skills imparted by Outdoor School enhanced her classroom education. Karin’s Outdoor School experience weighed heavily on her decision to give back to our community as an educator and involved citizen.

Now, you can do something to help all our children. Karin and I are asking every Oregonian to tell their elected officials in the Oregon Legislature to support Senate Bill 439 and House Bill 2648. These two bills would establish a state Outdoor Education Fund to provide every sixth-grader in our state the opportunity to attend a full week of Outdoor School.

Outdoor School in Oregon has been around more than 50 years and has proven to increase children’s cognitive skills, broaden their views of the world, and create tomorrow’s leaders. Our state legislators need to hear from you. Tell them you want Outdoor School for your children, and all Oregon children. Tell them it should be their priority, too!

Outdoor School works!

Tom Potter is a former Portland police chief and mayor. Karin Hansen is a former educator with Portland Public Schools.

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