The Rainshadow Institute is a non-profit education organization based in Hood River, Oregon who’s mission is create life-long learning opportunities for people of all ages in ecosystems where they live. Since 1997, it has offered a comprehensive, hands-on ecology unit to upper elementary students throughout the Columbia River Gorge region of Oregon and Washington. Known as the SECRETS program, the ten-week science unit includes eight classroom lessons, a family night and a day-long field trip to a local natural area. The curriculum satisfies Oregon and Washington state academic standards, and uses the local forest and high desert ecosystems to illustrate basic ecological concepts. Teams of four instructors–comprised of teachers, Institute staff and community volunteers–teach the lessons, ensuring a small group setting for hands-on learning that engages all students.
The Rainshadow Institute has also recently piloted a high-school internship program, a summer program and an after-school program. Each of these new programs offers experiential outdoor activities designed to enhance observation skills, instill ecosystem awareness and understanding, and inspire an appreciation of the natural world. Beginning in the Fall of 2003, the Institute will offer an adult education series with workshops on natural history, ecology, environmental ethics, outdoor skills, teaching methods, and more!