It’s a beloved tradition and rite of passage at St. Rose School that sixth graders kick off the transition out of primary grades with a week at Outdoor School. Established in 1966, Multnomah Education Service District’s Outdoor School program is one of the longest-running and most successful environmental education programs in the nation.

Outdoor School takes sixth grade students out of the classroom so they can experience things best studied outdoors — plants, animals, soil and water.

At the end of September, St. Rose students and their teacher, Katie Penwell, attended Camp Kuratli in Boring.

“It was a wonderful retreat where eight new students to the school were able to bond with their new classmates,” according to school leaders.

For years, funding that largely covered the cost of the program, including lodging and food, was provided by the Portland Public School District — even for private schools. St. Rose families were responsible for just a small portion of the cost that was not covered. In recent years, the funding practices have changed and funds can no longer be distributed to private schools.

St. Rose School immediately sought ways to keep the cost per family to a minimum in the absence of this funding. Enter the Gray Family Foundation, an organization committed to giving students the opportunity to become better stewards of their communities. St. Rose recently shared with parents that it was awarded $10,119 by the Gray Family Foundation to cover a majority of Outdoor School costs. Without this grant, sixth grade families would have had to pay or fundraise to cover an additional $300-plus per student. “The foresight and generosity of the Gray Family Foundation makes it possible for every sixth grade student, regardless of where they attend school, to engage in nature for educational enhancement,” said St. Rose leaders.