In 2014 we were contacted by our partners at Friends of Outdoor School to see if we would be interested in co-administering the annual Photo of the Year contest. We jumped at the opportunity as one of our reasons Tyson and I started Outdoor Project was to help promote the work being done in the environmental education community. Working with Friends of Outdoor School on Photo of the Year was a big opportunity we couldn't pass up.
Friends of Outdoor School is a non-profit organization that works with many stakeholders to ensure Outdoor School gets the funding and volunteers it needs. There is no permanent funding base for Outdoor School in Oregon, and the public resources are too limited for the school districts to take on the challenge themselves. With a team of engaged stakeholders, Friends of Outdoor School is working to create a permanent program that would allow all public school students in Oregon to get a week of Outdoor School. The initiative is called Outdoor School for All.
If you didn't have the opportunity to attend an Outdoor School program as a kid, you may think a week spent in cabins with your peers learning about science and having an outdoor experience sounds like a luxury, a nice-to-have. But it's so much more. I remember my week spent at Camp Howard in Corbett, Oregon. As a sixth grader at West Sylvan, I was grouped with kids from all over Portland. I was paired with Will Reischman, one of my closest friends at the time and still to this day. We approached the week with a healthy dose of skepticism: though we had attended summer camps together, they had all been elective. This was the first camp experience where attendance was part of a school curriculum, and we weren't sure what to expect. When we met our roommates, we realized they were all feeling exactly the same way, with the added caveat that many of them had never spent a night in a cabin or a day in the woods. By the end of the week our cabin of individuals had cohered into a group: everyone was getting along, sharing stories, and enjoying the week together. We learned a lot about nature systems, and we learned a lot about how to get along with anyone we met. My personal experiences match the stories you'll hear in the video above, a short documentary about Outdoor School and of Photo of the Year.
Photo of the Year was started 13 years ago by John Waller and Brian Crumrine. Initially the contest was just a way to celebrate the incredible photos their group of friends had shot during the prior year, but as the program became more popular they recognized the opportunity to raise proceeds for a cause they cared about. John, having spent time as an Outdoor School counselor, chose an organization near and dear to his heart. And for the past 10 years it has become an important funding source for Friends of Outdoor School.
Photo of the Year is an amateur photo contest, albeit with a professional category. Contestants from around the world submit their photos for a chance to win a cash prize. The final winning photo and grand prize recipient is crowned the Photo of the Year. This year, the winning photo will be selected at the Awards Gala held at Base Camp Brewing Co on Saturday, February 21. All proceeds raised from sponsorships, submission fees, and gala tickets benefit Friends of Outdoor School and their critical work. On behalf of all of us at Outdoor Project, I invite you to learn more about the contest, submit your photos and come join us at Base Camp for a chance to win raffle prizes and select this year's winner.