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2019 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Ecology in Classrooms and Outdoors (ECO)

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Education, Environment, Environmental Education, Natural Resources Conservation & Protection, Primary & Elementary Schools

Mission: Ecology in Classrooms and Outdoors (ECO) inspires students to care for nature and their local communities through hands-on science education.

Results: Since 2005, ECO has brought experiential nature lessons and activities to more than 27,000 students.

Target demographics: students with limited access to the outdoors

Direct beneficiaries per year: 6,330 students and growing

Geographic areas served: The Portland Metro Area, Eugene, the Siuslaw Watershed, and Oregon's central coast

Programs: Our Ecology Enrichment Programs, delivered by highly experienced educators, harness student's natural sense of curiosity and wonder through hands-on activities. Programs occur in K-12 classrooms and local natural areas, where students have opportunities to participate in habitat enhancement and restoration. ECO also offers after school and summer camp to Portland Metro students.

Community Stories

49 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Jenny99

Donor

Rating: 5

I am so happy to have a chance to rave about this wonderful nonprofit!

Kids and the outdoors go together so well, but so many kids do not get a chance to experience the outdoors personally. ECO gives students this experience.

And besides getting outside in the natural world, ECO offers lessons tailor made for classroom and age group.

ECO gives students real science information and the chance to see it and use it in the natural world. The staff is enthusiastic and professional and FUN! I feel so positive supporting this important work!

Previous Stories

Donor

Rating: 5

What could be more important than helping kids understand the importance of our natural world and how all the parts work together? Thanks to ECO for introducing our future leaders to the joy, excitement and significance of the world outside and engaging kids with meaningful projects and information!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

ECO provides hands on ecology education for students in grades k-12. Educators are knowledgeable and care deeply not only about what they are teaching, but who they are teaching! ECO provides students with an opportunity to unplug and reconnect to the natural world. It allows them to experience the outdoors in a safe space.
Students participating in habitat enhancement projects create a sense of place and belonging- they are positively contributing to the greater good.
I look forward to ECO’s continued growth and dedication to their team, students, education and the environment!

Donor

Rating: 5

It's incredible to watch ECO grow and evolve! Expanding into new grades levels, across the state and into after school and summer camp. The ECO team is an incredible group of dedicated, passionate educators!

Board Member

Rating: 5

ECO is inspiring young people to explore, understand and connect with the world around them through hands-on study of nature. Having expanded programs to incorporate kindergarten through twelfth grade students, ECO provides indoor and outdoor curriculum that is grade-level appropriate and fun! Younger students get the opportunity to investigate NW ecology, and as students get older they're able to apply their knowledge of ecology through habitat enhancement projects in their communities. ECO fills a unique and valuable role, connecting kids to nature now so they can grow to become adults who care for our planet in the future.

Board Member

Rating: 5

The growth for ECO these past couple years has been nothing short of amazing! With top notch programming and highly skilled and experienced educators, ECO is leading the way in the fiend of hands-on, outdoor based education. Keep up the great work!

Previous Stories

Board Member

Rating: 5

What an amazing organization! I have been blessed to be a part of ECO for the last 6 years, as president of the board of directors. The top notch programming is a testament to the amazing team of educators and support staff at this wonderful non-profit. Add to that, ECO's community engagement and willingness to reach out and work with other local and regional partner organizations has made ECO a leader in Nature Based Education. I look forward to many years of continued growth, with the hope that one day all kids have access to high quality, hands-on, nature based ecology education. Team ECO, you all ROCK!

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Katie M.10

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been involved with ECO since late 2017 and have been so impressed with the growth of this organization in the last few years. ECO serves a critical role in the Portland metro and in other parts of the state by providing enriching and engaging environmental educational programs to K-12 students. As someone who was once inspired by similar environmental education programs growing up, leading to my current career as an environmental scientist, I strongly believe in the mission of ECO to inspire students about the natural world and to build science literacy and environmental awareness. This important work helps to build an increasingly educated population when it comes to environmental issues and empowers Oregon students to become environmental stewards.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

ECO is an organization full of talented, knowledgeable staff that function as a cohesive team. The educators are engaging and deliver much needed ecology lessons that many students would not have otherwise had. In addition, through ECO and its attentive staff, these students participate in meaningful outdoor exploration, strengthening their connection to nature right in their own neighborhoods and enriching their educational journey. ECO is truly helping build a future generation of environmental stewards.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

ECO works tirelessly to develop and implement lessons that instill awe and wonder. As an educator, I can confidently say that our team intentionally creates experiential learning environments that provide students with a sense of empowerment and autonomy. ECO recognizes the importance of place-based education and values the intimate connection between place and learning.
Having worked with ECO for almost a year, initially as a curriculum developer and now an elementary educator, I can confidently say ECO brings passion and energy to their classrooms. It is a pleasure to be a part of an organization that believes in the work they are doing and has a continuous dream to grow and do more.

Olivia G.1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Joining the ECO team as an educator was a great decision for many reasons; the interaction with Portland students, sharing a love for the environment with fellow staff, and being able to go out into the community and inspire the next generation to take action. Our team at ECO is skilled, versatile, and passionate about what we do; our small team makes a huge difference.

Chelsea E.2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

As an environmental educator with several years of experience, I can say that ECO fills a niche in the Portland area that is necessary and valuable. ECO is run by dedicated professionals who truly care about what they do. They are passionate about the environment and compassionate towards their students. The organization is run in a very organized and clear manner and their employees are treated very well, equally, and fairly. In a world where this is certainly not always the case in environmental and outdoor education, I really admire and appreciate this in ECO.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have been an educator at ECO for close to a year now and I am proud to be part of an organization who encourages youth to go outside, and know the outside. I have participated in all of our programs, primary to secondary, in-school to after school, and have witnessed how needed this work is. As an educator here, I feel supported and trusted to carry out our after school programming. We got each other's backs here at ECO and believe in one another's abilities. I look forward to what's to come for ECO.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

As a newer staff member, I have witnessed both ECO's longest-standing employees and newest faces tirelessly work to ensure our education programs are benefitting underserved groups of students and teachers in Oregon year after year. As a small organization, I say we pack a pretty big punch. Our students adore what they learn and are already showing more care for the planet than generations before them. ECO is a strong leader in Environmental Education.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

ECO's incredibly educated and experienced staff deliver uniquely high quality curriculum to Oregon students in underserved areas. As someone who's worked in the environmental education field all over the U.S., I know there's a lot of challenges in holding onto talented staff who consistently deliver good lessons. ECO is leading the field in retaining great educators and is raising the bar across the board.

PhotographyByWasim

Board Member

Rating: 5

Being a part of ECO has enriched my life beyond words. Witnessing a child see their first waterfall, watching students enthusiastically point out invasive species on service learning programs after just learning about those in classroom programs, and simply seeing the smiles on their faces when ECO educators walk into the classrooms - those experiences are ridiculously priceless. Being involved in something that is making such an obvious and tangible difference in future generations' outlooks on ecology, science and the outdoors is one of the more humbling experiences of my life, and seeing how ECO has evolved and grown over the past several years is especially encouraging. They're doin' good work these ones!!

AlexEarl

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

ECO does incredible and timely work educating children across the Pacific Northwest about the natural world. ECO's custom place based content and curriculum taught by highly experienced ECO educators are empowering the next generation of leaders and agents of change. ECO endeavers to maximize the impact of donor funds so that every child will have the opportunity for an ECO educational experience.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

ECO is a collaborator and and a great partner for Hands On Greater portland. Eco-literacy and outdoor experiences are vital for our youth and I'm thankful this is their focus.

-Cristy Munoz
Program Manager
Hands On Greater Portland

Client Served

Rating: 5

We have worked with ECO for the past four years and it is always a delight. The students come to our site raring to go, excited to get to explore the natural world. The instructors clearly have good rapport with the students. They also project an easy proficiency with the art and craft of coaxing elementary students into the rigors of scientific thought, observing nature with respect, dealing with Oregon's weather, and positively affecting a piece of land.
The "back of house" component is also reliable and competent - correspondence, documentation, and planning is timely, complete, and efficient. Strongly recommended.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I work with multiple schools in the Portland Metro area to support garden education. ECO has been a perfect partner to collaborate with and bring together the intersection of nature lessons and garden education to impact students in a fun and memorable way. The staff is ready and incredibly capable of collaboration with other organizations as they look for ways to lift curriculum up and outside together. I look forward to working with ECO more as they connect with students throughout the area!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am Director of a non-profit organization that has worked in partnership with Ecology in the Classroom & Outdoors. Working with young people indoors and out, teaching the ecological principles they will take into adulthood, staff members need not only to know their stuff, but be engaging environmental leaders themselves. You can’t fake out the kids or the environment. ECO makes good things happen by being very good, authentic, and fun.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I've been a board member with ECO for a few years now and still constantly feel lucky that I get to be part of this wonderful organization. From the dedication of the founders to the energy and positivity of the classroom staff, ECO always manages to impress.

FredC

Advisor

Rating: 4

I worked with ECO as an Encore Fellow exploring productizing curriculum to scale impact beyong the geographical reach of the educator team. I witnessed ECO educators work with students in classrooms and outdoors during service learning projects.

The student engagement experience is magical. ECO educators engage students enthusiastically and students respond fully. For many of the students, the service learning field trips are the few opportunities they have to engage nature. Student ECO experiences in the classroom and outdoors is often identified as a highlight of the year.

Previous Stories

Donor

Rating: 5

ECO is the real deal! Exceptional student experiences in the classrooms, on outdoor service projects, and field trips. In addition to being a donor, I'm working with ECO as a independent Encore Fellow helping to expand their reach and impact. ECO programs educate students, advance collaboration skills, and build self-esteem.

Help ECO inspire the next generation to understand and revere nature, so they will become informed and effective stewards.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Time and time again, principals, teachers, and most of all students request ECO to return to the classroom to teach and inspire students to be more knowledgeable about the natural world. Students love the opportunity to take that knowledge outside and see the classroom teaching in the world. ECO works in partnership with the schools and other organizations and enjoys fostering those relationships. ECO's educators are top notch and strive to provide the best curriculum for the students. ECO is a wonderful organization!

Donor

Rating: 5

ECO fills tremendous gaps in Portland area schools' science education by taking children into nature for some solid experiential education - the kind that most closely resonates with me, and, I think, most closely resonates with kiddos. It's clear that the kids they reach are deeply impacted by both the education and the fun that is born from ECO's stellar vision and passionate staff. I can't afford to give to much or to many organizations, but when I see the results this fantastic organization achieves, I can't help but open up and give what I can. I'm so thankful that this wonderful organization exists, that they are growing, and that they bring so much light to the eyes of our future!

Board Member

Rating: 5

ECO is a unique program that develops relationships with schools and with children to help them build a relationship with the natural world. Coupling science inquiry with service learning and hands-on experiences in students' neighborhoods, ECO is a great antidote to "nature deficit disorder." The creative and talented educators leave students clamoring for more...and then they come back over and over to give it to them! Great one of a kind program!

Board Member

Rating: 5

This is simply a great non-profit! ECO aims to get kids outdoors, interacting and learning about the world that surrounds them- what else is there to know?!

Donor

Rating: 5

Talent and Passion and more Talent. ECO is a wonderful team of hardworking, passionate educators and visionaries. They do so much to get children out into nature, and to help kids appreciate and value their wonderful world - my favorite nonprofit in Portland, hands down.

Board Member

Rating: 4

Isiscovered WCO through my work as a STEAM teacher on special assignment . The learning fun and hands on integrated STEAM experiences that they provide brings smiles to the children, as well as a love and increased understanding of their planet.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

ECO is hands-down the most dedicated and hard working team I've ever had the pleasure of working with. It's an absolute joy collaborating alongside this group of talented folks and helping realize their vision of connecting more kids to nature.

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Donor

Rating: 5

ECO provides the opportunity for children to learn science in a safe and fun environment. It is the best place for me to invest my money.

Advisor

Rating: 5

ECO is an energetic group passionate about the connection kids share with nature and they bring it to the classroom! The kids stay excitedly engaged - I'm not even sure they realize how much they are learning. It's an incredible program and an amazing group!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Ecology in Classrooms and Outdoors brings organic, hands on learning to the classroom. As a volunteer, I have had the pleasure of working with Betsy and Bethany in both the office and classroom. They are two extremely dedicated individuals who believe in the importance of learning ecology through real life experiences. I am so impressed with their teaching style and will continue to participate in any avenues I can. It is absolutely magical seeing the students faces when ECO walks in. They are so enthusiastic about this learning process. This program truly makes a big impact in schools and I feel honored to be a part of it. Keep up the amazing work!

Advisor

Rating: 5

I have been extremely impressed with the ECO program. The staff is dedicated, experienced and exceptionally talented at reaching kids in meaningful ways. In addition, the curricula is structured to be student-centric and hands-on, which maximizes retention of learning. Classes focus on ecology with links to other aspects of student learning, which expands the value of each class exponentially. Finally, if you were to watch a video of the instructors (or better yet, sit in on a class), you would see the amazing rapport they generate with students. They use a wonderful mix of humor and engaging questions to keep kids focused on learning. I could not say enough good things about this non-profit!!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Ecology in Classrooms and Outdoors implements fun, organized, hands-on lessons in elementary schools to increase ecological literacy. I recently volunteered with ECO to help teach about ethnobotany and I was impressed by the students' enthusiasm for the lesson and how well the material complemented what the students were already learning about NW native peoples. The ECO teachers are engaging and the ethnobotany lesson included an interactive outdoor portion where students learned about the uses of several native plants and made a bit of rope from plant materials to take home. ECO visits a classroom several times a year, which allows teachers, students, and ECO staff to build stronger relationships. This organization provides a much-needed service in schools today: to get students outside and excited about the natural world they inhabit. I would gladly volunteer with them again!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Ecology in the Classroom and Outdoors (ECO) is one of the extraordinary non-profit organizations working at the Southeast Portland school where I volunteer. The ECO staff impresses me with their knowledge and thoughtfulness, by their friendliness, enthusiasm and energy, and by the skill with which they work with students. But what I most appreciate are the ecology lessons that they teach. These lessons are important on multiple levels.

The lessons are important to students because they provide a hands-on introduction to the natural world and develop skills in observing, questioning, making predictions and gathering evidence to support predictions - skills that are at the core of science and central to critical thinking generally. Students learn first-hand about subtle interactions within and between natural systems. One example of such interaction occurs in the garden insectary. The insectary flowers attract bees and provide the bees with food in the form of nectar; the bees pollinate the garden plants producing fruits and vegetables that become our food

The lessons are important to the community because they include a component of community service. Just a few blocks from the school is creek where ECO takes students for field studies. Over the past century, the creek watershed has been degraded by human development, but is now part of a major restoration project that will reduce local flooding and restore the original natural watershed functions. As part of their field studies along the creek, ECO has students participate in the restoration by planting native trees, shrubs, and smaller plants along the creek banks and floodplains. The field study introduces students to a marvelous natural resource close to home that they can visit and explore outside of school, and invests students in their community through their contributions to local habitat restoration.

The lessons ECO teaches are important to the planet. The impact of climate change on human life is one of the critical issues of our time, but largely ignored by our country’s political leadership. Actions taken to reduce or turn back the effects of climate change will come through political decisions. Without a citizenry that sees itself as part of the natural world, that appreciates subtle interactions of natural systems, and is able to think critically about living in a sustainable manner, we will be trapped in the downward spiral set by our political leaders. ECO’s lessons help develop the informed citizens we need to stop the ongoing degradation of the planet.

ECO connects students to their natural world and develops their critical thinking skills. My hope is that ECO continues its programming in schools for the next 100 years and that 100,000 nonprofits teaching the principles of ecology, like ECO, blossom and flourish across the county.


Donor

Rating: 5

One of the most impressive things about ECO is how it reaches each student, giving every student the opportunity to learn about science and experience science. The fact that each student can contribute and work toward a common goal, all the while relating directly to science at the student's instructional level, is an invaluable opportunity. ECO is a relevant, meaningful organization that deserves attention throughout our community.