Education Program


The Columbia SWCD encourages local high schools to build teams and compete in the Oregon Envirothon Competition. St Helens High School has sent 2 teams and ranked very well. We would love to see more team representing Columbia County in the coming years. For more information go to, there is training for teachers and coaches and materials available to make preparing easy.


Geocaching is a game in which participants search for a hidden item using given GPS coordinates. Players can use any number of different technologies (smartphones, GPS, Google maps) to assist them in navigating to the hidden cache. Then it is up to the player to search the area more closely. Items can be hidden under rocks, in trees, in bushes… anywhere the hider can reach. It’s a great game for those who enjoy exploring the outdoors as well as those who are more tech-minded. It’s these qualities of the game that made the SWCD think of geocaching as a great outreach opportunity for kids.

Vernonia Outdoor School

Each September the Columbia SWCD and the Upper Nehalem Watershed Council teach at Vernonia’s 6th grade outdoor school. Topics focus on Native Plants, wildlife, and pollinators. And the kids get to make mason bee houses to take home. We look forward every year to meeting the new 6th graders helping to build their interest in the natural resources around them.

Saint Helens Greenhouse

The SWCD is always excited about getting kids involved in conservation. So when the natural resource teacher at Saint Helens High School approached them about restoring their old greenhouse they jumped on board right away. At the time the greenhouse was being used as storage for the metal class. Seeing the potential for a valuable project, the SWCD met with school personnel to discuss the details of how to restore and operate a greenhouse at the school. The administration agreed to find new storage for the shop materials and to allow half-time science teacher, Allison Prehn, to oversee the program through her horticulture classes.

The SWCD applied for and received a small grant from OWEB that funded materials needed to refurbish the greenhouse, labor costs for assistance from the Scappoose Bay Watershed Council, and materials for implementation of a rainwater harvest collection system. Crow Water Systems volunteered their time to install the rainwater system. School personnel removed the items being stored in the greenhouse. SWCD staff and members of the Columbia River Youth Corps. restored the structure to its original condition by replacing the roof and performing other needed repairs.

According to Ms. Prehn, the current plan is for members of the CRYC to collect the native plant seeds which will then be grown at the greenhouse by Saint Helens High School students. When the plants have had time to germinate and grow they will be transferred back to the CRYC campus where members will care for them until they are sold to be used in restoration projects or by watershed councils. Proceeds from these sales will go to the high school to support continuation of the greenhouse program.

Ms. Prehn says that she is hoping to start using the greenhouse in her horticulture classes next year when it is fully operational. She is excited to use the greenhouse as a way of providing students with a more interactive learning experience and a chance to “get their hands dirty.” She notes that some students are not well suited to typical classroom instruction. “These are the kids I am especially excited to get out there,” she says. She also notes that many students have expressed interest in the program and in her extending the horticulture curriculum. She and the SWCD are excited for the future of the program and the potential benefits both to local students and conservation efforts.