The Expanding Story of ECO

©2018 Wasim Muklashy

©2018 Wasim Muklashy

Carus Elementary School.

Canby, Oregon.


Where it all began.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 14 years since that first time ECO stepped into a classroom. What started as a program for 400 students in a single school has blossomed into…well, we’ll get to that.

But first, since that fateful day in Canby, we’ve spent the subsequent 13 years racing around the Portland Metro area delivering our unique hands-on ecology programs in a dozen or so elementary schools, zealously  applying for grant after grant, and seeking one donation after another, all in an effort to reach the underserved students in our communities.

Then, in the spring of 2018, we felt it was time to set our sights higher - statewide.

While we had intended on steering a gradual course towards our new goal, in actuality, it happened so swiftly - and serendipitously - our collective legs are still running to catch up. Our efforts all culminated in the Summer of 2018, when we were afforded the opportunity to take a few humongous steps.

It was then that we absorbed three established, similarly aligned programs that expanded our geographical and programmatic reach substantially. Through this series of mergers, we grew from K-5 to K-12, added after-school and summer programming, created an ECO hub in Eugene, and introduced our programs into schools on the central coast.

Furthermore, we also threw ourselves headlong into curriculum development, building out our tried and true science lessons into multi-disciplinary place-based kits for eventual use by educators across the state. ECO went from a team of six to a team of 11, from 2,800 students across three districts to nearly 6,000 in 14.

That’s 1% of all Oregon students in 90 days!

We are so grateful for the schools, the parents, the volunteers, the grantees, educators, districts, partners, sponsors and everyone who has trusted us and led us to this moment.

This space.

This opportunity to make these tremendous leaps!

Last but certainly not least, thank you for the work of Jim Grano, founder of Siuslaw Stream Team in Florence, Oregon, Steve Kennet and Becca Strohm of Dig-In Community, and Lauren Rosenstein of The Green Schoolhouse for putting the legacy of their incredible programs in ECO’s hands. We are certainly stronger for it and take their trust in us seriously!

And now, allow us to introduce you to the work of these programs and their dedicated visionaries:

Jim Grano

Siuslaw Stream Team, Jim Grano

In 1995, Jim Grano established the Siuslaw Steam Team on the central Oregon coast and anticipated by more than a decade the current environmental literacy efforts of the “Leave No Child Inside” movement and its goals. Jim has worked to bring ecologically-focused, field-based studies to elementary students in Florence, Mapleton, and Reedsport. His program, an integral component of STEM education, has given thousands of students a chance to learn hands-on and in the field about the natural resources of their area, and to participate in on-the-ground research and stewardship efforts.

The Siuslaw Stream Team, with enthusiastic community support and through local, state, and federal partnerships, has been highly successful and has led to significant watershed restoration in the Siuslaw and Umpqua river basins.

With Jim retiring, there is a need for this work to continue, and ECO is thrilled to carry on what he began nearly 20 years ago.


The Green Schoolhouse, Lauren Rosenstein

Nearly a decade ago, Lauren Rosenstein founded the Green Schoolhouse, an outdoor summer camp and after-school program rooted in sustainability education. Last year, through a handful of conversations between Sarah Bercume (ECO’s co-founder and Director of Operations) and Lauren, a synergy emerged. Together, we could align our efforts, pool our strengths and resources, and do more for the families and communities we serve.

Lauren is now ECO’s Program Director, bringing her programs, her exceptional management skills, wit, and tenacity along with her. She brings 15 years of experience in nontraditional education and nine in environmental education. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and a Master of Science degree from Portland State University in Education, Leadership and Policy with an emphasis in Leadership for Sustainability Education and a certificate in Ecological Permaculture.


Dig-in Community, Becca Strohm

The Dig In Community’s programs started under SOLVE in 2003 before splitting off and becoming a separate nonprofit in 2016. It was formed by Steve Kennett, Nicole Poletto, Karen Goldberg, and Ember McCoy to focus specifically on opportunities for young people to get outside, connect with nature, learn field biology and ecology while restoring local streams and wetlands, or by “greening the schoolyard”.  When Steve decided to retire last year and proposed ECO continue their programs, we were enthusiastic - with Dig In’s strong emphasis on programs in grades sixth through twelfth, it was a natural fit.

Additionally, Dig In’s dedicated Field Coordinator, Becca Strohm joined our team to lead our secondary programs. She’s an ace! She expertly guides the students and manages 15 different habitats in and around Portland. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Juniata College in Environmental Science. Her passion for environmental education led her from the East Coast to Oregon with AmeriCorps and a position with SOLVE as part of their Green Team (Dig In’s predecessor). When her time was up, she headed back east to teach at outdoor schools in Rhode Island and South Carolina before moving back to Oregon to begin the Dig In Community.