Tryon Creek: Cultural and Ecological Education

Instructor Name: 
Erin Cathcart
Course Description: 

*COVID-19 Update* Students enrolled in the Summer and Fall 2020 Capstone course will participate in remote learning to support youth education and interpretive programs facilitated by Friends of Tryon Creek State Natural Area (FOTC).  Course assignments, readings, media, and group projects will use a holistic needs model to explore how people build authentic relationships with the natural world and how culturally relevant education strategies can support high-level learning in an outdoor setting.


Land Acknowledgement

It is important to ground ourselves and acknowledge the people whose land we are utilizing; the Clackamas Chinook, the Wasco-Wishram, the Willamette Tumwater, the Multnomah, and other Chinookan peoples, as well as the Tualatin Kalapuya, the Cayuse, the Molalla and other tribes and bands of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. It is important to acknowledge the original inhabitants of the land now known as Tryon Creek State Natural Area, and to recognize that we are here because of the sacrifices that were forced upon them. We also remember that we are guests of this land and must do our best to honor the original peoples, through authentic cultural narratives and continued stewardship of the water, the land, and plants that make up this forest community. To follow our acknowledgement with action, we will continue to use our resources to prioritize partnerships with Indigenous tribes, tribal governments, and inter-tribal organizations.


Equity Statement

Friends of Tryon Creek is committed to acknowledging social justice, identity, and power structures in past and present settings through diverse perspectives. For us, this means all programs employ an equity framework, incorporating diversity trainings and workshops throughout our extended community, including board, staff and volunteer base. We seek to support our whole community in their effort to reclaim, reconnect and build relationships with the natural world. Our commitment is built and sustained through authentic partnerships with communities of color, culturally specific organizations, and other historically under-represented groups.


Course Description

Today’s youth have fewer and fewer opportunities to interact with the natural world, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have shown that the need for accessible ways to connect with local ecosystems has never been more important.  FOTC programs are designed to develop personal connections to the living earth and support our mission to inspire and nurture relationships with nature in our unique urban forest (and beyond!).

This course is designed to inspire and question the ways we educate both ourselves and our next seven generations as global stewards. Through remote discussions and exercises, readings and media, nature journaling, and group projects; students will gain a deeper appreciation of the authentic cultural ecology of the area and have an opportunity to collaboratively apply that learning to a community outreach project that remotely engages the extended Tryon Creek community in building unique and lasting relationships with the natural world.

Although the park may be open to the public, in-person programming is on hold and both Summer and Fall 2020 courses will not include any required on-site activities.


Course Opportunities and Goals

Capstone students will have the opportunity to:

  • Work in an effective interdisciplinary collaborative group.
  • Explore different approaches to education, through a cultural and ecological lens.
  • Develop an understanding of outdoor and environmental education techniques.
  • Relate cultural and ecological service in the natural area to broader global issues.


The above opportunities are guided by the four Capstone Course Goals:

  1. Inquiry and Critical Thinking: Students will learn various modes of inquiry through interdisciplinary curricula (problem posing, investigating, conceptualizing) in order to become active and empowered learners.
  2. Communication: Students will enhance their capacity to communicate in various ways (writing, graphics, and other visual and oral means) to collaborate effectively with others in group work. Communication techniques will be utilized as both informed learners and empowered teachers.
  3. Diversity, Equity, and Social Justice: Students will explore and analyze identity, power relationships, and social justice in historical contexts and contemporary settings from multiple perspectives.
  4. Ethics, Agency, and Community: Students will examine values, theories and practices that inform their actions, and reflect on how personal choices and group decisions impact local and global communities.