Our Approach

How We Do It

  • Wayfinders sessions offer a theme with developmentally appropriate learning outcomes.
  • To provide balance our framework is intentional design to apply a racial equity lens to each days frame of view: western vs. traditional/cultural.
  • Each activity is aligned with broad concepts in science and engineering.

How do we [Re]Define Science?

  • Science is:
    • not limited to the classroom or lab
    • outside and can be found everywhere
    • for everyone
    • all ways of knowing
    • living and learning in relation to all
    • accountable, radical and revolutionary
  • Science can be:
    • accessible
    • understood by immersion
    • understood from a cultural framework
  • Science incorporates all lived experience.
  • Science is the study of what we know about our place in the universe, our relationship to the natural world, ancient wisdom and knowledge that has become lost or mythologized that helped humans navigate their relationship to and with all matter and living things.
  • Science is a set of rules tested or known to be true, through spirit and revelation, that explains how we fit into the circles and systems of life.

What is Culturally Relevant Environmental Education?

  • Environmental Education that is multi-cultural, relatable to diverse audiences, and reflective of the experiences and lives of diverse students.
  • Environmental Education that challenges dominant culture ways of viewing the environment and the natural world.
  • Environmental Education that critiques euro-centric school knowledge and that actively brings in and honors the perspective, history, and experiences of black and brown people.
  • Environmental Education that is rooted in social and environmental justice.
  • Environmental Education that values and embraces Traditional Ecological Knowledge.

*This definition is a working definition and we would like to acknowledge that it comes from the learnings and teachings from many professionals and community leaders. We specifically want to acknowledge key folks and organizations who have helped shape our understanding and inform our definition of Culturally Relevant Environmental Education: Gladys Ruiz, Queta Gonzalez, Center for Diversity and the Environment, Alice Froelich, Gabe Shoeships, Edward Hill and Traci Price.

Scientific Thinking, Culture, and Worldview

In a Western worldview, scientific thinking is the act of asking the right questions, developing and testing an idea or hypothesis through experimentation, and reviewing and compiling the results. In children, especially young children, engaging in this type of hands-on investigative learning promotes critical thinking and ultimately instills tools that will support career success applicable to any profession or field.

We also know that since time immemorial Indigenous people, Black, and Brown people across the globe have maintained a relationship with the environment and concepts of the land and nature that are deeply rooted in culture, history, people, and place. To this end Camp ELSO participants engage in conversation, reflection, and experiential learning that encourages them to think beyond western science to understand the world and our human impact on the land. Our approach acknowledges, in an age appropriate way, the historical trauma brought about through environmental actions that disproportionately impact marginalized communities and the mainstream environmental movement which has systematically excluded the experience and wisdom of Indigenous, Black, and Brown people.

Wayfinders, our foundational program, is intended to develop a sense of personal responsibility and connection to the environment for Black and Brown children. Through our programs we encourage children to embrace a western worldview of science, but we don't stop there. We also create opportunities to pass on Traditional Ecological Knowledge, to practice a relational worldview, and to embrace their cultural history as Black and Brown people - The Original Environmentalists.
- Sprinavasa Brown, Founder & Executive Director

Symbolism and Meaning

Wofuro dua pa a    "When you climb a good tree"

A Ghanaian phrase meaning "when you climb a good tree" This Adinkra symbol signifies support, cooperation, and encouragement.  Metaphorically- when you work for a good cause you will get support.
( Source: Adinkra.org, Cloth As Metaphor by G.F. Kojo Arthur)

Acknowledgement and Gratitude

Camp ELSO, as any organization is on a learning and growth journey, which means we have been both teachers and pupils. We want to acknowledge, show gratitude and uplift the individuals and organizations that have supported us in learning sharing resources, wisdom, cultural and traditional knowledge and have been with us since the beginning, and continue to support our work. We also want to acknowledge and honor our elders and teachers, community leaders, consultants, educators and activists.

​We specifically want to name the folks of color (and a few key allies) and the organizations that support them. These relationships are crucial to our work.  We are immensely grateful for their belief in our mission and the work they are doing in the environmental field and in the community which we benefit from. Queta Gonzalez, the Center for Diversity and the Environment and the Environmental Professionals of Color, Gladys Ruiz Consulting, Traci Price, Gabe Shoeships and the Friends of Tryon Creek, Alice Froelich and Metro Parks and Nature, Edward Hill, Derron Coles and the Blueprint Foundation, Valda McCauley and the community at Village Gardens,Preston Zimmerman, Andrea Cano, Veronica Banuelos, Tony Funchess, Pastor Herman Greene and the Abundant Life Church, Shantae and Art Johnson, Mudbone Grown, Alejandra Ruiz, Donovan Smith, Portland Harbor Community Coalition, Jackie Murphy, the NE STEM Coalition, Jasmine Love, B.E.A.M. Village, and Kukatonon, and the Willamette River Initiative, and Lori Strepper.

Thank you for the wisdom and guidance you share, and like a big tree- thank you for strengthening and connecting our
roots, and for holding us up.