M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

Teachable Moments at OMSI’s Camp Gray

OMSI: Camp Gray specimen on the beach
OMSI outdoor instructor Melanie uses a beach-found curiosity in a teachable moment with student campers.

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is a gem in Oregon’s education sector, engaging minds young and old in science, technology and design. With an international reputation for innovative exhibits and educational programs, OMSI attracts more than 1 million visitors every year. The Murdock Trust has partnered with OMSI for nearly 40 years, recently providing a grant to build a new outdoor discovery camp at the Oregon Coast.

After years of searching for the right property, OMSI chose a 20-acre coastal property in Newport to be the home for its new marine and outdoor science education programs. The Coastal Discovery Center at Camp Gray hosts outdoor school camps, summer camps, family camps, conferences and retreats.

The unique coastal landscape gives OMSI educators the opportunity to use specimens to encourage student questions about specific creatures and to show how they fit into the larger habitat and ecosystem. Thousands of campers and students visit Camp Gray each year—some of whom have never visited the ocean before—and their interaction with the natural environment ignites their curiosity about the science behind the world around them.

A special occurrence at Camp Gray is what the educators call teachable moments. These happen frequently in the field whenever something catches a student’s eye. When the student asks the instructor what it is, rather than simply telling them, it becomes a teachable moment to ask, “What can you already tell me about it?”

OMSI outdoor instructors use these teachable moments of student-initiated exploration to expand on the lessons happening during the outdoor school or camping experience. They can be a one-minute interaction with one student, or a fifteen-minute pause with the whole group. No matter how many students are engaged, they always start the same: with one student asking, “What is this?”

The Murdock Trust is proud to partner with OMSI in bringing teachable moments to students as they learn by exploring the natural world around them.

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