SEC’s Educational Philosophy

SEC Connects People with Nature in the Mid-Willamette Valley

The Straub Environmental Center’s (SEC) mission is to inspire our community to connect with nature and care for the environment in the mid-Willamette Valley. To do this, SEC provides educational programs for children and adults that:

  • promote a sustainable approach to daily life
  • create awareness and understanding of our natural world,
  • increase science literacy, and
  • inspire ecological stewardship.

We put a premium on providing direct educational experiences outdoors. We help people leave the virtual world behind and enter into the real-world—one where Nature is just waiting to be explored. Studies show that learning in nature increases knowledge retention, provides health benefits, and motivates people to adopt environmentally-friendly practices in their own lives. SEC believes the first step to environmental stewardship is experiencing the wonders of the natural world first-hand.SEC’s Main Campus is the Outdoors

SEC Believes One Good Thing Leads to Another

We promote a continuum of engagement that begins with:

An activity in nature involving…

…key information elements tied to…

…connections to additional learning, which motivates…

…additional experiences and…

…service-oriented action.

We Invite People to “Know Their Place”

SEC applies this outdoor-focused continuum throughout our region, but specializes in helping people discover and explore the natural features and local ecosystems that define our mid-Willamette Valley landscape, namely:

  • oak savannah woodlands
  • wet and dry prairies
  • riparian and floodplain forests, and
  • the Willamette River

Our Programs Respect, and Reflect the Needs of, Our Full CommunityThese settings constitute SEC’s “ecological base camp.”


  • prioritizes programs for elementary students who often do not receive environmental science instruction in their classrooms;
  • designs curricula and field experiences that are accessible to, and harmonic with, the Mid-Valley’s many cultures;
  • shares the benefits of Traditional Ecological Knowledge, as informed by local Native American voices;
  • maintains a broad catalog of educational offerings to serve life-long learning and accommodate diverse learning styles, including:
    • for children: after-school classes, field trips, summer day camps, outdoor school overnight sessions, plus internships and service learning projects.
    • for adults and families: a lecture series, nature hikes, naturalist classes and field outings, and an annual Edible Mushroom Retreat.

SEC Is Committed to Excellence in Environmental Education

  • Our youth programs are taught by certified science and environmental educators and our adult programs are conducted by experts in their fields. Our student programs support Common Core and NextGen Science standards.
  • We actively engage with other high-quality organizations throughout the Willamette Valley and state to forge partnerships that advance Oregonians’ understanding of their natural places.