Edited by Karen Nichols
Odin Ink, $15.00, 100 pages

Counting the Rings is a collection of passionate testimonials about the varying impact that Portland’s Outdoor School Program has had on its students since 1966. Sixth graders from Portland Public Schools spend a week at camp and learn about not only natural history, but about their peers, community, and a sense of place. The importance of the program shows through the testimonials, especially as a crucial moment of development in the lives of Portland’s future decision makers. The program allows students who do not perform well in classroom settings to thrive, and opens up others socially. Most important, it brings students from different socioeconomic backgrounds together. As one student attested about her camp experience, “there weren’t the haves and the have-nots.” Why is there the need for a book of testimonials from students, parents, camp leaders, and program staff? In recent years Outdoor School has shortened to a few days instead of a week for some schools and cancelled altogether for others because of budget cuts. The Friends of Outdoor School, who put this collection together, have raised money and garnered public support to keep the program alive. Every student deserves the opportunity to attend Outdoor School.

Reviewed by Michael Barton