An Update from the Department of Teaching and Learning

Dear Families of Third Graders in Bellingham Public Schools,

The purpose of this communication is to provide information regarding the Third Grade Pioneer Program. The Pioneer Program is an outdoor learning experience that occurs at The Gordon L. Carter Environmental Education Site, a 126-acre property owned by Bellingham Public Schools, located in the South Lake Whatcom Reservoir. Since the 2009-10 school year, the Pioneer Program has been community-funded through the efforts of the non-profit organization Friends of Gordon Carter.

Last school year, enough private donations were raised to provide all third grade students with a pioneer field based experience at the The Gordon L. Carter Environmental Education Site. However, we have decided to temporarily suspend the program to:

  • Transition the Third Grade Pioneer Program to the Fourth Grade Pioneer Program. This decision is due to aligning the local history curriculum, which the Pioneer Program is a part of, to state curriculum standards for the fourth grade; and
  • Provide another year of community fundraising and more time to establish a sustainable source of funding for the program.

It's unfortunate that the program cannot be offered this spring, but we believe this plan will hopefully allow your child to enjoy this experience as a fourth grader. However, because the Pioneer Program is made possible through private fundraising and with the current state of the economy, we are unable to make any promises at this time.

During the program's hiatus, the non-profit organization, Friends of Gordon Carter, will continue its successful fundraising to provide the Pioneer Program to all elementary schools. For more information or to help support the program, email:, or visit On Facebook, search "Friends of Gordon Carter."


Tom Venable, Deputy Superintendent