BEND, Ore. -

The Deschutes Children's Forest is considered the first nationally recognized children's forest program in the Pacific Northwest. On Saturday, an open house was held to further spread the message to citizens on what it's all about.

Since the program began last year, the outdoor education program has reached more than 8,000 kids and 283 teachers in Central Oregon.

It's expected to reach 15,000 students by December 2014.

The program provides a network of sites where school teachers can bring their classrooms outside and learn about nature.

"We are going to continue to reach more children," said Deschutes National Forest Supervisor John Allen. "Hopefully, we are going to have more outreach to some of the learning-challenged children who are either physically or mentally challenged, because we want to reach all kids here in Central Oregon."

The program emphasizes three areas: education, play and health.

Both snowshoe and watershed tours were given after a painting dedication.

The new painting hangs inside Skyliner Lodge at the Children's Forest Discovery Center.

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