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Graduation 2016: C14’s Grand Finale

March 21st, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

Phenology, or the study of natural cycles, is a constant part of life at the North Cascades Institute. We dive deep into when the first buds appear on trees, what bird songs we can here in that season and the height of all of the flowing water in the area. This year two of the largest, and most celebrated, phenological events at the Institute were the capstones and graduation of the 14th graduate cohort obtaining their Master’s in Outdoor Environmental Education with certificates in Non-profit Leadership Administration and Northwest Natural History.

Back in the summer of 2014, Cohort 14 (or better known as C14!) was born. These individuals then spent a year at the Institute’s Environmental Learning Center located on Diablo Lake, WA learning and teaching about the natural landscape. They then finished their degrees at Western Washington University.

Each of the nine cohort members poured their passion into their studies and made a permanent impact at the Institute. Their grand finale was giving their capstone presentations from March 15th-March 17th where staff, professors, family and Cohort 15 gathered to listen to the wise words from C14.

Kevin Capstone

Kevin Sutton

Kevin Earhart Sutton gave his capstone on Perceptions in (Outdoor) Education: Using openness and vulnerability as learning tools. In his presentation he discussed the “masks” that we all wear and how outdoor education can be a tool to help empower people to take control of the masks they wear each day. Examples of masks include proficiency, extravertedness and stubbornness.

» Continue reading Graduation 2016: C14’s Grand Finale


Passing the Paddle: Cohort 13 Graduation

April 3rd, 2015 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

Time has a variable quality when you live in the mountains. Spring can descend on you with no warning, like it happened overnight, but a day can stretch on eternally when staring at the umpteenth draft of a project. When I worked as a wilderness therapy guide, the students had a saying: “The days go by like weeks but the weeks go by like days.” So it is here, too, sometimes.

Somehow, without us noticing, the students of Cohort 14 have completed nearly nine of our thirteen month residency. An even bigger milestone hit; one that served as a reminder of our trajectory and where we’ll be in exactly one year: graduation.

In the two days leading up to graduation on March 19th, the members of Cohort 13 presented their capstone projects to an audience of friends, family, North Cascades Institute staff, and Cohort 14 students. These capstone projects focus on “a topic that has intrigued [the students] throughout their graduate school experience, connecting their experiences within environmental education, natural history, sense of place and the future of education” (quoted from

As a relatively new graduate students, and never having seen a capstone presentation before, I had no idea what to expect. Frankly, I still don’t. Cohort 13’s projects spanned an incredible range of presentation styles and topics. Due to a change in the schedule of the graduate program, and the flurry of activity that C13 was in the midst of when we arrived at the Environmental Learning Center last July, the two cohorts have had very little interaction. But these capstone presentations gave me excellent insight into each student’s passions and values.

Kaci Darsow’s Doing.Myself.Justice. felt like a true performance piece. One that intimately explored Kaci’s identity, sense of justice, and shifting perspective during their time in graduate school.

Katherine Renz’s No More Icebreakers: Environmental Education for the Rest of Us took us inside the walls of Phyte Club: a visionary bar with the goal of educating customers about the natural world through botanically infused libations and weekly events.

Phyte Club
Did I mention that Phyte Club also plays heavy metal?

» Continue reading Passing the Paddle: Cohort 13 Graduation

C10 Graduation: A Celebration of Endings and Beginnings

April 1st, 2012 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

March 15th marked a day of celebration for Cohort 10 graduate students at the end of a long journey as they completed their Master’s in Environmental Education from Western Washington University and received certificates in Leadership and Nonprofit Administration from the North Cascades Institute.

Institute staff and current Cohort 11 graduate students were joined by family and friends of Cohort 10 at the Environmental Learning Center to honor the achievements of this talented, lively, and inspiring bunch: Teresa Mealy, Kate Rinder, Stephanie Bennett, Codi Hamblin, Stephanie Pate, Nick Mikula, Clint Hensley, David Strich, Cece Bowerman, Elizabeth Penhollow, and Scott Davis.

C10 graduate students have spent the last two years living, learning, and teaching together while immersed in the natural world extending from the peaks of the Cascade mountains to the coastal waters of the Puget Sound. This group came together in June 2010 in Bellingham for a summer of exploration before moving to the Environmental Learning Center in North Cascades National Park to begin their year-long residency. During that year, these students gained hands-on experience as educators and staff working for a variety of Institute programs, including Mountain School, Base Camp, Family Getaways, Adult Programs, and Summer Youth programs. In the winter, Cohort 10 focused on project-based coursework in curriculum development and nonprofit management as they gained skills and understanding in how nonprofit organizations work, grow, and thrive. This year-long experience also provided opportunity for these students to cultivate a deeper connection to the North Cascades and to each other as they explored the region by foot, canoe, ski, and snowshoe.

Following the residency, the grads returned to Bellingham to spend their last two quarters back at Western Washington University’s campus where they applied their experience in the mountains to educational theory and various in-depth research projects.

» Continue reading C10 Graduation: A Celebration of Endings and Beginnings

C9 Graduation: The Mark of New Beginnings

March 22nd, 2011 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

March 17 marked a day of recognition for the hard work and dedication of the graduate students of Cohort 9, and their completion of a Masters in Environmental Education from Western Washington University and a Certificate in Leadership and Non-profit Administration from North Cascades Institute.

Friends and family of the graduating class, Institute staff and graduate students of Cohort 10 filled the intimate dining hall venue in support of the achievement of the members of Cohort 9: Corey White, Brandi Stewart, Paul Wiemerslage, Mike Parelskin, Rebecca Ryan, Martine Mariott, Justin McWethy, Kelsi Franzen, Megan Magee and Erin Fowler.

The group had spent the last two years working, teaching and learning together at both the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center and Western Washington University. In June 2009, the 10 strangers came together in Bellingham where they spent the summer learning about and exploring North Cascades ecosystems in preparation for their year-long residency at the Learning Center in North Cascades National Park. While at the Learning Center, the cohort gained hands-on experience working as educators for Mountain School and various other Institute programs including Base Camp, North Cascades Wild and Cascades Climate Challenge. In the winter, the students delved into curriculum development and learned how to create and manage a non-profit organization.

Following the residency, the grads returned to Bellingham to spend the remaining two quarters at Western’s campus. The students applied their experiences from the Learning Center to educational theory and various research projects.

Top: Members of Cohort 9. Above: Graduate Coordinator Tanya Anderson shares stories of Cohort 9 with the graduates’ friends and family, who filled the Learning Center’s dining hall to celebrate the cohort’s accomplishments.

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C7 graduation

North Cascades Institute Graduation

April 4th, 2009 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

On March 20, 2009 the members of Cohort C7 graduated from the North Cascades Institute, each receiving a Certificate of Leadership and Non-profit Administration. The event was attended by family, friends, staff, colleagues, and peers and served as a celebration of the cohorts’ residency at the North Cascades Institute.

» Continue reading North Cascades Institute Graduation

Bellingham Life: the Experiences of Cohort 16 in the City

March 15th, 2018 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

This post is a compilation of voices from graduate students in the 16th Cohort at the North Cascades Institute. In it they describe what the second year of the M.Ed Residency Program is like at the Western Washington University campus in Bellingham, WA. Next week they will present their capstone projects at the Environmental Learning Center, and then the week after, they graduate! Isn’t that exciting? With that said, we hope you enjoy the insights and musings about life in the city!

To start things off right, Kay Gallagher has a few words to share on behalf of Cohort 16:

“Last year we spent 13 months living and learning at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. We gained valuable experience teaching, coordinating, learning logistics, and risk management in a remote environment… and a whole lot about community living. In the summer we took to the trails of Sauk Mountain, parts of the Pacific Crest Trail, Stehekin, and the Okanogan National Forest, where we learned about natural history, geology, botany, and native peoples.


In the fall we taught Mountain School and began our work study positions. In the winter we transitioned to two classes, Nonprofit Administration and Curriculum Design. And finally, in the summer we all spread out to begin our Leadership Tracks positions and work with partner organizations.


Now, the cohort is wrapping up our time at Western, and have gained a lot of insight into this portion of the program through many courses. Courses included Program Evaluation and Assessment, Foundations of Pedagogical Theory, Social Justice in Education, and Professional Writing and Presentation.”


Who are you?

My name is Kay Gallagher.

Where are you now? 

» Continue reading Bellingham Life: the Experiences of Cohort 16 in the City

A Year in Review: Most-read Chattermarks Posts of 2017

December 29th, 2017 | Posted by in Institute News

2017 was a big year for the North Cascades Institute, and we’d like to thank YOU for taking the time to read all about it on our Chattermarks blog. We try to make sure that everything posted here is in support of our mission: to inspire and empower environmental stewardship for all through transformative experiences in nature.

What were your favorite posts of 2017? Below is a list of our five, most-read Chattermarks posts of the year. Scroll down to find out what is number one, and to relive some of the memories from the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.


Photo Roundup: April 16 2017

This post features a rockslide over highway 20, pictures of a black bear at Diablo, the graduation ceremony of the 15th Cohort of graduate students, and adventure!

Then editor, Angela Burlile wrote:

On Wednesday, we woke to news that a rockslide occurred on Highway 20, between Newhalem and Diablo. Unlike the avalanche that extended the stay of Henry M. Jackson high school, students participating in Mountain School were able to leave that day. The road remained closed to traffic into the weekend while WSDOT crews worked to move and break up the large pieces of rock that had fallen onto the highway.

» Continue reading A Year in Review: Most-read Chattermarks Posts of 2017