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What Gives Life to the Wild Ginger Library?

December 13th, 2017 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

This piece originated in the Library Guidelines of the Wild Ginger Library from March 27, 2006. The history and original vision of the library has been provided (and slightly modified) for your enjoyment.

The North Cascades Institute’s Wild Ginger Library is located at the Environmental Learning Center. The mission of the library is to help people of all ages learn more about the literary and oral stories of the North Cascades. The library brings people together around the power of the written and spoken word and supports the mission of the North Cascades Institute to inspire and empower environmental stewardship for all through transformative experiences in nature.

In essence, the history of the Wild Ginger Library began more than 10,000 years ago as Ice Age glaciers receded and the North Cascades’ first people ventured into local mountains and river valleys. After all, it’s the stories of this place – from Native legends and explorer journals to Beat poetry in fire lookouts – that give Wild Ginger its life.

Photo courtesy of Marissa Bluestein

More recently, the library took shape with design of the Learning Center in the late 1990s. Architects from The Henry Klein Partnership led staff members from the Institute, North Cascades National Park and Seattle City Light in detailing the needs of each building on campus. When the Learning Center opened in July 2005, the Wild Ginger Library – named, like other buildings on campus, for a local native plant – remained empty of books and materials.

Initial books were made possible by a generous donation from Mac and Linda MacGregor, owners of MacGregor Publishing. Dr. Fred Darvill, a Northwest writer, outdoorsman and lover of books, pledged significant support, and gifts from other individual donors soon followed. In addition, early in-kind donors of natural history books included University of Washington Press, Lone Pine Publishing, Sasquatch Books and the Mountaineer Books.

Photo courtesy of Marissa Bluestein

Oversight of the library is provided by Institute Staff and Graduate Students at the Learning Center. Today, Kira Taylor-Hoar serves as the Library and Office Graduate Assistant for her Work Study position. It is an opportunity for her to understand and improve a library that is used for graduate studies, as well as for environmental education; learn about research methods and cataloging systems; work with staff to develop book collections.

Photo courtesy of Marissa Bluestein

To understand more about the library and her job as the assistant, I’ve included an interview with Kira that reveals both the whimsical nature of her mind and the beauty of Wild Ginger.

Who uses the library?

Visitors, staff and graduate students all come by Wild Ginger for a place to study, for meetings, and to check out books or simply to relax. The big windows and high ceilings make the tiny room feel a lot bigger, and let in plenty of natural light. Chairs are placed under the awning outside, so on nice days you can read under the majestic tops of the surrounding mountains while lounging in an Adirondack chair.

Photo courtesy of Marissa Bluestein

What are three things you like about the librarian work study position?

Coming into the library on a cold December morning, I’m surprised to see light filtering in through the high windows. The sun doesn’t make it into too many buildings at the NCI campus in the winter, but as I write this I have a sunbeam shining right onto my desk. The building was built beautifully, with fabulous views. Peering out a window to my right I see the mountains rising into the clouds, a sprinkling of snow dotting these subalpine forests.

One thing that I wanted from my work study was to be able to spend time outside, and I never expected to be a librarian. But once I started working here I realized that I felt just as connected to the natural world in the library as I would outside. Plus, I get to make plenty of trips to the printer in the main office building, which means I get to breath fresh air frequently. The in-floor radiant heating doesn’t hurt for cold feets, either.

On days like this I have the library to myself, a quiet sanctuary of solitude. I am doing inventory, which takes a while pulling books off the shelves, entering them into the system, and then going back and doing it all over again, until I get through nearly 3,000 titles. You would think this boring, no? Ahh, but you see I have a trick up my sleeve. I have been listening to books on tape to make the time pass more easily. Lately I’ve been following some Hobbits across Middle Earth, delivering one particular ring to the fires of Mount Doom…while taking inventory. Other common tasks are cleaning, entering new books into the system, taking old books out, and checking in and re-shelving books people borrow.

Photo courtesy of Marissa Bluestein

When I’m not listening to books about little people, I’m reading some of the wonderful knowledge and tales this library has to offer. The periodicals, fiction, nonfiction, kids section, poetry…so much to read and so little time! I recently turned in Water: A Natural History, Yurts: Living in the Round, and Spell of the Sensuous. A natural history of water is a fascinating tale of hydrology in North America, told in narrative form to make it an easy read. Yurts are beautiful natural buildings and this book has some good tips on how to build and decorate your own. And Spell of the Sensuous is an excellent foray into the world of philosophy, science, and how we as human beings relate with the natural world through our senses.

Photo courtesy of Marissa Bluestein

I recently checked out a book of fiction, anticipating having time over winter break. It’s called The Cookbook Collector and it’s about two sisters who are total opposites but are bonded by blood and cooking. I haven’t gotten into it yet, but once I’ve finished all my readings for graduate classes, I’ll be sure to crack it open by the fire one of these blustery winter evenings.

(Top Photo) graduate student Kira Taylor-Hoar re-shelving a book borrowed; photo by Marissa Bluestein

Weekly Photo Roundup: December 8 2017

December 8th, 2017 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

Every weekend I will post photos collected from various NCI graduate students and staff. Please enjoy this glimpse into our everyday lives here in the North Cascades.

To start things off, here’s some life advice from the mushroom above:

Be down-to-earth
Know when to show up
Sprout new ideas
Keep a low profile
Stay well-rounded
Understand your connection to others

It felt relevant to me this week, as we transition into winter and see our three-week break in the near future. Graduate students and staff are the only people moving about the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center right now, so things have been quiet. A lot of us are turning inward, as well as venturing outward. We are putting in the time for community-building work to cultivate deeper connections to the Earth, and each other. To me, and I am sure many others, winter signifies a time of reflection, although beauty still exists in the frosty corners of daily life.

To quote John Burroughs:

He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.

Amos Almy, intrigued by a mossy rock off the Diobsud Creek Trail; photo by Montana Napier

Frosty kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi); Photo by Zoe Wadkins

» Continue reading Weekly Photo Roundup: December 8 2017

Welcome New Graduate Students, part 3

November 6th, 2017 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

This is part three of graduate student introductions. Here is part one and part two of the series. 

The goal of this series is to welcome the Class of 2019, and learn more about why they chose the Master of Education degree program through the North Cascades Institute. Below are the reasons folks are here, and what they hope to take away from a year-long residency. They have also shared their most memorable experiences so far. Enjoy!

Liz journaling with a view of the North Cascades; photo by Montana Napier

Liz Grewal:

I had to decide which direction to take my education in. At first, I considered a master’s degree in ecology, but then I felt inspired to study environmental education. Researching different options and programs, I remember gasping aloud with excitement when I came across the Graduate M.Ed. program through the North Cascades Institute. I felt like I’d found my people: people who are passionate about connecting others to nature through place-based education. After visiting in January 2017, I knew that the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center was exactly where I wanted to be. I appreciated the kindness and openness of the community. It was my first time visiting the North Cascades, and I was taken aback by the beauty of the landscape. This is the only graduate program that I applied to because its mission aligns with my goals in environmental education.

» Continue reading Welcome New Graduate Students, part 3

Welcome New Graduate Students, part 2

November 1st, 2017 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

This is part two of graduate student introductions. You can find part one here. 

The goal of this series is to welcome the Class of 2019, and learn more about why they chose the Master of Education degree program through the North Cascades Institute. Below are the reasons folks are here, and what they hope to take away from a year-long residency. They have also shared their most memorable experiences so far. Stay tuned for the final installment!

Charlee and Zoe Wadkins paddling the Skagit River

Charlee Corra:

I feel most connected to learning when I can do it outside in an experiential setting. So I looked for an opportunity to join a learning community with people committed to becoming effective educators. I also wanted first-hand teaching experience through Mountain School. The North Cascades Institute offers a rich and immersive program emphasizing place-based learning, nonprofit skill development, and Pacific Northwest natural history. To top it all off, who wouldn’t want to do a year-long residency in the breathtaking North Cascades National Park?

The obvious answer to what I hope to gain during my time at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center is to develop my skills as an environmental educator. But on a deeper level, I am here to learn about who I am and to uncover the most meaningful way for me to give back and serve the larger community, especially through an environmental and social justice lens.

» Continue reading Welcome New Graduate Students, part 2

Welcome New Graduate Students!

October 25th, 2017 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

We are a new generation of environmental leaders. We are the 17th graduate cohort at the North Cascades Institute, ready to immerse ourselves in learning and work within the greater community. One of my new tasks, as a fully-integrated community member, is to produce blog posts for your enjoyment.

So, hey! I’m Montana, and below is Part 1 in a 3-part series of graduate student introductions. Keep in mind that we recently finished the Place-based Learning Field Course, and are knee-deep into our fall Natural History coursework. Below are the reasons why we’re here, and what we want to take away from our year-long residency. We’ve also included some of our most memorable experiences so far. Much more to come, my friends.

Yours truly day-hiking to Monogram lake during prime fall color

Montana Napier:

As a teenager, I participated in a program called Girls on Ice. For eight days I camped on a rocky moraine on Mount Baker, and was challenged outside of my comfort zone through a wilderness science expedition. At the end of the program, we stayed at the cozy Environmental Learning Center and presented our research on the Easton glacier. I’d never seen a community quite like the North Cascades Institute before, or people as knowledgeable as the Naturalists. They seemed to know everything about the natural world! I was inspired to return.  

» Continue reading Welcome New Graduate Students!

Place-based Learning Course: Paddling the Skagit River

October 16th, 2017 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

In August, my cohort and I began our 7-quarter educational journey of earning our Master of Education degree. We are the 17th Cohort of students in the Graduate M.Ed Residency program through the North Cascades Institute and the Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University.

Before beginning our year-long residency at the Learning Center, we engage with the natural and cultural histories of the North Cascades region through field excursions. This intensive six-week course includes canoeing on the Skagit River, learning about local communities and sustainable agriculture, hiking in alpine areas, cohort community formation and a culminating 10-day wilderness backpacking experience. 

Below are pictures from the paddling portion of our Place-based Learning Field Course, along with excerpts from our group journal. Enjoy!

Big Canoe and Community August 9, 2017:

“With a little less smoke in the sky, Cohort 17 loaded into the Salish Dancer for a paddling orientation to Diablo Lake and the surrounding area. Before the canoe left the dock, we heard and saw two peregrine falcons – the fastest member of the animal kingdom – amongst the rocky cliffs of Sourdough Mountain.

» Continue reading Place-based Learning Course: Paddling the Skagit River

Animals in the City: Encouraging Children to Get to Know Their Nonhuman Neighbors

September 15th, 2017 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

By Sarah Clement, graduate student in the Institute’s 16th cohort

Transference is a concept that often comes up in discussion among environmental educators. How do we, as educators, help our students make connections between their experiences with us in “nature” and their daily lives? We teach out students about the North Cascades ecosystem, but we want them to make connections between what they learn about the mountains to what they already know about their homes. We want them to understand that an ecosystem functions in the North Cascades in the same way that ecosystems in and around their home communities function. Above all, we want our students to understand that even though they traveled hours to reach Mountain School, they don’t have to do so to find the importance and wonder of natural spaces.

As human population growth continues to explode around the world, more people are migrating to urban areas. Over 80% of the population of the United States already lives in urban areas, and the influx of people to cities continues to grow. Washington State is no exception to these trends. As of 2016, our population has grown to well over seven million people. Most of the increase comes from people migrating from out of state to large urban areas along the Interstate 5 corridor in the western half of the state. With this population growth comes increased urbanization: more land is being converted to urban infrastructure. Wild habitats are being fragmented or drastically altered in the process.

» Continue reading Animals in the City: Encouraging Children to Get to Know Their Nonhuman Neighbors