An Overview of the Winter Natural History Field Seminar of 2018

February 17th, 2018 | Posted by in Field Excursions

This post is the first in a three-part series describing graduate students’ ten-day field seminar to the Methow Valley, as an extension of their Natural History Course

This week graduate students in the M.Ed Residency Program returned from their 10-day Natural History Field Seminar to the Methow Valley. After spending several sunny days in eastern Washington, we drove back to the cold, damp weather of the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, ready to dive into Mountain School Training.

It was a highly anticipated trip among graduate students in the 17th cohort. After weeks of finishing up our Nonprofit Administration and Curriculum Design courses, it felt wonderful to “disconnect” in a remote location, spend time outside in the sunshine, and to refocus our attention on community connections. Last fall, we stayed at the Skalitude Retreat Center in Carlton, Washington during our Fall Natural History Field-Excursion (click here to read all three posts).

Because of this, we all felt immediately at home, and fell back into the routine of doing our best to meet and exceed group roles. It was nice to step into “field mode” again, and learn about a place through our experiences.

Below are photos from some of our adventures on the East side:

Graduate students finished up their Curriculum Design course through a synthesis day with Lindsey MacDonald at Skalitude Retreat.

We also met with Sarah Mounsey at the Independent Learning Center, an alternative high school, in Twisp. She and three high school students shared about their experiences in the individualized, self-paced program.

Joshua Porter, the Graduate Program Director, provided great insight into why we participated in this type of learning. In his own words:

[Through our Field Seminar] We continue to engage with community and place-based educators to explore the intersections of social and environmental dimensions in education and human development. Visiting schools and working with independent educators also informs opportunities for where students may go professionally with an M.Ed.


By spending a day in a printmaking studio, we then engage with aesthetic, artistic aspects of natural history through creating bock prints. We also continue to learn about the cultural landscape, and some of the history and sovereignty of the Methow tribe and what was the Moses Columbia reservation.

To further our exposure to the local community, we stopped by Door No. 3 Print Studio in Twisp and spent a few hours block printing. Above is a photo of Eric Buher posing with the cohort’s final prints.

Laura Gunnip showed us how it’s done and of local artists’ work.

It was a ton of fun engaging in the creative process! Above are my sketches of landscapes in the North Cascades and then the final block print.

Pictured is Brendan McGarry creating a snow pit at Skalitude so that we can conduct tests and learn about snow science.

Zoe Wadkins, Liz Grewal, and Brendan McGarry explore the valley, finding wildlife tracks in the snow.

Myself, Marissa Bluestein, Zoe Wadkins, Gina Roberti, Liz Grewal, and Nate Trachte spent half the day venturing up to the fire lookout on Lookout Mountain. This is the celebratory video of making it up there, enjoying the views, and seeing a blue sky and sunshine!

And there’s me, celebrating how we made it to the lookout; photo by Liz Grewal

Marissa Bluestein and Zoe Wadkins experienced their first time in a lookout.

Neverending views.

Graduate students also learned how to set up wildlife cameras, and then tested them by moving like an animal on the pathway.

Stay tuned for a post or two about naturalizing on our field seminar, snow science, and the process of us building snow shelters. We engaged in a diversity of experiences, so there’s more content to come.

(Top Photo) A sweeping view from Lookout Mountain in Carlton, WA by Montana Napier

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