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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

Weekly Photo Roundup: March 12 2018

March 11th, 2018 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

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

This week marks the beginning of the spring Mountain School season! Graduate students and other naturalist instructors paired up to teach fifth graders with Clear Lake Elementary and the Bellingham Family Partnership Program. Lucky for us, there were some glorious days of sunshine up at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, along with the typical rainy moments.

Below is the final photo from our first session of the week. Don’t you just love the energy of Mountain School media?

Graduate student Liz Grewal led a short lesson on compost during the opening ceremony of Mountain School. After the kids ate lunch, they walked to the front of the amphitheater to sort their leftovers into the landfill, compost, or recycling bins – an action related to our Foodshed Initiative.

Later in the day, the trail group Amy Sanchez and I led named themselves the Wild Wolverines. Every time we shouted “Wolverines, wolverines!” the kids would reply “Rawr, rawr!” and hold their hands up like claws. It was a cute way to regain our group’s energetic attention, and an avenue of community pride for the kiddos.

This week Tanner Johnson and other instructors utilized the Wild Ginger Library to read stories to the trail groups. It is definitely a cozy space for learning, and we’re all excited to incorporate it into our routine with the kids.

Fifth graders Alexis and Rose painted and drew pictures of a forest during a break inside from the cold rain. I was surprised by how much the children enjoyed our “naturalist art time.” The energy was very calm.

Caitlyn drew her best impression of a young Douglas fir outside the window. We looked through field guides for trees to identify its various features.

And Mikita drew a picture of the North Cascades mountain range, featuring a wild wolverine! Isn’t this great?

On the last day of Mountain School, Zoe Wadkins guided our combined trail groups in a closing ceremony along the shores of Diablo Lake. I always enjoy hearing kids describe how they will bring their Mountain School experience to back home to their communities.

Photo of Diablo and buds by Gina Roberti

During our rare free time, graduate students explored the landscape surrounding the Learning Center campus. Everywhere around us plants are beginning to bud, and some are even breaking buds!

Photo of Nate Trachte in a canoe by Marissa Bluestein

After some canoe training, a few students took a trip out onto Diablo, too. It is exciting to think about all of the recreational opportunities warmer, sunnier days will bring to our place upriver, as well as Mountain School. Fingers crossed there will be brighter days ahead as we gain an hour of daylight and inch closer to springtime!

Panoramic photo of Diablo by Marissa Bluestein

Click here to see previous Photo Roundups!

(Top photo) Graduate student Amy Sanchez poses with the Wild Wolverines with teacher Mrs. Walker

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.

» Continue reading An Overview of the Winter Natural History Field Seminar of 2018

Graduate Students Visit Concrete Elementary!

January 22nd, 2018 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

On January 17th, graduate students in the 17th Cohort visited Concrete Elementary School to teach naturalist lessons. As part of our Curriculum Design course, our main goal was to engage the local community in lessons about the environment, and develop a stronger connection with the school and its teachers.

This Curriculum course is taught by Lindsey MacDonald, the Graduate Program Coordinator at the North Cascades Institute. She strategically designed this experience as a way for us grads to practice our coursework in a meaningful way.

In her own words:

Graduate students have been learning about, analyzing, and developing curricula from a theoretical, and lived experience, perspective throughout this course. This opportunity to co-develop and implement a lesson in Concrete served to ground theory in practice, engage with our neighbors, and just have a little bit of fun with real live kiddos. It can be easy to forget why we spend so much time developing and adapting curricula. These practical teaching experiences provide a good reminder of the value and impact of all the behind-the-scenes, detail-oriented work.

For a few weeks leading up to our visit, we worked in teaching pairs to write our own lesson plans from scratch, incorporating Next Generation Science Standards for the assigned grade levels. We communicated with teachers and gathered as many fun props and animal specimens as we could find in our Sundew Collections to share with students. The results? The kids had a great time and we gained more teaching experience!

A student’s drawing of beavers in a wetland; photo by Eric Buher

Each teaching pair visited a classroom and taught for about an hour, sharing fun facts about the North Cascades Ecosystems, watersheds, and local animals. Below, Eric Buher shares his account of the day.

“It was such a pleasure to meet the wonderful students in Ms. Beazizo’s Kindergarten class at Concrete Elementary. They were very excited to learn about beavers and their habitat. They went to great efforts to show how much they had learned with some excellent pictures. We learned a lot about meeting the students where they are, the importance of effective lesson planning, and always being sure to give encouragement for burgeoning artistic talent!”

» Continue reading Graduate Students Visit Concrete Elementary!

Weekly Photo Roundup: January 15 2018

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

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

This week graduate students in the M.Ed Residency Program returned from their holiday break. After three weeks of being gone, we all returned to see cold, white stuff everywhere at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. Below is a video from Ashley Hill of students having a snowball fight while on a break from nonprofit class. Some of us couldn’t help but enjoy the newly fallen snow and the temptation to throw it at each other!

Graduate Student Charlee Corra caught a glimpse of deer enjoying the snow, too.

Photo of deer snacking by Marissa Bluestein

» Continue reading Weekly Photo Roundup: January 15 2018

Natural History Field-Excursion: A Grinnell Journal Entry for a Day with David Moskowitz

January 2nd, 2018 | Posted by in Field Excursions

This post is the third of a 3-part series describing graduate students’ ten-day field excursion to the Methow Valley, as part of their fall Natural History Course. Click here for all three parts. 

On October 6, 2017, the 17th cohort of graduate students ended their 10-day field course by meeting with wildlife tracker and photographer, David Moskowitz, to learn more about tracking. This blog post was written in the Grinnell Method of keeping a naturalist journal by graduate student Liz Grewal.

06 October 2017

Left Skalitude resort at 806, 36°F Sparse, cirrus clouds were observed.

Skalitude Retreat Center, Okanongan County, Washington

Route: Leaving Skalitude Retreat Center,  2.1 mi on Smith Canyon Road, 3.7 mi on Libby Creek

Road, 9.3 mi on SR 153 North, 2.3 mi on SR 20 West. Detour to Cinnamon Twisp for coffee and pastries: right on to E 2nd Ave, left North Glover St. Continue on SR 20 West for 16.9 miles, pull off on left side of highway, just downstream from Weiman Bridge.

9:40 We met with David Moskowitz for introductions. D. Moskowitz has over 20 years of experience in wildlife tracking and has written a field guide to wildlife in the Pacific Northwest. The site is a restoration project by the Yakama Nation in efforts to promote habitat and restore populations of native salmon in the Colombia River.

» Continue reading Natural History Field-Excursion: A Grinnell Journal Entry for a Day with David Moskowitz

Natural History Field-Excursion: Learning the Value of Citizen Science

December 26th, 2017 | Posted by in Field Excursions

This post is the second of a 3-part series describing graduate students’ ten-day field excursion to the Methow Valley, as part of their fall Natural History CourseBelow is writing by Zoe Wadkins, graduate student in the North Cascade Institute’s 17th cohort

It was twenty-eight degrees out and declining. Seventeen of us gathered around a lone fire while Andromeda twinkled in the Eastern sky. Our second night atop Chelan Ridge with HawkWatch International held my cohort and I captivated by firelight – humbled by the elements, the beauty of raptor migration, and the relentlessness of the folks who perch atop these ridges in hope of conveying an important story to the world.

Graduate students stand atop Chelan Ridge

Kent Woodruff retired Biologist for the U.S. Forest Service taught bird aerodynamics from our lookout post

For a more in depth account of our experience with HawkWatch, please see Brendan McGarry’s post Migrating Raptors over Chelan Ridge.

Though welcomed into hearth and home, and gifted rare opportunity to partake in this season’s raptor counts, us graduate students were the ones now being thanked. Thanked by the people who devote a portion of their lives to banding and counting hawks in the name of science. Thanked for our presence and interest in their migratory bird studies. Thanked for committing ourselves to education, and for imparting our experience to the outside world.

» Continue reading Natural History Field-Excursion: Learning the Value of Citizen Science