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Summer Camp Fun… and Learning?

September 11th, 2017 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

Story and photos by Melissa Biggs, a graduate student in the Institute’s Master of Education program.

For my leadership track this summer, I was the coordinator of Concrete Summer Learning Adventure (CSLA), a summer camp program for Concrete elementary students run in partnership with the Concrete School District, Community Health Outreach Program at United General Hospital, Western Washington University and North Cascades National Park. CSLA was created to decrease summer learning loss over the summer, increase literacy skills and to provide healthy food for students in need in an outdoor setting. North Cascades Institute contributes by helping to coordinate the program, providing environmental education curriculum, and providing breakfast and lunch meals one day per week throughout camp. This year, the program ran for four Chinese Teapots, from July 10th to August 3rd.

Jillian and Cody are working together to measure 2 teaspoons of baking soda for Morning Glory Muffins – yum!

We were fortunate enough to be able to take the children on more than six different field trips, including one to the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center in North Cascades National Park! Most of the children had never been to the Environmental Learning Center and it was a wonderful feeling to see their reactions when arriving there. A few of the activities included: Plant BINGO, how glaciers are changing over time and how they affect Diablo Lake, and hiking Chinese Pu-erh Tea.

The campers are learning about glaciers in North Cascades National Park and how the glaciers are affecting Diablo Lake’s color at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.

» Continue reading Summer Camp Fun… and Learning?

Concrete Summer Learning Adventure: A Summer Camp full of Challenge, Heartbreak and Joy

August 30th, 2017 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

Story and photo by Becky Moore, a graduate student in the Institute’s Master of Education program.

This summer, I was fortunate enough to work as one of the four coordinators for Concrete Summer Learning Adventure (CSLA), as part of my graduate summer leadership track through North Cascades Institute. CSLA is a summer camp for kids entering 1st through 8th grade that takes place at the local high school in Concrete, Washington in the foothills of the North Cascades. CSLA was created based on the needs in the community for affordable summer child care, food security, and the reduction of summer learning loss among kids.This summer, I was fortunate enough to work as one of the four coordinators for Concrete Summer Learning Adventure (CSLA), as part of my graduate summer leadership track through North Cascades Institute. CSLA is a summer camp for kids entering 1st through 8th grade that takes place at the local high school in Concrete, Washington in the foothills of the North Cascades. CSLA was created based on the needs in the community for affordable summer child care, food security, and the reduction of summer learning loss among kids.

This 4-week camp is an amazing service: kids get picked up and dropped off Monday-Friday by school bus, fed breakfast, lunch, and snack, engage in literacy sessions twice a week, and go on a different field trip every Tuesday and Thursday. All of this for a fee of only $40 per child, with the option for a complete scholarship if needed.

This summer, CSLA was coordinated by Rachel Sacco, who is the Farm to School Coordinator for Concrete, and Adele Eslinger, both of whom work for United General Hospital Community Health Outreach Program. Melissa Biggs and I joined them as members of the 16th graduate cohort at North Cascades Institute. Staff members included 5 interns from Western Washington University and CHOP, as well as 5 high school interns hired from Concrete High School.

CSLA had an average attendance of 47 elementary-aged students each day at camp. These kids were divided into 4 different groups, each led by a Western intern. The middle school group was run by Rachel, myself, and our Western intern Allison Seitz. Mike Brondi, a well-respected park ranger in North Cascades National Park for over 30 years as well as a substitute teacher for Concrete, volunteered with us and was an extremely-valued addition to our group. We called ourselves CSLA+, and our group name was the Pikas. We had 17 campers entering 6th through 8th grade.

Campers enjoying breakfast. Meals were provided by Concrete High School Monday through Wednesday, and by North Cascades Institute every Thursday.

» Continue reading Concrete Summer Learning Adventure: A Summer Camp full of Challenge, Heartbreak and Joy

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Sea Stars in the Community

May 26th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

After two months upon completing her graduate degree from Western Washington University, Rachel has been reflecting on her amazing experiences over the previous 18 months. Through her journey at the North Cascades Institute’s Graduate Residency program, her accomplishments and experiences have molded her into a passionate environmental educator. One of those experiences was incorporating her natural history project on sea stars into her leadership track at Concrete Summer Learning Adventures. 

By Rachel Gugich, graduate student in the institute’s 14th cohort.

For my natural history project I researched the current turmoil occurring with sea star populations with the Sea Star Wasting Syndrome.
I mainly looked at conditions off the west coast and Puget Sound region and what is being done to save this tide pool titan. Current research suggests younglings of sea stars are starting to appear and making a comeback. I have grown up exploring the tide pools and having witnessed up close on my explorations a sea star effected by wasting syndrome, I wanted to learn more about this crisis in the sea.

» Continue reading Sea Stars in the Community

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Local Students Explore their Backyard National Park

April 22nd, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

by Katie Griffith, Americorps VISTA, Youth Programs Outreach Specialist, North Cascades National Park/North Cascades Institute 

Mist shrouded Diablo Lake’s surrounding peaks as Concrete and Darrington’s school buses drove over Diablo Dam. The overcast weather did not dampen student excitement as fifth grade students from both local schools arrived at North Cascades Institute’s Environmental Learning Center to attend Mountain School within North Cascades National Park Complex. Sixty kids unloaded sleeping bags, backpacks, and boots, well prepared to spend three days exploring the ecosystems of the park.

The residential environmental education program teaches science concepts in an interactive, outdoor setting; glaciers, rivers, and forests surrounding the Learning Center make up the Mountain School classroom. The visiting students participated in the Ecosystems Exploration curriculum, in which students investigate the abiotic and biotic factors that make up North Cascades ecosystems.

“I love science and fishing and it was really cool looking at stuff we collected under a microscope!” said fifth grader Coho about the program.

“We went on a night hike to the dam and it was awesome!” said fifth grader Anya, while Kiawa said “the five mile hike to the waterfall with my friends was the best.”

The trip also included plenty of hiking, locally-sourced meals and a campfire with skits and games.

In 2015, Mountain School is celebrating its 25th birthday! But Mountain School didn’t always happen at the Learning Center on Diablo Lake; for the first fifteen years, Mountain School students camped in tents at Newhalem Campground, an experience some Concrete teachers may remember. In 2005, the North Cascades Institute was thrilled to build the Environmental Learning Center on Diablo Lake as part of the terms of Seattle City Light’s federal hydroelectric license renewal. Since 2005, thousands of students from all over the region have benefited from programs based out of the Learning Center.

MSGroupGraduate student Chelsea Ernst makes observations about a tree with her students

Institute staff members and National Park Service rangers were excited to welcome the most local schools to Mountain School last week. “It was so inspiring to teach such an excited, inquisitive, and observant group of young learners,” said graduate student and Mountain School Instructor Chelsea Ernst. Both Darrington and Concrete Schools participated in the Skagit Watershed Education Project with the Institute from 1994-2004, but this is the first year since the ‘90’s that Concrete has attended Mountain School. Concrete was able to attend with support from Washington’s National Park Fund. Darrington’s fifth graders had never attended a full Mountain School program; they attended with support from North Counties Family Services. North Cascades Institute also prioritizes fundraising to subsidize participation for public schools.

It is “hugely important” for the Institute to work with its most local schools, says Christen Kiser, Mountain School Coordinator. “Connections between their home communities and their experience at Mountain School are much more evident and integrated into their daily lives than students who travel from further away to attend.”

Local students will integrate ecosystems concepts learned at Mountain School into their classes throughout the rest of the year.

For more information about Mountain School and other programs at North Cascades Institute, visit the website or call (360) 854-2599.

SAVE THE DATE! You’re invited to celebrate Mountain School’s 25th anniversary at a free BBQ picnic and open house at the North Cascades Institute’s Environmental Learning Center on August 23. Details can be found here.

This article originally appeared in the Concrete Herald.

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Concrete Summer Learning Adventure

November 17th, 2014 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

By Tyler Chisolm, Graduate M.Ed. Student, Cohort 13

Time flies when you’re having fun… and learning? The Concrete Summer Learning Adventure (CSLA), which wrapped up on August 31st, was another huge success for the Concrete community helping to fight summer learning loss and hunger while promoting healthy habits, outdoor exploration, literacy, and, above all, fun! In the second year running, CSLA served 58 students ranging from incoming first graders to incoming sixth graders with the majority of students in the 6 to 8-year-old range. Here’s a peek at some of the fun that was had this summer:

Summer Learning Loss and Literacy

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Camper works on his literacy skills as he racks up reading minutes
 

Of the 58 students participating in CSLA, 88% either improved or maintained their reading level after participating in almost 36 hours of interactive literacy activities, including the ever popular Sight Word Animal Relays! Campers were even encouraged to read outside of camp with the promise of a bicycle-blended blueberry milkshake when reaching a cumulative total of 5,000 minutes of reading on the READ-O-METER. This 5,000-minute goal was accomplished (and then some) with help from Page Ahead [http://pageahead.org/], which donated enough books for each student to choose and keep four books at their own reading level. Chinese Teapots Wholesale Chinese Teapots Amber Spiral Bracelets
One camper showed her appreciation, and need, by saying “now I can read at home too!” The literacy education was supplemented by AWE [http://www.awelearning.com/], an interactive computer-based learning system, one of which is currently available at the Upper Skagit Library in Concrete [http://www.upperskagit.lib.wa.us/]. And speaking of the library, library director Brooke Pederson was a big hit when she came to camp to read books pertaining to each week’s theme.

Hunger and Healthy Habits

 

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Campers enjoyed trying new healthy foods!
 

» Continue reading Concrete Summer Learning Adventure

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Elk Xing

April 3rd, 2014 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

If you drive on State Route 20 between Sedro-Woolley and Concrete, you can participate in citizen science without even leaving your car.

Researchers at Western Washington University are studying elk crossings along this stretch of two-lane road, and they need your help. Their interest was prompted by the high incidence of collisions between vehicles and the 1,000-pound ungulates. Over 50 elk were reported killed by traffic in this zone in 2012, though it’s only a 20-mile stretch of highway. There were likely more fatalities that went undocumented. A year later, in 2013, reported elk roadkills fell to the low 30s. Since this was only the second year of concerted data collection for scientific study, it is impossible for researchers to discern any pattern.

Yet. Now scientists want to know: Exactly where and when are elk crossing the highway, and where and when are they killed? That’s where commuters, visitors and day-trippers come in. The observations of motorists and residents are an important component of their data gathering, so much so that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has developed an “App” that makes it easy for people using the Internet or mobile devices to upload their observations. For those of us who hear “app” and get excited about pre-dinner small plates, here’s the simple breakdown: Step one: Download the App. Step 2: Choose your device to open the map. Step 3: Mark your elk sighting on the map, adding to the database and furthering the scientific understanding of elk behavior.

There is also a hotline and email address to report observations. Researchers remind drivers to be safe and not try to use the App while driving – photos and information can be uploaded later upon arriving at one’s destination.

elk haagCan you see the elk? The typical habitat of the lower Skagit Valley, east of Interstate 5, where the North Cascades elk herd tends to hang out, to the chagrin of some and the joy of others. Photo by Jessica Haag.

» Continue reading Elk Xing

An Upriver Life: The Skagit Beyond Highway 20

December 17th, 2013 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

The North Cascades are full of secrets. One must have a specific intention to discover the scenic treasures of the peaks, and that intention is usually accompanied by a backpack, several days of supplies, strong legs, and fortitude. Some treasures are only available for viewing from one particular point, on one obscure trail, after one has hauled body and gear up several thousand vertical feet. Although the drive along the highway is loaded with landscapes that suspend the breath and inspire the imagination, those who choose to linger a while and explore will reap the greater reward.

The same highway twists through dwellings that serve as no more than mile markers to most travelers. A few sporadic gas stations and convenience stores denote the entry to and exit from places that would be missed if one sneezed or got a bit of dust in one’s eye. However, these places that line the highway to the North Cascades hold their own magical secrets. Just as travelers are rewarded for finding their way beyond the sole strip of bitumen through this wild and scenic space, so do delights await those who choose a side road, and saunter rather than a sprint through the surprising upper Skagit River Valley.

Concrete, Washington

Like many, I had mentally reduced the small town of Concrete to what was visible from the highway: a small market, a few gas stations, a speed limit not to be tested by risk-taking passers through. The town’s name did not inspire exploration. My assumptions were tested at a meeting of the Upriver Poets (a story for another time) when I was told that there was a remarkably good, entirely gluten-free bakery hidden on the town’s main street.

An adorned lamp post in downtown Concrete, WA

Time Warp: An adorned lamp post in downtown Concrete, WA with Sauk Mountain in the background. Photo by Elissa Kobrin

One sunny Sunday, I drove to discover this aberration. I turned right off the highway and left onto Main, and stopped dead in the middle of the street with my brow furrowed and my head cocked to one side. Street lamps were adorned with wreath and garland, Christmas lights draped every fanciful store front, and people were walking around in Dickens-era frocks complete with top hats, tails, and petticoats. I peered into the rear view mirror to check for any obvious signs of temporal disturbance, and seeing none, I continued down the whimsical lane. I soon discovered that it was the exact day of the annual Christmas parade, wherein townsfolk dressed in period costumes and a variety of events filled the day with fellowship, entertainment, and Christmas Spirit. It was incredibly pleasant to discover two things: the lovely little downtown filled with cheer, and that I had not passed through a quantum anomaly (although that might have been really cool).

Upon arrival at the 5b’s Bakery, I was again taken aback. The bakery was a beautiful open space filled with natural light and delightful aromas. The pastry cases, counters, and freezers were bursting with tempting treats of every variety. To the left there was a full espresso bar and soda fountain that provided coffee drinks, milkshakes, and old fashioned sodas to complement any baked good.

5b’s was started by the Beals family: Em, Walter, Lizzie, Bowen, and Tavish. Em Beals was diagnosed with celiac sprue disease 18 years ago. Her twin sons, Bowen and Tavish were diagnosed when they were four years old. Em’s mission for the 5b’s was simple: to make delicious food to satisfy every craving while being dedicated to a 100% gluten-free facility with no risk of cross-contamination. She makes sure that people who live with celiac disease still get pizza, cookies, and birthday cake. The bakery also serves lunch specials including soup and sandwiches. I partook in a tasty soy latte and a scrumptious pumpkin cookie.

Em Beals, part of the family that runs the 5b's Bakery

Mama Bee: Em Beals, part of the family that runs the 5b’s Bakery. Photo by Elissa Kobrin

The 5b's bakery features a wide variety of all gluten-free treats

Good and Gluten-Free: The 5b’s bakery features a wide variety of all gluten-free treats. Photo by Elissa Kobrin

The staff of the 5b's Bakery whip up coffee drinks and lunch for patrons

Busy Bees: The staff of the 5b’s Bakery whip up coffee drinks and lunch for patrons. Photo by Elissa Kobrin

Shortly thereafter, I learned of a Celtic Christmas concert being held at the Concrete Theater. In 2012, the community rallied around the historic theater, and raised over $53,000 from individual donors and grants to obtain a digital projection system with 3D capability. In addition to delivering first-run major motion pictures for the community, the theater also serves as a venue for live performance and fitness classes.

The theater was warm and inviting inside with a myriad of concessions for the theater goer. The performer was Geoffrey Castle, who plays an electric violin with flair and talent. He brought with him his entire five-person band plus special guests Beth Quist of Cirque du Soleil and Don the Bagpiper. Even Santa Claus made an appearance, and rightfully so, because that show rocked. Castle is an exceptional performer and is accustomed to considerably larger venues and crowds, but he played with enthusiasm and often left the stage to walk up the aisle and interact with audience members.

The Concrete Theater in Concrete, WA

The Concrete Theater in Concrete, WA. Photo by Elissa Kobrin

Valarie Stafford and her staff welcome concert-goers at the Concrete Theater

Valarie Stafford and her staff welcome concert-goers at the Concrete Theater. Photo by Elissa Kobrin

Geoffrey Castle and his band perform at the Concrete Theater

Geoffrey Castle and his band perform at the Concrete Theater. Photo by Elissa Kobrin

The concert truly felt like a community affair, with friendly greetings amongst audience members prior to the performance. Valerie Stafford is the theater’s owner, “The community has been absolutely amazing at supporting the theater. They attend our movies regularly and take part in lots of our other events. I also use the facility for Encore Fitness, and have a great following of fitness fanatics at my classes.”

Rockport, Washington

Head nine miles east of Concrete and slow down, or you might miss this place where the Skagit River runs wide and the eagles come in droves each winter to pluck plump salmon from the pristine waters. Howard Miler/Steelhead Park provides river access and wildlife interpretive trails with views of the sublime Eldorado Peak and its giant glacier to the East.

Just south of Highway 20 is Blue Heron Farm and Nursery. This local staple has been around since 1979 and has provided farm fresh fruit, vegetables, bamboo, and plants to the community. The farm is also home to National Park Service ranger-extraordinaire, Mike Brondi. Above the barn, Mike built an extraordinary space for Tai Kwon Do, meditation, and Yoga. Classes are provided by local instructors by donation, and the space has been well appointed with mats, blankets, blocks, and meditation cushions as a result of the generosity of participants. The intention behind the space was to provide a venue for spiritual practice and recreation that was not cost prohibitive. Truly a community space, the Rockport Yoga Studio is for and by the people of the upper Skagit.

The well-appointed Rockport Yoga Studio

Plenty for All: The well-appointed Rockport Yoga Studio. Photo by Elissa Kobrin

The Rockport Yoga Studio provides Tai Kwon Do, Meditation, and Yoga classes by donation

The Rockport Yoga Studio provides Tai Kwon Do, Meditation, and Yoga classes by donation. Photo by Elissa Kobrin

A singing bowl at the Rockport Yoga Studio

A singing bowl at the Rockport Yoga Studio. Photo by Elissa Kobrin

Marblemount, WA

Hidden a mile or so up a gravel road along Diobsud Creek you will find Marblemount Homestead. There, Corina and Steve Sahlin raise their three children on five acres of farm and forest land. Corina was born and raised in southern Germany where she learned the art of cheese making from the ubiquitous artesian cheese makers in her homeland. As a child, Steve spent ten years in primitive Papua New Guinea where his parents served as missionaries. The simplicity and happiness of the people of Papua New Guinea inspired Steve. He became passionate about wilderness and tool crafting, and brought that passion to the upper Skagit where he teaches bow-making and wilderness survival classes. Corina raises goats and teaches classes in cheese making and goat husbandry. She makes and sells goat milk soaps and hand knits and felts beautiful hats, scarves, and other garments which she sells on her Etsy webpage.

Corina Sahlin and her daughter, Eva milking their goat

Having a Goat Time: Corina Sahlin and her daughter, Eva milking their goat. Photo by Corina Sahlin

From left: Kai, Eva, Corina, Lukas, and Steve Sahlin

A Homestead Family: From left: Kai, Eva, Corina, Lukas, and Steve Sahlin. Photo by Elissa Kobrin

Steve Sahlin displays a bow  and arrow he crafted. Sahlin teaches bow-making classes at his home

Survival Skills: Steve Sahlin displays a bow and arrow he crafted. Sahlin teaches bow-making classes at his home. Photo by Corina Sahlin

A selection of hand-felted hats made by Corina Sahlin

Colorful Toppings: A selection of hand-felted hats made by Corina Sahlin. Photo by Elissa Kobrin

Steve and Corina believe strongly in the power of community and they feel fortunate to have found a close community in their neighbors. When their oldest boy, Kai, wanted to learn to play the fiddle, Corina was supportive, but skeptical as to where a teacher could be found and considered the challenge of commuting long distances for lessons. When her neighbors learned of Kai’s interest, one gifted the boy with a fiddle, and another has provided lessons while refusing any kind of compensation. Last year, community members came together to create the Marblemount Community Market where local crafters, including Corina, offer their wares and musicians provide entertainment at the Marblemount Community Hall. Steve and Corina believe that strong community bonds and relationships happen organically, and that they cannot be forced. They have happily made Marblemount their home for nine years.

Road’s End

When I first arrived in Diablo as a North Cascades Institute graduate student this past September, I felt overwhelmed by what appeared to be a remote and isolated place. I had left behind irreplaceable friends and a rich community in Eugene, Oregon. However, when I took the time to linger a while, and when I made the commitment to stay for my winter break and seek out the community I hoped was here, I was blessed to find an abundance of creativity, warmth, and connection hidden just beyond the highway.

Lead Photo: The Skagit River from Howard Miller/Steelhead County Park. Photo by Elissa Kobrin

Elissa Kobrin is a graduate student in North Cascades Institute and Western Washington University’s M.Ed. program. She is a co-editor of Chattermarks. When not tracking down moose, she is keeping the world safe, one Band-aid at a time.