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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!

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