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2017 Instructor Exchange

January 20th, 2017 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

On January 14th, the M.Ed graduate students of Cohort 16 (C16) welcomed students and staff from Islandwood and Wilderness Awareness School to North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center for the first of three gatherings that make up the annual Instructor Exchange. Every winter, this exchange offers instructors the chance to meet others in the environmental education field and share and discuss what we do within our own residential learning programs.

In the next coming weeks, the exchange will continue with trips to Islandwood’s Urban Environmental Education M.A.Ed program in Seattle, Islandwood’s Education for Environment and Community and Living graduate program on Bainbridge Island and Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall, Washington.

North Cascade Institute M.Ed graduates waiting to lead an orientation and campus tour for Islandwood and Wilderness Awareness School students.

For our time at the Institute ELC, we offered a series a break out sessions and recreational activities, each led by C16 graduates. The break out sessions provided us the space and time to delve deeper into topics that we each felt passionate behind and were eager to talk with those that could offer new insight and perspective. Session topics included:

  • Place-Based Learning
  • Best Practices and Program Comparison
  • Phenology
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • Ecological Identity
  • Climate Change Literacy in Environmental Education
  • Activism-Oriented Environmental Education

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Wilderness Awareness School and Islandwood: Graduate Exchange Weekend

February 25th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

The North Cascades Institute has a Graduate Residency program where Western Washington University students live and learn at the Environmental Learning Center located near Diablo, Washington for a full year. Currently the Institute’s 15th cohort (C15) is doing their residency as part of their Master’s in Outdoor Environmental Education.

This idea of a dedicated year of learning for future Environmental Educators is not unique to North Cascades Institute. Back in January my cohort and I hosted three other residential higher education programs at the Environmental Learning Center. We spent the weekend sharing about what we did with Mountain School and our residency in the mountains of the North Cascades. This month it was our turn to go down valley and visit the similar programs of


Wilderness Awareness School (WAS):


WAS’s Cedar Lodge.

Founded in 1983, the Wilderness Awareness School (located in Duvall, Washington)  the goal of the organization is to “to provide opportunities for children to discover the natural world around them, and for adults to explore, gain confidence in, and reconnect with the environment.” They do this through a variety of programs that involve over 2000 students every year. Their Anake Leadership Program is designed to build on what students have learned over their time at school and develop them as leaders in Outdoor Education.

» Continue reading Wilderness Awareness School and Islandwood: Graduate Exchange Weekend


Connections in the North Cascades

January 31st, 2015 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

by Rachel Gugich, M.Ed. Graduate Student

The point at which two or more things are connected, A feeling of understanding and ease of communication between two or more people.”

These are definitions I found when looking up the word connection. This feeling of connection was on full display on the weekend of January 17th at the Environmental Learning Center when the graduate students of Cohort 14 hosted students from IslandWood of Bainbridge Island, WA and Wilderness Awareness School of Duvall, WA. This conference was the first of three events in the 9th Annual Instructor Exchange, with each school getting the chance to host and show other instructors what makes their program experience unique. 

IEPyramidPyramid Peak presiding over the Environmental Learning Center

North Cascade Institute’s Instructor Exchange was titled Cascade Connections, alluding to the mountains that define our landscape, and the connections across mountains and water that we hope to form with other like-minded, passionate instructors.

IEHikingGroupA group poses with Diablo Lake in the background

Everyone arrived a little before lunchtime on Saturday. Introductions were made and we were off! Workshops, led by members of Cohort 14, were offered in the afternoon. These workshops included Glacier and Geology; Cedars in the North Cascades; Literature and Poetry on the Peaks and A Snapshot of the North Cascades. Within these sessions students from IslandWood and Wilderness Awareness School chose the workshops they would like to attend, or were able to explore the campus and landscape on their own. I led the class A Snapshot of the North Cascades. This was an amazing opportunity. I had the chance to interact with other instructors, to show them some of my favorite spots on campus, including the Buster Brown and Sourdough Creek Overlooks. There were opportunities to chat, take photos, and throw snow balls.

IEOregonGrapeA photo of Oregon grape taken during Snapshot of the North Cascades
 IESourdoughCreekExploring Sourdough Creek

The workshops later in the afternoon included Wolverine Studies; A Cultural History of the Upper Skagit; Wolf, Grizzly, Fisher Reintroduction to the North Cascades and A Conversation on Wilderness. These workshops offered a space for dialogue and exchange of knowledge and stories.

IESessionWolf, Grizzly, and Fisher Reintroduction session

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A Snowy Exchange with Environmental Educators

February 1st, 2012 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

“We need someone to plan the second portion of our three part Instructor Exchange with the graduate students and teaching apprentices from IslandWood and Wilderness Awareness School immediately after winter break.”

 Um, okay.

In less than two months, three novice event planners would host a group of 60 environmental educators at their secluded home in the mountains. What now? Dreams and plans, of course!

This meeting of the minds happened January 14th – 16th at the Environmental Learning Center tucked up in the splendor of the North Cascades National Park. We are lucky to have a landscape here along Diablo Lake that is quite beautiful and unique – our own special place we call home and love to share with others. This was the driving undercurrent behind what we hoped our weekend would be together.

Some friends from IslandWood and Wilderness Awareness School exchange exclamations during a breakout session. Photo by Jess Newley.

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Painting and Paints

Living Life in the Here and Now

March 5th, 2011 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

I like taking photos. I really like taking photos. I have taken tens of thousands of photos in my life, many of them over the course of the past three years. There is some human desire to capture and save moments of our lives, experiences, places, and people, and relive them. Today’s technology allows for people to capture life in the form of photographs at an almost unimaginable rate. In January of this year, Facebook reported that a record breaking 750 million photos were uploaded to Facebook over the course of a single weekend. Printed and put into physical photo albums, the resulting stack of all of the albums would be taller than six Mount Everest’s placed on top of each other. All from one single weekend.

While I do enjoy taking photos, there is also something to be said about not taking photos. When I hold a camera in my hand, or even just have a camera in my possession, I am unable to be fully present in the moment. There is always a bit of me asking “Should I take a picture of that? Will I ever see that again? How can I share this with my friends?” I am not completely experiencing life in the here and now.Chinese Teapots Wholesale Chinese Teapots Amber Spiral Bracelets
I feel a moment I will never experience again has slipped away. Over the past few years I have been wrestling with a balance between taking photos and not taking photos. Leaving my camera at home for some outdoor excursions and taking it with me at other times seems to be a decent compromise.

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Our visit to Wilderness Awareness School and Islandwood

February 26th, 2010 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

The celebration of my 28th year happened over the second half of the Instructor Exchange last weekend. For those unfamiliar, Instructor Exchange is a fun-filled, long weekend with our fellow environmental education instructors from Wilderness Awareness School (WAS) and Islandwood. We hosted the first half of the Exchange in January and now it was our turn to visit them.

The Exchange stated with a sunny and beautiful early morning drive. When we arrived at WAS we were greeted by a gang of smiling instructors who seemed happy for the company. Wilderness Awareness School is a woodland community of environmental instructors who focus on community building, Chinese Teapots Wholesale Chinese Teapots Amber Spiral Bracelets
survival skills, awareness, education, appreciation of nature and are, by far, the most skilled naturalists of us all.

To start things off, we commenced in Malalo Yu Chui – The Lair of the Leopard – for a ceremonial fire and story telling. After hearing the yarn of the school’s founders, we were given our nature names.  I am now known as Destroying Angel in some circles of friends. We departed Malalo to a trickster transformer series of lessons demonstrating diverse teaching styles on fire making, bird talk, tracking, and animal signs.  The highlight of the first evening was a wild and locally-inspired pasta dinner, which included salmon and a pasta sauce made of dandelions and stinging nettles.

(Title) All instructors participate in a bow drill exercise, Photo by Martine Mariott  (Above) Introductions were held at Malalo Yu Chui at Wilderness Awareness School, Photo by Erin Fowler

» Continue reading Our visit to Wilderness Awareness School and Islandwood