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MS Fall 2015 Cover

Mountain School: Celebrating 25 Years and the end of the Fall Season

November 22nd, 2015 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

For the past 25 years, the North Cascades Institute has been teaching students about their wild nearby through the Mountain School program. The program started back in 1990 and was based out of Newhalem, WA. Tracie Johannessen, who lead the program when it started and is the current Education Director at the Institute, informed the newest Mountain School instructors during training that “Mountain School used to be based out of tents in Newhalem. Other than the location change (up to the Environmental Learning Center in Diablo in 2005) and tweeks in the curriculum here and there, the program has been consistent.”

The typical, three day program for fifth grade students has a simple ABC format: Abiotic, Biotic and Community days. As Tracie said, every student coming for Mountain School over the past 25 years has experienced the North Cascades in this way. This fall 1,230 students from 19 schools joined this legacy.

MS Fall 2015 Bus

Two students ready for an awesome three days!

After driving anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours on a bus, the students arrive with big smiles and arms full of luggage. Some of the schools have been coming for 25 years, so these students have been hearing about this journey from their older schoolmates. They then drop off the luggage and go through a humorous and informative orientation about the Environmental Learning Center, the North Cascades National Park, and what to expect for the next three days. The students are then divided into trail groups of 10 students maximum per instructor.

» Continue reading Mountain School: Celebrating 25 Years and the end of the Fall Season

Classroom in Bloom Circle

Classroom in Bloom: Growing the locavores of tomorrow

October 17th, 2015 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

Hot. Dry. Dusty. A perfect description for the Methow Valley, an area currently in a severe drought. So it was rather surprising then when the new graduate cohort arrived to the Methow Elementary School to see an oasis of a garden in full bloom!

Classroom in Bloom Learning Circle

Learning circle space in the middle of the garden.

Part of our Graduate Program curriculum is to study local environmental education programs for examples of how we can give students different educational experiences. Classroom in Bloom is a nonprofit founded in 2004 that works with the Methow Elementary School to provide curriculum to the students based on growing food. The actual garden is located 100 yards away from the school, making transfer of students and food back and forth as easy as running outside for recess.

Kate Posey, the Executive Director of CiB, met with us first thing in the morning to explain that that day was Local Food Lunch and the students’ “farmer’s market” day. With that half of the cohort went to go help the fourth grade class with their market, while the other half went to wash carrots.

While washing the carrots, Kate explained that not only does this garden provide a space for students to learn hands-on experience, but it also produces food that the students eat. Two Thousand pounds worth each year. We were washing carrots that were planted, harvested, and soon to be eaten by the students. How much more local could you get?

As we finished up, it was time to go to lunch in the cafeteria, with food provided not only from the garden but also local growers in the valley.

Classroom in Bloom Plate

The colorful local school lunch.

» Continue reading Classroom in Bloom: Growing the locavores of tomorrow

Seattle Times cover

North Cascades Institute in The Seattle Times: “Mountain School makes the magic of the wilderness real for kids”

August 17th, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

We are thrilled with The Seattle Times‘ story on Mountain School, the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center and the Institute’s 30 years of environmental education in the North Cascades. It appeared as the cover story in the Times‘ Pacific Northwest Magazine on August 9, 2015 and features a wealth of amazing photos, many quotes from MS students and teachers and an interview with our founder and executive director Saul Weisberg.

 

“DO NOT LET the sly grin fool you. Nika Meyers is not joking around.

Out here amid the firs and ferns and tiny birds and devil’s club above Diablo Lake, she makes certain things clear to her young charges. Today’s lesson on getting in touch with the earth? It’s not some cute metaphor. It is exactly that: On your knees, boys and girls. Right down there with the spiders and rotting leaves and — Holy Crap! Is that a centipede?
This is how it’s done at Mountain School: One pair of happy, grubby, fifth-grade paws at a time. Multiply by 2,800 kids from 53 schools this year alone, stir, and enjoy.

The concept behind the school, run by nonprofit North Cascades Institute, sounds simple: In a three-day mountain camp experience, imbue in school children a visceral connection with this special place — the thumping, mountainous heart of Northwest wilderness. Make its magic real to them at a micro level, in the hope that some of them will feel the pull to return as powerfully as a salmon headed home to spawn. Slip into their consciousness rudimentary skills of a naturalist — the ability to observe and make the same personal connections to other wild lands.

Oh: Also do this without boring the amped-up, digitally dependent kids out of their skulls.

Mountain School still represents what Saul Weisberg espoused from the beginning: A chance for Northwest kids to get out in nature — many of them spending nights away from home for the first time — and go home with mountain air embedded in their hearts. While the Institute’s unofficial mission has always been to “save the world,” it’s official task is to put people and nature together and stand back in awe watching what happens. It can’t happen without the dirty hands.”

 

Read Ron Judd’s excellent story on our Mountain School program at www.seattletimes.com!

And watch a 4-minute video by Steve Ringman at http://bcove.me/5b5mbuaz!