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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!

And watch a 4-minute video by Steve Ringman at!

Free climate change teacher workshop, August 10-14

July 26th, 2012 | Posted by in Institute News

Would you like to integrate climate change into your classroom curriculum? Are you looking for new ways to engage your students in the natural world? Join North Cascades Institute August 10-14 for a week in the North Cascades studying the effects of climate change in the Pacific Northwest from climate science experts,Chinese Teapots Wholesale Chinese Teapots Amber Spiral Bracelets
resource managers and climate change educators. We will focus on understanding climate change on a regional basis and adapting lessons from existing climate change curricula to your classroom. This workshop is free and provides teachers with clock hours too!

For more information and to apply, visit

Changing the Educational Climate

August 18th, 2011 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

~ Photo by Jeremy Magee.

Last week the first climate change teacher workshop was held at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. Twenty science teachers from Oregon and Washington were invited to spend a week at NCI’s Diablo Lake campus and discuss ideas and challenges for integrating climate change into curriculum and lessons. In an attempt to make direct connections between climate change and home communities, the workshop focused on regional evidence and effects of climate change in the Pacific Northwest.

Glaciers on a beach with Ian. ~  Photo by J. Magee.
Interpretive ranger Andrew Pringle welcomed us to the park and gave us an overview of the area. Racing the rising winds, we quickly jumped into the big canoes and went out on the lake with aquatic ecologist Ashley Rawhouser to gather data and zooplankton samples. Back in the classroom, Ashley explained how these fit into a lake system and what trends to pay attention to over the years.
Andrew and Ashley lowering the data logger. ~  Photo by Jack McLeod.
Collecting zooplankton and water temperature data. ~ Photo by J. McLeod.
Keying out zooplankton. ~ Photo by J. McLeod.
During the the next year, each teacher will undertake a service learning project with their students to connect lessons on climate change with actions that address it. They will be connecting their lessons to the National Park system in some way, and many of them are hoping to use the data that Ashley and other scientists have collected in the park.
Ashley laying out the ecology of the Skagit River. ~ Photo by D. Masterman.
The next day found us out on Railroad Grade with geologist Jon Riedel. Jon shared his work with glaciers over the past decade and fielded questions on a range of climate topics.

Jon shows old photos of the Easton glacier and its position. ~ Photo by J. McLeod.
Perusing glacier data sets in the field. ~  Photo by J. McLeod.

Mr. Magee enjoys the ride home. ~ Photo by J. McLeod.

Back in the classroom, teachers traded ideas on lesson plans, creative ways around barriers and shared their service project ideas. We created an online site for sharing documents and ideas and will be sharing our projects with other teachers nationwide with the launch of the Parks Climate Challenge website.

Andrew talks about interpreting climate change. ~ Photo by D. Masterman.

This program was started by an initial grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and further developed with funds from the National Park Foundation as part of a larger initiative called the Parks Climate Challenge.

A big thank you to our supporters and to all the teachers who took time out of their summer to participate in the workshop!