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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!

Profile of a Graduate M.Ed. Student: Lauren Marziliano

March 14th, 2015 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

“I have looked back on that time over and over again as one of the most informative times of my life.”

Lauren Marziliano reflects on her experience in our Graduate M.Ed. program, and how it led to her current job as teacher at the Waskowitz Environmental Leadership School, in our new video. Lauren is an alumni who graduated from North Cascades Institute and Huxley College of the Environment’s Graduate M.Ed. Program in 2004. In this short video, she shares why she signed up for the program, what she got out of it and what opportunities awaited her when she graduated and started looking for a job.


You too can establish your career in environmental education by earning a Master of Education while working with the Northwest’s best educators, naturalists and conservation leaders! North Cascades Institute offers a unique professional residency program designed to prepare students in all aspects of environmental education while living among the towering peaks of the North Cascades region in Washington State.

Unlike many other graduate residency experiences, our professional residency is fully integrated into a degree program at Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University.

A Master of Education in Environmental Education is earned upon completion of the the seven-quarter program, along with Certificates in Leadership and Nonprofit Administration and Northwest Natural History awarded by North Cascades Institute. Course work explores environmental education while placing an emphasis on field science, cultural studies, teaching and nonprofit administration.

For more information on how to apply, visit or email to

Interview and editing by Christian Martin. Shot by Benj Drummond.


From North Cascades Institute to the Montana Natural History Center

August 9th, 2013 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

What have I been doing since graduating from the North Cascades Institute M.Ed program in 2003?  A lot.  As it turns out, in a small non profit, you do your basic job and then you do other things, or “other duties as assigned” as our job descriptions generally say.

I’ve helped out on several planning committees for Children and Nature efforts in Missoula and in Montana, I’ve served on the board of the Montana Environmental Education Association, and worked briefly for the International Wildlife Film Festival.  But for the last decade, I’ve been at the Montana Natural History Center.  And the longer you work in a place, the more your job tends to shift and morph into something that almost resembles what you exactly want to be doing.

Today at work I packed rocks into boxes.  The rocks are from an assorted collection donated to the Montana Natural History Center years ago.  They have been sorted by volunteers through the years and have been relegated to a far corner of our storage space.

We also packed skulls from both native animals and others like horses, seals, and even a walrus.  Similar donations.

» Continue reading From North Cascades Institute to the Montana Natural History Center

ice cream

Learning to teach through the “what if…?s”

July 20th, 2013 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

On my first teaching day of fall Mountain School I was terrified. I was completely smitten with the amazing North Cascades ecosystem I’d just spent all summer learning about. However, at that moment, there was nothing more terrifying than a group of wiggly 5th graders. “What if…?s” buzzed around me and wouldn’t let go. The teaching part of it seemed scary, even if I thought it was critically important to saving the environment. I seriously doubted if I would be any good at teaching.

Almost five years later there’s a lot less fear in my life. While the “What if…?s” aren’t gone, they are much quieter now and easier to ignore. So much of what I’m doing now with my life is thanks to the confidence that I gained through my Master of Environmental Education classes and my wonderful residency experience at the Learning Center. The coursework and teaching experience gave me an amazing toolbox that I still draw on today; for both teaching in the classroom and for launching my own ice cream business. I am very grateful for the confidence I developed while I was in graduate school.

After  graduating I moved back down to Seattle and sought out environmental education jobs. I ended up at the amazing Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center as a teacher for their school programs and summer camps. My canoeing experience from living on Diablo Lake was invaluable. I loved expanding my nature knowledge from the Cascades down to lowland wetlands. I even capitalized on the activities and facts that I learned during my natural history project on the nocturnal world by leading Night Walks at the Slough in the fall and spring.

» Continue reading Learning to teach through the “what if…?s”

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

Understanding Connection and Community

October 28th, 2011 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

On a dreary September morning a team of 6th grade students from Seattle’s Westside School upend cobble in Deer Creek while searching for macro-invertebrates – living clues in the mystery of this habitat’s health and the quality of the water cascading downstream. Their giddy grins and eager body language belie the soggy impediments to learning that characterize Pacific Northwest weather this time of year.

Weeks later, on a crisp October afternoon, seven 5th grade students from Bellingham’s Happy Valley Elementary grapple with the concept of a watershed while scanning the snow encrusted peaks which ensnare Diablo Lake. Narrating the life of a raindrop, they trace its course from cloud to ground to river and eventually the sea. Participants delight in the chance to imagine water flowing through their world and passing places they may never go.

Thunder Arm and the upper Skagit watershed seen from Sourdough Mountain. Photo by Colby Mitchell.

» Continue reading Understanding Connection and Community


This place, through their eyes

November 13th, 2009 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

You can feel them approaching. It is a surge of energy, a tidal wave of enthusiasm and wonder, about to overtake this place. The momentary quiet of the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center awaits eagerly the arrival of giggles and shouts, of singing and learning once more. Standing in the parking lot on a Monday or Wednesday afternoon, we, as instructors, can anticipate only so much. Backpacks are stuffed to the brim with daily supplies and previous nights are spent late, preparing for the next day’s activities.

It isn’t about us, though. As students arrive, whether by bus or by car, with gaping grins of glee and eyes wide with wonder, every time a Mountain School tidal wave hits, we are reminded—it is about these students and this place.

» Continue reading This place, through their eyes