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From Teacher to Student and Back Again

October 16th, 2011 | Posted by in Field Excursions

Last weekend Cohort 11 graduate students had the chance to step away from our roles as Mountain School Instructors and again return to being students of Natural History during our three day Fall Grad Retreat. After weeks of training and teaching 5th and 6th grade youth about the diverse ecosystems of the North Cascades, the respite from such high activity was much appreciated by all. Our explorations took us by hand and knee through douglas fir forests near home, and by car and foot through the ponderosa pine and fire-scarred forests in the Methow Valley.

Day one of the retreat was spent near the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center campus with M.Ed. graduate alumna and mycologist Lee Whitford discussing the amazing yet unfamiliar world of fungi and their fruiting mushroom bodies. After learning some basic facts and characteristics about our earthy friends, we set out to do some local harvesting of our own (on Forest Service land, of course!). It took some time to adjust our eyes and hone our observational skills to the often unnoticed specimens hidden between leaf, detritus, and tree trunk, but half an hour and handfuls of mushrooms later our forage had yielded an impressive and diverse variety of them.

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A Naturalist’s Weekend: Exploring Fungi, Fire and Beetles

October 28th, 2010 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

After several weeks of preparing for and teaching fall Mountain School, graduate students of Cohort 10 momentarily stepped away from their roles as instructors and transitioned back to being eager students. The occasion was our fall graduate retreat, where we spent several days with various North Cascades Institute staff and friends studying and observing natural history in the North Cascades ecosystem. Our retreat offered a diverse range of topics that took us to nearby forests in the Upper Skagit Valley to east side pine forests in the Methow Valley.

Fungi were the first order of business on our three-day retreat. We met with Lee Whitford, a former NCI staff member and C2 graduate, who led us in a mushroom collection and identification lesson. Together we explored nearby National Forest land, scouting and harvesting mushroom specimens. At first glance, the mushrooms were difficult to find as we searched the thick, mossy underbrush of the forest. But our observant eyes did not fail us and fungi appeared everywhere!

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