Chattermarks

From North Cascades Institute

Search Chattermarks

North Cascades on Instagram

Archives

YLA 2015 Talking

2015 Youth Leadership Conference: A Confluence of Young Leaders

November 30th, 2015 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

By Emily Ford and Ginna Malley Campos

On Friday November 6th, a voice broke the frosty air: “Who wants to be a leader?!” Cheers echoed across emerald Diablo Lake and up the cloudy slopes of Sourdough Mountain. Sixty-one students from Washington and Oregon kicked off the beginning of an exciting weekend at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.

The Youth Leadership Conference is an annual event where students with an interest in conservation as a career meet at the North Cascades Institute. The three day conference connects youth with major conservation partners through breakout sessions, projects, and wonderful discussions.

The sixth annual conference included students ages 14-22 who are alumni of North Cascades Institute’s youth programs (including Youth Leadership Adventures, North Cascades Wild, Cascades Climate Challenge, Mountain School and Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Youth Program) as well as other youth programs such as Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Outdoor Opportunities (O2), Student Conservation Association (SCA), Darrington’s Youth Forestry Institute (YFI), and InterIm WILD.

YLC 2015 Canoe

Canoeing on Diablo Lake

Students started the weekend by catching up with old friends from their various summer programs. Together, they enjoyed a weekend of learning about service, jobs, internships, college, and summer program opportunities as well as developing professional skills to excel. Highlights from the weekend include:

Small Group Hikes: Students explored near-by nature trails, played games, learned natural history, and reflected on their past, present and future experiences in the North Cascades and other public lands.

» Continue reading 2015 Youth Leadership Conference: A Confluence of Young Leaders

YLA 2015 Group

Youth Leadership Adventures 2015: A Report from Ross Lake

November 3rd, 2015 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

By Sabrina Freedman

Editors note: To put into context the Youth Leadership Conference held at our Environmental Learning Center from November 6-8, this article was written by one of our Youth Leadership Adventure leaders, Sabrina Freedman.  In it, she reflects on the growth she witnessed in her student trail group during their backcountry journey.

A remote basin in North Cascades National Park sits below two of its tallest peaks. Goode and Logan mountains are heavily glaciated, and are a remarkable and remote destination to park visitors and students on a Youth Leadership Adventures trip. This basin is so remote, that it is home to a wolverine monitoring station and a three-mile trail that terminates in high meadows with herbaceous plants and black bears galore.

YLA 2015 Mountain

Basin between Goode and Logan mountains.

The group of students on an 11-day backpacking adventure was unsure if they would find habitat for themselves in such a wild place. The nine students, all rising juniors, seniors or recent high school graduates had signed up for a 16 day field course focused in learning about climate science and sustainable practices. The students were from as far as Astoria, Oregon though many were from the Skagit and Nooksack flats in towns such as Mt. Vernon, La Conner, Sumas and Saxon.

Many students came for the great views and to have fun outside but also to complete their senior projects and to learn more about our changing climate. As the new group got together on the first day to hike over Cascade Pass with a collective 450 pounds of gear and food, they were amazed both by the beauty around them and by their personal strength. They were especially mesmerized by the glaciers.

» Continue reading Youth Leadership Adventures 2015: A Report from Ross Lake

YLC (1 of 1)

Youth Leadership Conference 2015 in the North Cascades; now accepting applications

September 3rd, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

Applications for our 2015 Youth Leadership Conference are now being accepted! The conference is held at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center November 6-8 and is open to students ages 14-22 who are alumni of our youth programs, including Youth Leadership Adventures, Mountain School, Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Youth, and Concrete Summer Learning Adventure.

YLC (1 of 1)-6

Information and application at www.ncascades.org/signup/youth/ylc. Due date is Friday, October 2nd!

2012 YLC ©Jess Newley (2 of 5)

YLC (1 of 1)-4

 

 

FireSet

Primitive Skils: A Lesson in Reconnection

December 15th, 2014 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

I remember my first introduction to the world of primitive skills – the day my employer and mentor first showed me how to make fire by friction.

Fifteen of us sat and watched as David sat quietly on the ground and pulled several pieces of wood from a canvas bag. A long bow, a slender rectangle, a cylindrical branch, a stone, and a bag of bark. Without speaking, he positioned the branch, wrapped in the string of the bow, perpendicularly to the slender rectangle. He steadied it with a rock on the top of the branch, then began to rhythmically move his arm back and forth, rotating the branch in a divot in the board. We waited, barely willing to breathe lest we break the spell David wove.

Almost immediately, fragrant sage smoke began to pour from beneath David’s hands. Without breaking his focus, he set down his bow, and lifted the wooden rectangle from the ground to reveal a small, glowing ember. He gently tapped the ember into a clump of bark, then held it to his face and began to gently blow. He seemed to breathe life into his hands. Thick, yellow smoke began to surround his head until, in a split second, flames erupted. To me, he seemed a modern day Prometheus – the bringer of fire.

NestBlowUp

I feel like Prometheus on every camping trip

From that moment, I was spellbound by both fire and the world of traditional skills. Tapping into this body of knowledge felt like a way to connect with the most ancient, ancestral part of myself. As a person already comfortable in the outdoors, I felt catapulted into a new stratosphere of connection to the earth. I could create fire. Ever since man discovered fire, it has played a central roles in so many aspects of our lives. We cook over fire, gather around it as a focal point of community, tell stories around it, and use it to survive long, cold winters. To be able to create it with my own hands, without the aid of lighters or fuel, felt like a revelation.

This skill, and the community to which it introduced me, changed my life.

FireBoard

My trusty fireboard, cut from a sage trunk in the Utah desert

For the next two years, I taught friction fire to my wilderness therapy students while simultaneously seeking out primitive skills teachers. I learned wicker basketry and how to make spirit horses. I attended WinterCount, my first primitive skills gathering, which could fill an entire blog post by itself. While at WinterCount, I sewed with buckskin for the first time, wet-felted with llama wool, crafted a didjeridoo, soaked and manipulated porcupine quills into a bracelet, learned many new ways of making fire, and learned about the bevy of wild edibles growing in the southern Arizona desert. All in the warm embrace of primitive skills enthusiasts who range from ranchers and traditional homesteaders to barefoot, tattooed 20-somethings.

I recently had the good fortune to discover the Marblemount Homestead. Steve and Corina Sahlin live just down the road from the Environmental Learning Center on a beautiful piece of land set back from Highway 20. Corina dyes and spins her own yarn and Steve imparts his impressive body of knowledge to community members through a variety of traditional skills classes including hide-tanning, friction fire, and bow-making. Two of my graduate cohort members and I jumped at the chance to make our own bows and arrived on a chilly but sunny Saturday morning at their homestead, ready to learn.

In just a day, Steve took us through the process of turning a red oak plank into a beautiful working bow. We took the planks, tapered at each end by Steve, and set to work shaping them. We closely followed Steve’s instructions to scrape wood equally from both sides, to only cut from the “belly” of the bow, and to move slowly and deliberately. We diligently scraped, then perched our bows on Steve’s tillering tree to figure out things like draw length and draw weight.

BowMakingRasp

Shaping my bow with a rasp

BowMakingTillering2

Steve helping Kelly Sleight, another graduate student, perfect her draw weight

BowMakingTilleringTree

Liz at the tillering tree

Liz, Kelly and I agree: to learn such knowledge feels empowering. To work with our hands and to create a beautiful, functional product is something so easily lost in today’s world of omnipresent technology and living life virtually. Steve and Corina’s homestead feels like a lovely haven, safe from pervasive iPhones and computers, and a place of great knowledge and learning.

BowMakingFinished

Confirmed: it shoots.

The world of primitive skills has brought such joy into my life. I came into graduate school knowing that this body of knowledge and educational goals would be an integral part of my studies, and that I would work to find ways to incorporate it into my residency at the North Cascades Institute. Along with my bow-making workshop, our entire graduate cohort got the chance to learn deer processing from Katie Russell in the Methow Valley, and I continue to push friction fire on whomever shows the slightest interest in it. Whether it’s my fellow grad students or the inspiring young adults at the Youth Leadership Conference, I see the same reaction upon exposure to these skills: awe, wonder, and a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. I am grateful for all my teachers, and for those who’ve allowed me to teach them.

YLCPrimitiveSkills

 

YLCPyramid&Colonial

Reflection and Action: the 2014 North Cascades Youth Leadership Conference

December 3rd, 2014 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

by Kelly Sleight, Graduate Student and YLC Planning Team member

The sun appeared on November 7th for the first time in weeks to greet the leaders arriving to attend the 2014 North Cascades Youth Leadership Conference. For three days, North Cascades Institute, North Cascades National Park, and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest hosted the fifth annual North Cascades Youth Leadership Conference at North Cascades Institute. Over sixty inspirational high school and college-aged participants, who travelled from various parts of the Pacific Northwest, arrived to see old friends, make new connections, learn about community action and environmental service, define their educational and professional goals, and enhance their leadership skills. These students were alumni of Youth Leadership Adventures, Student Conservation Association, and Recreation’s Outdoor Opportunities Program. The weekend would be packed full with hiking, learning, planning, dreaming, connecting, and inspiring!

 

 

YLCGroupHike
Students gather and take in some of the sights around North Cascades Institute

Once everyone arrived and oriented a bit to campus we gathered into our small groups to get out on the trails and get the weekend underway. Groups headed out on to different trails to get some fresh air, but also spent some time reflecting on what brought them to the conference and ways to start working toward their future goals now. One student reflected on how important it was to “be the butterfly” from Ray Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder. “When the man stepped on the butterfly in the past, the course of human history changed,” she said. “We are also butterflies, and our actions can change the future.” (See what I mean about inspiring?)

YLCActionPlans

Students gather to discuss goals and work on Action Plans

YLCVanessaTorres

Inspiring words from our keynote speaker Vanessa Torres

After a delicious dinner provided by the North Cascades Institute’s Chef Shelby, we heard from our keynote speaker, Vanessa Torres. Vanessa currently works as the Youth and Special Initiatives Coordinator for the National Park Service. She shared a beautiful and powerful story with us about finding her own connection to nature and the power of following your passion. Then as a community we gathered around for campfire before heading to bed. Saturday was sure to be packed with adventure and learning.

» Continue reading Reflection and Action: the 2014 North Cascades Youth Leadership Conference

YLC SSP Photo

A New Culture: The 2013 Henry M. Jackson Youth Leadership Conference

November 22nd, 2013 | Posted by in Institute News

Hey leaders?!”

Hey what!?!”

It was that time of year again, when over 60 motivated teens and environmental professionals from throughout the Pacific Northwest converge on the North Cascades Institute to spend the weekend learning about community action and environmental service projects. On November 9 and 10, the North Cascades Institute, National Park Service and United States Forest Service hosted the fourth annual Henry M. Jackson Youth Leadership Conference. The conference brought together former participants from regional youth stewardship programs to help them define their educational and professional goals, introduce them to new people and opportunities, and enhance their leadership skills.

One student, Tatum Kenn, described the weekend in her evaluation at the end of the conference: “LIFE CHANGING. INSPIRING. EYE OPENING.”

APCulturalCompA break-out session titled “Cultural Competence and the Environmental Movement,” facilitated by Sarah Weigle, Program Coordinator for the Student Conservation Association, and Amy Brown, NCI’s Youth Leadership Manager. Photo by Andrew Pringle.

And BUSY.  There were 11 break-out sessions, exploring everything from “Leadership Styles” and “Opportunities with the Federal Government” to “Adventures Abroad” and “Camping 101.” There was a Student Success Panel, featuring six youth leaders who shared their stories and answered questions from the audience, and an hour of student-led dialogue on topics ranging from labeling genetically-modified organisms to human population growth and sustainability. There was an Opportunity Fair, where government, non-profit and for-profit environmental leaders assembled to network with participants about future jobs, internships and programs. The following organizations all graciously attended the fair:

Lewis and Clark National Historic Park

Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest

McNett Corporation

National Forest Foundation

National Outdoor Leadership School

North Cascades Institute

North Cascades National Park Complex

Northwest Youth Corps

Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Outdoor Opportunities

Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group

Skagit Valley College

Student Conservation Association

Washington Conservation Corps

Washington Trails Association

Wilderness Awareness School

Additionally, Charles Thomas, Regional Manager of Youth Programs for the National Park Service Pacific West Region, flew in from California for the first day of the conference. Imagine if more national parks hosted annual events for youth leaders?

TatumKnotsLearning how to tie knots in “Camping 101.” Photo by Aneka Singlaub.
WatershedStudents freewrite during a break-out session, considering questions such as, “How can you live your life to be part of the solution? What are your strengths and challenges in terms of a more sustainable lifestyle? How does your connection to the natural world influence your behavior and lifestyle?”. Photo by Aneka Singlaub.
PowerTowerOne group hiked to the lookout spot above Buster Brown field, a perfect perch for inspiration. Photo by Aneka Singlaub.

In between such activities, participants were hiking and working on their “Action Plans” in small groups to outline their goals and objectives. The chance to get to know each other, reconnect with friends from past programs, do sunrise yoga and eat delicious food from the dining hall all made the conference a unique experience, as well.

Indeed, all these things were on the schedule, and happened, quite well. But more important is what happened in the hearts and minds of the student participants. Here is a sampling, gleaned from end-of-conference evaluations:

  • From Ariel Lunsford: “I am so thankful I was given the opportunity to come to this conference. I feel like I have found what I wish to do for the rest of my life. All the staff members were awesome and I have made many new friends. Thank you, thank you, thank you for everyone who helped make this all possible.”

 

  • From Elijah Yakimyuk: “This Conference is awesome! I gained so many resources and opportunities that made me realize that my wildest dreams now seem realistic in achieving.”

 

  • From Marisa Etzell: “A great opportunity to meet people who have been through a similar experience as you have, as well as network and connect with organizations who are looking for people just like you to hire!”

 

  • From Shekinah San Jose: “Take advantage of this amazing opportunity, take a risk and get out of your comfort zone, because you won’t regret it.”

 

  • From Seth Wendzel, of Seattle Parks and Rec’s O2, Outdoor Opportunities: “The Youth Leadership Conference was a confluence of great individuals and entities. The location is one of the better locations to be in the Pacific Northwest. Being an AmeriCorps intern in Experiential and Environmental Education, I was surrounded by so many opportunities to further partnerships and prospect future career opportunities. I look forward to mentoring the two students I was paired up with and encouraging them in the real world.”
 APSuccessYadira Lopez, a college student and former participant in NCI’s Cascade Climate Challenge, shared her experience as a leader during the Student Success Panel. In her evaluation, she wrote that the Youth Leadership Conference is “an awesome way to spend the weekend, and connect with old friends and new people. You learn about yourself a bit more too!” Photo by Andrew Pringle.
APEarthParticipants on the earth, of the earth, and in front of the earth. Photo by Andrew Pringle.
APgroupLeadership, rain or shine. Photo by Andrew Pringle.
APBridgeTyler Nixon, another participant on the Student Success Panel and leader with Teen Science Café, advised:”Just go and find out for yourself. It is worth it.” Photo by Andrew Pringle.

Having the chance to spend the weekend with so many teens and young adults inspired to seek solutions to global problems was inspiring in itself. Jeff Giesen, Associate Director of the North Cascades Institute, reflected on the importance of these opportunities in a recent email:

“The Saturday I spent at the conference was magical….I had countless conversations today with our staff, partners and youth about how amazing it is to be in the National Park, at the Learning Center and with so many people that care….I did my spiel about us having three missions and when I got to the ‘Save the World’ part, not a single youth laughed. It made me pause. A few adults laughed, but the kids sat there in understanding. We really have created a new culture of youth, a counterculture of sorts. These kids get it. We need to do more of this kind of work.”

ApCampfire2Closing ceremony. Photo by Andrew Pringle.
Leading photo: Masyih Ford, Co-master of Cermonies with Kassandra Barnedt, facilitates the Student Success Panel. Photo by Andrew Pringle.
 

Katherine Renz is a graduate student in North Cascades Institute and Western Washington University’s M.Ed. program. She was excited to be able to present about some aspects bioregionalism at this year’s Youth Leadership Conference.

 

Learning to Love in the North Cascades

February 16th, 2013 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

Heather Ellis is a future student of Social Work, currently on hiatus from school to work, take care of family, improve her photography, and give herself time for self-reflection and development. Born in Seattle, the North Cascades have always been in her backyard and became an integral part of her life after participating in programs hosted by North Cascades Institute.

When we arrived it was dark. We walked down to the dock and all I could see around me were the shadows of the mountains towering over us against a sky that was speckled with more stars than a strictly suburban-dwelling girl like me had ever realized existed outside of NASA photos. With all this greatness around me, I felt smaller than the tiniest ant—an insignificant speck in the cosmic fugue. I hated it. In this ever-so-humbling of arenas, the people who brought us had the gall to fill us with words of our worth:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?
Actually, who are we not to be?

» Continue reading Learning to Love in the North Cascades