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Summer Camp Fun… and Learning?

September 11th, 2017 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

Story and photos by Melissa Biggs, a graduate student in the Institute’s Master of Education program.

For my leadership track this summer, I was the coordinator of Concrete Summer Learning Adventure (CSLA), a summer camp program for Concrete elementary students run in partnership with the Concrete School District, Community Health Outreach Program at United General Hospital, Western Washington University and North Cascades National Park. CSLA was created to decrease summer learning loss over the summer, increase literacy skills and to provide healthy food for students in need in an outdoor setting. North Cascades Institute contributes by helping to coordinate the program, providing environmental education curriculum, and providing breakfast and lunch meals one day per week throughout camp. This year, the program ran for four Chinese Teapots, from July 10th to August 3rd.

Jillian and Cody are working together to measure 2 teaspoons of baking soda for Morning Glory Muffins – yum!

We were fortunate enough to be able to take the children on more than six different field trips, including one to the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center in North Cascades National Park! Most of the children had never been to the Environmental Learning Center and it was a wonderful feeling to see their reactions when arriving there. A few of the activities included: Plant BINGO, how glaciers are changing over time and how they affect Diablo Lake, and hiking Chinese Pu-erh Tea.

The campers are learning about glaciers in North Cascades National Park and how the glaciers are affecting Diablo Lake’s color at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.

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Lessons from Desolation: Youth Leadership Adventures in the North Cascades

September 1st, 2017 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

By Rebecca Zhou, Youth Leadership Intern 2017

12 days, 12 miles by canoe, 35 miles by foot, and a group of 12 girls. During the 12-day Science and Sustainability trip with Youth Leadership Adventures, students and instructors alike had the opportunity to dig deep and learn something about themselves. I believe that the fact it was an all-female identifying trip really helped with that. It helped create a safe space for each person to learn, grow, and be vulnerable with one another.

One such example of this includes our Challenge Day hike up Desolation Peak. Each Youth Leadership Adventures trip has a Challenge Day, or an exceptionally difficult day of physical activity. Instructors frame Challenge Day as an opportunity for students to push themselves outside of their comfort zones and grow both as individuals and as a group. On this Challenge Day hike, we gained 5,000 feet of elevation over the course of the 7 miles of trail from Lighting Stock Camp, and then we turned around and hiked back. Many students had never been on a hike before, much less a hike of Desolation’s magnitude. Even for myself as an intern instructor, this was a challenging hike.

The day started off cold and crisp at an early 5:00 am. We ate our granola, did our morning stretches, tucked things under the vestibules of our tents. Shortly after we set off we hit our first bump in the road–finding the way to the trailhead! All twelve of us stumbled groggily into an occupied Lightning Creek Camp trying to figure out if we had to pass through the camp to get to the trailhead. Eventually, we found our way. By 8:00 am, we got to the Desolation Trailhead. The overall spirit of the group was cheerful and excited. Everyone was determined to reach the goal that was decided unanimously the previous night: get to the summit. 

» Continue reading Lessons from Desolation: Youth Leadership Adventures in the North Cascades

Concrete Summer Learning Adventure: A Summer Camp full of Challenge, Heartbreak and Joy

August 30th, 2017 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

Story and photo by Becky Moore, a graduate student in the Institute’s Master of Education program.

This summer, I was fortunate enough to work as one of the four coordinators for Concrete Summer Learning Adventure (CSLA), as part of my graduate summer leadership track through North Cascades Institute. CSLA is a summer camp for kids entering 1st through 8th grade that takes place at the local high school in Concrete, Washington in the foothills of the North Cascades. CSLA was created based on the needs in the community for affordable summer child care, food security, and the reduction of summer learning loss among kids.This summer, I was fortunate enough to work as one of the four coordinators for Concrete Summer Learning Adventure (CSLA), as part of my graduate summer leadership track through North Cascades Institute. CSLA is a summer camp for kids entering 1st through 8th grade that takes place at the local high school in Concrete, Washington in the foothills of the North Cascades. CSLA was created based on the needs in the community for affordable summer child care, food security, and the reduction of summer learning loss among kids.

This 4-week camp is an amazing service: kids get picked up and dropped off Monday-Friday by school bus, fed breakfast, lunch, and snack, engage in literacy sessions twice a week, and go on a different field trip every Tuesday and Thursday. All of this for a fee of only $40 per child, with the option for a complete scholarship if needed.

This summer, CSLA was coordinated by Rachel Sacco, who is the Farm to School Coordinator for Concrete, and Adele Eslinger, both of whom work for United General Hospital Community Health Outreach Program. Melissa Biggs and I joined them as members of the 16th graduate cohort at North Cascades Institute. Staff members included 5 interns from Western Washington University and CHOP, as well as 5 high school interns hired from Concrete High School.

CSLA had an average attendance of 47 elementary-aged students each day at camp. These kids were divided into 4 different groups, each led by a Western intern. The middle school group was run by Rachel, myself, and our Western intern Allison Seitz. Mike Brondi, a well-respected park ranger in North Cascades National Park for over 30 years as well as a substitute teacher for Concrete, volunteered with us and was an extremely-valued addition to our group. We called ourselves CSLA+, and our group name was the Pikas. We had 17 campers entering 6th through 8th grade.

Campers enjoying breakfast. Meals were provided by Concrete High School Monday through Wednesday, and by North Cascades Institute every Thursday.

» Continue reading Concrete Summer Learning Adventure: A Summer Camp full of Challenge, Heartbreak and Joy

Youth Leadership Ambassadors Trip Report: Stewardship Weekend at North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center

August 16th, 2017 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

The Youth Leadership Ambassadors program is an extension of our Youth Leadership Adventures summer program. The goal of the program is to further develop leadership and outdoor skills, facilitate service and stewardship in our local communities and ecosystems, and provide college preparedness support to high school students from Skagit and Whatcom County. While serving as Ambassadors, students will participate in work parties, attend field trip and receive 15 hours of college access curriculum. Ambassadors will contribute blog posts covering their adventures throughout the year here on Chattermarks.

Appearing for the first time on Chattermarks are Mia Villaluz, Tavish Beals and Maria Nuno, who share their experience participating in the Stewardship Weekend event at the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center

Youth Leadership Ambassador: Mia Villaluz

The North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center is the place people can go to participate in North Cascades Institute functions and classes. It is also a place that graduate students attend. Some people go here for fun! It is a multipurpose, beautiful piece of land. It sits just above Diablo Lake and has amazing views of the mesmerizing North Cascades mountain range. For me, the purpose of the stewardship weekend was to have fun first and foremost and to get outdoors and meet new people, while making a positive impact on the people and places around us. It was to help those who have helped all of us.

Youth Leadership Ambassadors exploring the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center. Photo by Mia Villaluz

Ambassadors were involved in all the Stewardship Weekend projects, from clearing trails to spreading wood chips in our amphitheater space. Photo by Tavish Beals

The North Cascades Institute is a nonprofit organization that creates amazing opportunities for people from all walks of life, ages 5 to 95, and it doesn’t stop there! The stewardship weekend was an awesome opportunity to get outside. We each participated in different activities to better the property We removed invasive species, did trail clearing, spread wood chips, leveled out gravel, made buildings firewise, and much more. Overall, we all got to know one another a little bit better, we met new people, ate great good, and made even better memories. I personally helped with the wood chips and trail clearing. It was a lot of hard work, but I pushed myself and had a blast meeting new people and working within my group, getting to know each person on a deeper level. The whole weekend was so exciting and each day  was beyond beautiful.

» Continue reading Youth Leadership Ambassadors Trip Report: Stewardship Weekend at North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center

Youth Leadership Ambassadors Trip Report: Kayaking Bellingham Bay

July 28th, 2017 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

The Youth Leadership Ambassadors program is an extension of our Youth Leadership Adventures summer program. The goal of the program is to further develop leadership and outdoor skills, facilitate service and stewardship in our local communities and ecosystems, and provide college preparedness support to high school students from Skagit and Whatcom County. While serving as Ambassadors, students will participate in work parties, attend field trip and receive 15 hours of college access curriculum. Ambassadors will contribute blog posts and photographs that highlight their adventures throughout the year here on Chattermarks.

Appearing for the first time on Chattermarks are Alora Richards and Lorena Ochoa, who share their reflection of the Ambassador Program and their final trip kayaking on Bellingham Bay.

Youth Leadership Ambassador: Alora Richards

The Youth Leadership Ambassadors are a group of high school students that go on stewardship field trips and college tours. This program helps us learn more about college and the college application process. Our last Youth Leadership Ambassador field trip was June 10th and we went kayaking in Bellingham Bay. What I learned during my kayaking experience was that I don’t like deep water and most boats are made for taller people. I also learned that kayaking is super fun and I might have a new hobby.

» Continue reading Youth Leadership Ambassadors Trip Report: Kayaking Bellingham Bay

Youth Leadership Ambassadors Trip Report: Western Washington University

June 20th, 2017 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

The Youth Leadership Ambassadors program is an extension of our Youth Leadership Adventures summer program. The goal of the program is to further develop leadership and outdoor skills, facilitate service and stewardship in our local communities and ecosystems, and provide college preparedness support to high school students from Skagit and Whatcom County. While serving as Ambassadors, students will participate in work parties, attend field trip and receive 15 hours of college access curriculum. Ambassadors will contribute blog posts and photographs that highlight their adventures throughout the year here on Chattermarks.

Appearing for the first time on Chattermarks are Inna Mayer and Aaron So, who share their experience visiting Western Washington University in Bellingham.

Youth Leadership Ambassador: Inna Mayer

In late April, the Youth Leadership Ambassadors went on a trip Western Washington University. There, I learned about the Huxley College of Environment. Western Washington University is one of the colleges I’m interested in attending and I was happy to find out about their great Department of Environmental Studies. Steve Hollenhorst, Dean of Huxley, talked about the college and what interested him the most in the environmental field. It was special to hear what it meant to him to be a part of one of the oldest environmental colleges in the United States.

Youth Leadership Ambassadors taking a tour around the Western Washington University campus. Photos by Inna Mayer and Aaron So.

During the second half of the day, we got to attend the annual Earth Day event that the Environmental and Sustainability students and staff at the university put together. There were many speakers at the event and I was surprised and inspired at all the steps that these people took for conservation efforts. It was an eye-opening experience to learn what I could do to help out.

About Inna Mayer

My name is Inna Mayer and I’m a junior at Mount Vernon High School. I was adopted from Russia and I love the Pacific Northwest and getting involved with almost anything in the outdoors. Last summer, I participated in the eight day Outdoor Leadership trip with Youth Leadership Adventures. Taking on a leadership role in the outdoors provided a great experience to learn how to communicate and get through the day as smoothly as possible. It was a little intimidating to have the responsibility of leading my group through all the days planned activities. I had made a personal short-term goal for the day, which was to be able to look back on the things that went well and see improvement. Overall, I learned that it’s ok to ask for help.

Last fall, I attended the Northwest Youth Leadership Summit and found out about the Youth Leadership Ambassador program. I joined the Ambassadors because I wanted to continue my involvement with the North Cascades Institute.

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Youth Leadership Ambassador: Aaron So

For our fourth trip, the Ambassadors of North Cascade Institute went to Western Washington University. Located in Bellingham, we had the opportunity to meet the Dean of Huxley College of the Environment, Steve Hollenhorst. An advocate for program, he also serves the board member for the North Cascades Institute. Frankly, without his keenness for the program, it would not have existed.

While at the college, we toured the campus with Emmanuel Camarillo, a North Cascades Institute graduate alumni. At WWU, Emmanuel advises students academically, coordinates their peer mentor program and advise the Blue Group (Western’s student club for undocumented students). With Emmanuel, we were able to gain more insight on the college life, visiting the dorms and cafeteria. After eating lunch in one of Western’s dining halls, we listened to Tina Castillo, a WWU Admissions expert.


Listening to Dr. John Francis at Western Washington University’s Earth Day celebration. Photo by Aaron So

For the second half of the day, we participated in a student led day celebrating Earth Day. There were 7 local speakers who gave short talks of various areas of sustainability, ranging from food waste to transportation. We ended the day with a notable keynote speaker, Dr. John Francis, who spoke of the day’s theme, “Turning Empathy Into Action”.​​​​​​

About Aaron So

I’m Aaron So and I’m 16 years old and I’m currently attending Burlington-Edison High School. A few of my hobbies pertain sports like swimming, tennis, and volleyball. To be quite frank, I’ve never really been outside into nature for long periods of time nor have I ever had the chance to see nature for what it is. I joined the Ambassadors in hopes of experiencing new things and seeing new sights.

Youth Leadership Ambassadors Trip Report: Skagit Valley College

April 27th, 2017 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

The Youth Leadership Ambassadors program is an extension of our Youth Leadership Adventures summer program. The goal of the program is to further develop leadership and outdoor skills, facilitate service and stewardship in our local communities and ecosystems, and provide college preparedness support to high school students from Skagit and Whatcom County. While serving as Ambassadors, students will participate in work parties, attend field trip and receive 15 hours of college access curriculum. Ambassadors will contribute blog posts and photographs that highlight their adventures throughout the year here on Chattermarks.

Appearing for the first time on Chattermarks are Jonathon Martinez and Tobi Kepper, who share their experience visiting Skagit Valley College in Mt. Vernon. 

Youth Leadership Ambassador: Jonathon Martinez

On March 19, the students of the Youth Leadership Ambassadors program took a trip to Skagit Valley College. This college is a community college located in Mount Vernon. The Youth Leadership Ambassadors were sent to Skagit Valley College so that we could learn more about the school and know that getting into a college is always an option for us.

We specifically went to Skagit Valley College because we are comparing community colleges and state universities to see the differences between them. At the end of April, we will be heading to Western Washington University in Bellingham.

Getting ready to start our adventure at Skagit Valley College! Photo by Tobi Kepper

While being at the college we got to experience new things as a group. We started off by collecting a water sample from a pond located in the school. We used that water for an experiment that determined the amount of phosphorous in the pond. We learned that too much phosphorous causes foam on the water that absorbs oxygen particles, killing any aquatic life nearby. We calculated how much phosphorous was in the water by using a photometer. The photometer measures the light intensity of a solution. To get our measurements, we added tablets to our water samples, allowing the phosphorous to become visible to the photometer.

Our second lab looked at how scientists created models of the land before having phones and computers. We used a special tool and a few pictures of a specific location to get a three-dimensional look of the area, seeing the different elevations there.

In the final lab we looked at the different layers found in soil and determined what material was in each layer based on texture and color.

Testing soil quality. Photo by Tobi Kepper

Once we finished in the lab, we discussed the areas that are important to look at when picking a college. We learned about the quality of Skagit Valley College, the tuition, class size, what each degree is meant for, etc. A few Skagit Valley College students who were either in their first or second year, shared their experience and told us why they enjoyed the school. They explained why it was worth it and how they also had a lot of fun.

» Continue reading Youth Leadership Ambassadors Trip Report: Skagit Valley College