Mountain School Stewardship

Hello friends of Mountain School! If you haven’t yet heard, we’ve started a new Mountain School Stewardship program in Bellingham. After a class has come to Mountain School, we meet them at a city park within walking distance of their school to do a service project. The students revisit what they learned at the Environmental Learning Center, explore the nature in their backyard, and learn about their role as stewards of the forest. So far, we’ve had trips with Whatcom Hills Waldorf and Lowell, both with great fall weather, a lot of hard work and lots of fun. Here is an update from our latest trip with Lowell.
First and foremost, I want to thank our grads, Kiira, Susan, Matt and Ashley for coming. They did an amazing job organizing the kids, keeping track of their groups, doling out little educational tidbits, and keeping the kids motivated while pulling blackberries and mulching. I think they deserve the “making blackberry removal fun” merit badge. Its a skill. Plus, they’re just plain cool. Thanks again you guys! We’ve also been working with Rae, the Volunteer Coordinator with Bellingham Parks and Recreation. She has invaluable tips of the trade, like how to doggy-dig mulch into a bucket and how to drive a pickup filled with blackberry vines with the equipment for 35 volunteers stacked on top. She’s amazing. Join us next time for when she saves the world!

Figure it out Matt!
Rae’s truck loaded up after our workday.

Our first class arrived on a frosty morning at Lowell Park after a cold walk from their school. I start out by getting the kids talking about Mountain School and reminding them what a plant needs to survive. We played an invasive plant game that I aptly named “Invasive Invasion.” Its nearly impossible to say, I spent the whole day trying. The game emphasized the lessons the kids learned about what plants need (air, sun, water and soil), while letting them run around like crazy people. I introduced the idea of stewardship and our role in the fight to keep our native plants alive, which they accepted with the gusto only children can muster for clipping blackberries. Ah, the magic of youth…

Get those blackberries!
Yanking blackberry roots out of the ground.

Rae split the kids up into work groups and we tackled the huge patch of blackberries in front of us. The groups worked together to clear around native plants that had been planted in previous years. Each graduate student had their own work group and area to work in. We had two overlapping classes, with about 60 kids throughout the day. All those hands made for light work while we cleared over 200 square feet of blackberry. Both classes had a great time, happy to be outside and see their Mountain School instructors. At the end of the day, we were all proud of the amount of progress we had made. Way to go Lowell!

“I LOVE this!”- A Lowell student that loves mulching!
Lowell Park before our work.
The park after all our work!

Thanks again for supporting Mountain School and all of our programs at the North Cascades Institute. Look for us in a park near you!
All photos courtesy the author.

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