2017 Instructor Exchange

On January 14th, the M.Ed graduate students of Cohort 16 (C16) welcomed students and staff from Islandwood and Wilderness Awareness School to North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center for the first of three gatherings that make up the annual Instructor Exchange. Every winter, this exchange offers instructors the chance to meet others in the environmental education field and share and discuss what we do within our own residential learning programs.

In the next coming weeks, the exchange will continue with trips to Islandwood’s Urban Environmental Education M.A.Ed program in Seattle, Islandwood’s Education for Environment and Community and Living graduate program on Bainbridge Island and Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall, Washington.

North Cascade Institute M.Ed graduates waiting to lead an orientation and campus tour for Islandwood and Wilderness Awareness School students.

For our time at the Institute ELC, we offered a series a break out sessions and recreational activities, each led by C16 graduates. The break out sessions provided us the space and time to delve deeper into topics that we each felt passionate behind and were eager to talk with those that could offer new insight and perspective. Session topics included:

  • Place-Based Learning
  • Best Practices and Program Comparison
  • Phenology
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • Ecological Identity
  • Climate Change Literacy in Environmental Education
  • Activism-Oriented Environmental Education

Alexei Desmarais and Ash Kunz of C16 leading the first break out session of the weekend.

Students from Islandwood, North Cascades Institute and Wilderness Awareness School sharing teaching practices and techniques.

That evening, we all came together for dinner and an evening story time circle. Led by our graduate coordinators, Joshua Porter and Chelsea Ernest, we moved throughout the room with the task of finding someone we didn’t know. With that person we took turns sharing a story, guided by prompts from Joshua and Chelsea. The stories highlighted those who had mentored us, moments in time where we felt most connected to the natural world and the places where we draw our strength. For many, it was a time to reflect on where we came from and why we’re here. We continued to ride good feelings late into the evening with a campfire, music and dance parties.

The second and last day was a bit more relaxed. That morning we offered yoga, watercoloring, tai-chi, teamwork building games and the opportunity to explore the area with a hike to the waterfall up Sourdough Creek trail or a walk to Diablo Dam.

Having fun in the watercolor class!

Finding alternative ways down the Sourdough Creek trail.
Instructors check out the huge icicles along the road to Diablo Dam.

After the morning activities, we came together one last time to share our thoughts on what we were taking away from our weekend together. I heard many speak of the new connections that were built and the strength that can be drawn from meeting others who are driven by similar aspirations and hopes for future.

Instructors capturing fun photos together before saying goodbye and heading back home.

We waved goodbye to our peers from Islandwood and Wilderness Awareness school, minds full of new ideas and insight from a weekend of sharing and learning. Though we all find ourselves in environmental education, our programs each have components that make them unique from one another. We in C16 were grateful to share our program and place in the North Cascades with these new friends and look forward to meeting them in their own in the coming weeks.



All photos courtesy of Angela Burlile and Jenny O’Toole

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