April Adventures at Mountain School

The month of April began with a week of Mountain School like no other I’ve experienced in the eight months I have lived, worked, and studied at North Cascades Institute. April showers, instead of bringing May flowers, brought the opportunity to co-teach with National Park Service Ranger, Carolyn Waters. A typical trail group generally consists of 8-12 elementary students (usually 5th grade) who spend three days covering a single curriculum. In place of an energetic group of eleven year olds, however, Ranger Carolyn and I eagerly greeted five eighth grade girls. In the course of one week, two curricula were examined, torrential downpours were taken in stride, Pojars (our ever-present field guides to the Pacific Northwest region) were eagerly riffled through, and hypotheses were formed and tested. Our week of field-based learning brought opportunities for research, hands-on discovery, and a lot of laughter. In between studying transects for signs of the American Marten, these International School students enjoyed yoga, chose to watercolor along the shores of Lake Diablo, and strengthened bonds of friendship with their peers.

Graduate student Erin Soper with her co-instructor Carolyn Waters and their trail group from the International School in Bellevue.

The following are reflections on the week, in the students’ own words:

My experience here at Mountain School has been unforgettable. I attribute this largely to the gorgeous scenery. Ranging from lush forests to snow-capped mountains, I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to explore such breathtaking terrain. I also really did enjoy learning about the environment and identifying many different types of plants. Yet, by far, my favorite parts of this week were our instructors, Erin and Carolyn! Thank you!!

Student Harika sits during a watercolor painting session on the shores of Diablo Lake.

My stay at the North Cascades, despite the cold, was awesome. The lake, the hiking, the mountains, and the weather all added up to a fun and interesting place—especially reading the secrets. We wrote secrets on slips of paper, reading them aloud throughout the week. It was great to learn cool facts about each person in our trail group! One of us makes amazing spaghetti sauce and another has a dog that eats yoga mats! All in all, it was an entertaining experience.

 International School students Rebecca and Harika prepare a poster for the results of their carnivore study in the Wild Ginger Library.

My stay in the North Cascades was interesting. I enjoyed the amazing views and environments. The lodge was amazing, too. Our trail guides were fun and focused at the same time. Most of all, I learned a lot about field science and how to plan and carry out a study on carnivores.  Overall, it was amazing!

 Ranger Carolyn shows students how to use the Pojar field guide to identify local plants.

I had a great time at North Cascades Institute’s Mountain School. I loved all the hands-on activities provided and the instructors’ steady guidance throughout the entire week. The facilities were amazing and extra clothes for layering were always available! I loved being able to take a warm shower after a hard day of hiking. The trails were well-kept and ranged from easy to difficult, the shorsted being only 0.2 miles. The Peninsula trail had an amazing view of the lake and had benches readily available for watching sunsets. I also enjoyed the tasty food provided for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner! All of the chefs took extra care in delivering a tasty meal to everyone. The food was very healthy, local, and I loved the gluten-free options. I really felt like the activities provided amazing memories and I wish to come back next year!

This article is cross posted on North Cascades Institute’s Mountain School Blog. Leading photo courtesy of Jess Newley. All other photos contributed by the author.

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