Mountain School Reflections #2: Kelly Kuplen

Kelly Kuplen is a 5th Grade Teacher at Roosevelt Elementary in Bellingham, WA. She shared these reflections with us as part of our Celebration of 30 Years of Mountain School.

Q: Tell us about your Mountain School experience.

Roosevelt was lucky enough to be able to attend Mountain School this year and our kids had a fantastic time. They were so engaged with the learning model and truly enamored by the environment. Many of our students had never been in a forest before, or seen mountains that close. We had every season’s worth of weather this trip; sunshine, rain and even snow. It created a challenge, but the trail group leaders were so accommodating to the needs of the kids. The activities and discussions that the trail group leaders facilitated with our students were deep and meaningful to them. Even the parent chaperones were deeply tied into the experience.

Q: Can you share a favorite Mountain School memory?

A favorite memory of mine was watching kids step into their challenge zone, whether it be trying beets for the first time on Taco Tuesday and realizing they love them, kids who were speaking up about their perceptions of climate change and sharing their opinions and beliefs, and kids who spent the night on their own for the first time ever. I love seeing the confidence and empowerment that my students walked away with.

Q: Why do you think Mountain School is important?

Mountain School is important because it show many of our students that there is a world outside of their own neighborhood. They develop a true sense of what an ecosystem is and how it functions. And, last but not least, they leave with an understanding of their role in developing a healthier world for all of its inhabitants.

Our students returned from Mountain School with a sense of adventure, a drive to learn more about the sciences, and a mission for sustainability they wanted to share with their families. Our students learned their position as members of a global community — which is so important given our current situation.

The social bonding and emotional-strengthening that occurred for our kids could not happen anywhere else. They were guided and supported in stepping into their challenge zones. Every kid that chose to push through developed an inner strength, self-confidence, and joy that can’t be replicated elsewhere.

Q: What impact did Mountain School have on you personally?

I love Mountain School. I cherish how it bonds me to my students. It has significantly influenced my desire to learn more and do better with sustainable practices. I can also admit I like beets now too!

Q: Did you notice any changes in your students?

We always notice the increased sense of community connection, confidence, and passion for knowing more about our world.

Q: What do you think the most important takeaway of Mountain School is? 

The importance of our role within the environment on Earth and how we can create sustainable practices to have a positive impact on the health and connection of our ecosystem.

Getting young people outside to learn, play, discover, reflect, and share is at the heart of a healthy life. Make a gift today!

We want to hear YOUR stories! Students and teachers: Please share your favorite Mountain School memories with us at


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