Hiking to waterfalls, getting your hands dirty, spending the night in lodges, campfires, and eating trail cookies are all the best parts of the North Cascades Mountain School, at least according to the kids who attend this school in the great outdoors.
This fall the North Cascades Mountain School returned to host fifth graders from school districts throughout Whatcom and Skagit counties after its hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the shores of Diablo Lake, the outdoors becomes the classroom for these students. With a ratio of 10-15 students to each teacher, this popular program focusing on environmental education is offered through North Cascades Institute in close partnership with the North Cascades National Park.
Not Your Average Outdoor School in Skagit County
For over 30 years, more than 40,000 school children have trekked up Highway 20 along the Skagit River to spend three unforgettable days immersed in nature alongside their fellow classmates, teachers and chaperones at this nonprofit educational institution.
During their three days, the kids spend approximately 26 hours of in-depth learning about the natural world. This intensive includes hands-on activities connecting them with natural as well as cultural history about the lands of this region. Simultaneously, they learn to connect with each other through role-playing and various games such as a popular one named The Camouflage Game.
The hope of the North Cascades Mountain School is for each child to feel more fully connected to nature as well as their own identities and discover their place in the world as someone intricately connected with the web of all living things.
The North Cascades Mountain School works in conjunction with school teachers tailoring learning to enhance studies inside their classrooms. For example, if students are studying water cycles in their science class, the teachers at the Mountain School may piggyback on this curriculum by exploring the local watersheds of this area and their resources or perhaps a field trip foraging for mushrooms to look more closely at how decomposers benefit the forests life cycle enhances an already established science curriculum.
Current research and feedback from teachers reflect that field-based education develops the full person. The result is a greater connection to the community in which we all live.
North Cascades Mountain School Reopens with New Curriculum
As North Cascades Mountain School resumed this fall it did so by drawing upon a new curriculum framework. This new curriculum is student-centered and includes climate literacy, the state’s Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Social Emotional Learning (SEL), Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State (STI), and the Integrated Environmental and Sustainability Education Learning Standards.
North Cascade Mountain School expects to serve approximately 23 schools and 1,230 students this year from Skagit, Whatcom, and Okanogan counties. They believe instilling a love for our natural environment enhances its protection. With the great outdoors as a vast and beautiful classroom, they are successfully keeping to their mission, “To inspire environmental stewardship through transformative learning experiences in nature.”
For more information, visit the North Cascade Mountain School website or call 360.854.2596.