Cascade Mountain School wants to take members of the community on a walk on the wild side.
The school, which aims to teach middle and high school students about ecology and sustainable food sources by using the natural world, will hold two community days in May so interested students and their families can learn what a day at Cascade Mountain School would be like.
“This is to give students and families an opportunity to meet Cascade Mountain School, see what it’s about, and have fun outside,” said Emily Goodwin, director of Cascade Mountain School.
The community days are possible because of a grant the school obtained from the Jack Baldwin Memorial Outdoor Education Fund of the Gorge Community Foundation.
“Their interest is in getting as many students outside as possible, especially students who have never experienced the outdoors who need to have a positive, safe, outdoor recreation experience,” Goodwin said.
The first community day will be held on May 10 and will be a miniature version of the school’s farm-to-table bike camps held every summer. For $5 per person, participants will bike through Trout Lake, meeting local farmers along the way and learning about where their food comes from.
At the end of the day, students will use what they’ve harvested to prepare a delicious, locally sourced meal.
The second community day will be held on May 17 and will consist of rafting the Klickitat River while learning about salmon biology and habitats. Biologists, watershed planners, and whitewater rafting guides will be along for the journey, which is also $5 per person and does not require any experience.
The two community days will just be a taste of what it’s like to participate in one of the four camps being offered this summer, two of which can potentially count towards high school or college science credits for students who are between the ages of 15 and 18.
“The unifying experience is students learn where their water, energy, and food come from and they have a deeper sense of themselves and their connection to the natural world,” Goodwin said.
This is the first year the two-week Sustainable Agriculture and Field Ecology camps can potentially count for college credit. Last year Cascade Mountain School began offering the camps for high school credit.
“Now that we’re offering the credit I’m hoping to attract students who need to make up credits, who might be home schooled students who might need all sorts of credits and want to do it in a fun way, or somebody who may be focused on a different academic path and wants to take some electives and needs to get a science credit out of the way so they can take something like a drama class at school,” Goodwin said.
During the Sustainable Agriculture camp from June 21 to July 3, students can earn high school or college credit by camping at Broadfork Farm in Trout Lake to learn about how local and global food systems work. Students will bike from farm to farm harvesting produce, seeing how farm animals are raised, and even making their own mozzarella cheese.
“We’ll also talk about food choices, so students will think about why they eat what they eat. Do they have a choice? How much does food cost? Where are the inequities in the food system? If they knew more about their food would they make different choices? Then we’ll get to cook what we’ve harvested at night, so it’s a whole farm-to-table activity,” Goodwin said.
The second opportunity for students to earn science credit will be during the Field Ecology camp from Aug. 3 to Aug. 16. During the first week students will camp and backpack at Bird Creek Meadows on the side of Mt. Adams to learn about watersheds and basic alpine ecology.
“Every day we get a healthy dose of physical activity. We either go hiking or biking or kayaking or rafting every day. I know that I learn better being outside, being engaged, being active in my body and I know a lot of young people learn better that way too,” Goodwin said.
During the second week, students will return to Trout Lake to work with a botanist with the Forest Service to monitor an aspen grove in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
“Basically they’re looking at this particular grove of aspen trees and trying to understand when it was established, if it’s healthy or diseased, how the Forest Service might do different management techniques to protect the grove, then they present their findings back to the Forest Service at the Trout Lake office,” Goodwin said.
While Goodwin says the two for-credit camps are geared more towards students who have a year of high school science or biology under their belt, the Mountain-to-Mouth camp from July 20 to July 25 and Farm-to-Table Bike Camps July 27 to Aug. 1 and Aug. 3 to Aug. 8 are open to middle and high school students.
“I hear time and time again it’s about the friendships and connections they’ve made. You’re living in a community for one or two weeks, you’re growing as a person, you’re gelling as a group, so how to interact with people is also something that they gain,” Goodwin said.