October ended with a wet and cloudy Mountain School session. Students from Columbia Elementary in Bellingham donned raincoats and ponchos before venturing onto the dripping trails at the Learning Center.
A student working on a reflection activity on the final day of his Mountain School session
The nearly two inches of rain we got on Tuesday didn't keep us from spending time outside, though. On the contrary, our instructors used the weather as an incentive for improvising and trying out new lessons and ways of teaching.
Andrea did a tracking activity that she learned from one of our seasonal instructors. Using a long sheet of butcher paper and a pan of water, she had her students step with their bare feet into the water and then walk on the paper. They talked about length and width of stride and how you can estimate how big an animal is based on where its feet land.
Kim used the rain as inspiration to focus her teaching on water.
Lauren, one of our education interns, discovered the challenges of teaching in the rain this week. "I think the depth of the lessons suffered a little because the kids were uncomfortable and their journals got soaked," she said, adding that she used excerpts from an essay by Saul Weisberg in Impressions of the North Cascades to set the stage and help her students learn to appreciate the weather:
Rain is the signature of the North Cascades; it makes the land. Glaciers, mountains, rivers, and the inland sea we call Puget Sound are all molded by its wet embrace. If you come here you are going to get wet.
[Learning in the wilderness] requires listening to the voices of the land. If we listen well, the land will change our lives. It has changed mine. Rain is one of the essential ingredients of place. The basic tenet of ecological truth in teh Pacific Northwest is that the land is the way it is—in shape, smell, texture, sound—because of the rain. It sings sweetly to the cedars. Our job is to listen to its song.
Leading photo: A spray of yellow-leafed Vine Maples on the Diablo Lake Trail. All photos by Ryan Weisberg.