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Students experience science and adventure at Cascade Mtn. School

Climbing volcanic trails. Making fresh mozzarella cheese. Bicycling through alfalfa fields. Hunting for salmon. Cascade Mountain School isn’t your typical summer camp. It takes a roll-up-your-sleeves and get-your-hands-dirty approach to outdoor education, attracting budding scientists, aspiring farmers and everything in-between.

“The only way to learn about and appreciate the local landscape, the food, the fresh water, and other natural resources, is to get out and meet the geologists, biologists, farmers and cheese makers in our community,” said Emily Goodwin, the creator of Cascade Mountain School, based in Trout Lake and Hood River.

Try it for a day

Want to know what it’s like to spend a day at Cascade Mountain School? Join one of two upcoming community outings, which are open to former and prospective students, parents, teachers and mentors. Spend a day on a Trout Lake farm on May 10 or go rafting down the Klickitat River on May 17. Each trip is $5 per person and lunch is included. These outings are made possible by funding from the Alpinees Outdoor Education Fund of the Gorge Community Foundation. To learn more or register, visit cascademountainsc... or call 503-358-1949.

Cascade Mountain School’s field ecology and watershed science programs are guided by a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum. The for-credit courses meet national and Oregon and Washington high school science standards. “We place a big emphasis on learning by experience, but we don’t sacrifice scientific rigor,” founder Emily Goodwin said.

Cascade Mountain School is a science-based outdoor education program for middle and high school students grounded in ecological and community values. Now in its third year, the school offers seven- to 14-day courses where the outdoors serve as the classroom for students as they learn about climate change, watershed science, sustainable agriculture and more.

In one program, participants hike and glissade on the flanks of Mount Adams while learning about, among other things, the mountain’s retreating glaciers. In another program, students bike from farm to farm in Washington’s Trout Lake Valley, and discover how their food gets from farm to table.

During the field ecology course, students camp on Yakama Nation land and hike among the wildflowers on Mount Adams. They learn how to track wolverines with PhD candidate Jocelyn Akins of the Cascade Carnivore Project and learn how to measure the health of aspen groves in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. They visit the former site of the Condit Dam along the White Salmon River, and learn about river restoration efforts while hunting for spawning salmon.

The hope, says Goodwin, is that every student has at least one experience that inspires them to pursue an activity, course of study — maybe even a career — they hadn’t before thought possible.

Registration is currently open for the 2014 year of Cascade Mountain School. Five programs for middle and high school students run from June to August. Need-based scholarships are available on a case-by-case basis.

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