From summer 2015 through March 2017, Ben attended graduate school at Western Washington University obtaining a Master's in Outdoor Environmental Education. For the first year of his studies, he participated in a residency program at the North Cascades Institute. This non-thesis track is designed to engage students in the natural history of the North Cascades ecosystem, "real world" teaching practicums such as Mountain School, and non-profit management and administration.

Throughout the 18 months he also participated in Transformative Inquiry. This curriculum is designed to challenge teachers to dive into why they teach and pursue new avenues of interest. Ben studied in his TI the power of music in Environmental Education. Why is it such a powerful teaching tool? Can teachers make place based music that works with the landscape?

Below is his capstone presentation completed in mid-March, 2017. If you would like see just his performance on Diablo Dam, refer to this blog post. If you would like to read his thesis, along with those from his cohort, you can always find them in the Summit to Salish Sea Journal.

Natural and Cultural History

Field Seminars

  • Fall: 10/7-9, 12-13/2015. Traveled around the Methow Valley working with Methow Beaver Project and Hawk Watch Interational.

  • Winter: 2/24-28/2016. At the Skalitude Retreat Center located in the Methow Valley looking at the snow ecology, tracking, and the stars.

  • Spring: 6/1-6/2016. Traveled to the Methow Valley to further our tracking skills, learn about native bees, and observe birds with experts in the field.

Ben read and reflected on two books independently during the spring quarter to dive deep into his own interests in natural history.

On March 11, 2016 the first confirmed case of white-nose syndrome in bats was found in Washington state. Ben devoted his natural history project to synthesizing information about the event to the public so they know what happened, what is being done, and what they can do to help.

Ben also developed as a professional naturalist by:

  • Naturalist/educator for Mountain School (MS) and Kulshan Creek (see next section for details).

  • Teaching Skull Program for MS spring season and being JD Ross for the ACHOTAS program during MS.

  • Assisting in two adult field courses: Snake class in the Methow and Wilderness Photography at Washington Pass

Educational curriculum, instruction, and evaluation

As part of the curriculum course, Ben developed 10 Miles, Any Direction: a 3rd-5th grade curriculum that engages students in their own place through temporal, geological, biological, and cultural lenses.

In total, Ben taught 365 total hours during his year in the mountains through:

  • Mountain School (330 total hours)

    • 9/16-18/15. Big Lake Elementary, 5th.. Ecosystem Exploration. Team teaching Diurnal, 20 hours.

    • 9/21-23/15. Whatcom Hills Waldorf, 5th. Ecosystem Exploration. Teaching teaching Diurnal, 20 hours.

    • 9/23-25/15. Carl Cozier Elementary, 5th. Ecosystem Exploration. Nocturnal, 10 hours.

    • 10/5-7/15. Island View Elementary, 5th. Ecosystem Exploration. Team teaching full. 30 hours.

    • 10/21-23/15. Northern Heights Elementary, 5th. Ecosystem Exploration. Full, 30 hours.

    • 10/26-28/15. Evergreen Elementary, 5th. Ecosystem Exploration. Full, 30 hours.

    • 10/28-30/15. Columbia Elementary, 5th. Ecosystem Exploration. Nocturnal, 10 hours.

    • 3/21-23/16. Little Mountain Elementary, 5th. Ecosystem Exploration. Full, 30 hours.

    • 4/4-6/16. Seattle Home School Group, 4th-6th. Ecosystem Exploration. Full, 30 hours.

    • 4/25-27/16. Blaine Elementary, 5th. Ecosystem Exploration. Diurnal, 20 hours.

    • 4/27-29/16. Blaine Elementary, 5th. Ecosystem Exploration. Nocturnal, 10 hours.

    • 5/16-18/16. Roosevelt Elementary, 5th. Ecosystem Exploration. Camp Tender, 30 hours.

    • 5/23-25/16. Chelan Middle School, 6th. Ecosystem Exploration. Full, 30 hours.

    • 6/7-10/16. Cascades K-8, 6th and 7th. Aquatic Investigation. Diurnal, 30 hours.

  • Adult programs. 10 hours.

    • 5/8/16. Snake Class in Methow. 10 hours.

    • 9/1-2/16. Wilderness Photography at Washington Pass. To be completed.

  • Kulshan Creek. 25 hours.

  • Teaching observations

After teaching for the whole year, Ben reflected on his proudest teaching moment being when he got out of the way of the exploration of his students.

leadership and nonprofit administration

Working with Joe Loviska and Holli Watne, Ben created a fictional non-profit to demonstrate skills in Non-profit administration and management. Together they created the Urban Naturalist Co-op: a community time bank, garden, and tool shed.

To dive even deeper into the non-profit realm, Ben also:

  • Tabled at a Huxley event on behalf of the Institute on 2/11/16.

  • Attended an Institute board meeting on 5/20/16.

  • Published 26 posts for the Institute's blog

  • Coordinated the graduate transition trip in the Methow Valley from 6/13-14/16

  • Attended the Northwest Wood-Based BioFuels+Co-Products Conference with a focus in STEM biofuel education from 5/3-4/16

From June to August, 2016 during the transition from the Institute to attending Western Washington University, Ben's Leadership Track was being an Interpretive Ranger in Stehekin, WA for the National Park Service. 

learning center operations & stewardship

The residency at the North Cascades is a unique opportunity to develop as an educator in such extreme situations. Ben took some time to condense his entire residency into seven pictures.

At the Environmental Learning Center Ben developed as a professional by:

He also help to foster stewardship in students by participating in:

Quarterly Check-in Dates

  • Fall: 7/10/15

  • Spring: 3/28/16

  • Summer: 6/10/16