The first time I heard that IslandWood was going to host a Community Engagement Forum I was curious to see what would happen.
On cold January days when frost glistens on the tips of spent summer flowers, and the frozen ground crunches beneath your feet, the garden is alive with birds! They haven’t donned their spring mating colors just yet, nor have they started their spring songs, but they are very active in their search for food.
One of the coolest parts of being an instructor at IslandWood is watching students build their own learning communities.
Volunteer Pete Wiedemann is giving learning a boost this summer. You may recognize Pete’s work in our beautiful wooden sinage about IslandWood’s campus. But this summer he has logged close to 200 hours building an observation platform for our Earth Flo compost and Vermiculture system.
A garden filled with fresh peas, carrots and tomatoes is the perfect place to discover the joy of finding dinner in the ‘dirt’! And that is exactly what we’ve been doing in the IslandWood garden this summer. In fact, we hosted three summer camps that were specifically focused on cooking.
Even before spending the first two weeks in August at IslandWood as a volunteer, 15-year-old Lelan Bell already knew IslandWood’s trails well. This incoming sophomore at Lakeside School in Seattle first came to IslandWood as part of our School Overnight Program as a 5th grader at Bertschi School.
One of our favorite garden lessons is about the ‘seasonality’ of our food. For many kids this is an entirely new concept. And it’s something that we adults don’t always think about either. Our grocery stores are filled with food from all over the world, so it can be tricky to know just what’s in season in our own communities.
"The seed holds a very great secret—it never gets old. It is the eternal YES to life." - Anat Vaughan-Lee
We recently had a student from Carl Sandburg Elementary, who was fascinated by our collection of seeds. During free explore time, he kept coming back to our box of seed packets and was fully immersed in studying each one. Most students find the garden pretty interesting, but for this child, it was clear that he needed to plant!
The sudden appearance of an infestation of aphids is distressing to most gardeners. After all, if you are in the business of growing food, your main desire is to protect your crops! And too many aphids will literally suck the life out of lettuces, kales and other tasty greens, leaving you with little to harvest.
This year, the world is expected to generate about 2.6 trillion pounds of trash! This is such a large number it is hard to fathom. So to put it in simpler terms, the weight of this garbage is equal to about 7,000 Empire State buildings. And sadly, this number is expected to grow.
What is all of this trash? And where does it all go?
It may surprise you to hear what I believe is the most important environmental lesson we teach at IslandWood. It isn’t forest ecology, or science process skills, or facts about climate change. I believe it’s all about team building.
It was another crisp morning on the trails. The students of Team Ravine and I stopped to examine some brightly colored fungus on a log.
Oak Rankin is the Director of the Glacier Peak Institute, formed after the 2014 Oso mudslides to empower youth, community and ecosystems to prosper and cultivate a shared resilient future through action-based education.
There are countless reasons why IslandWood is a special place. I knew some of them before arriving in August, but I realize that the list keeps getting longer and longer. One of them is the huge focus on making the IslandWood experience extend far beyond the time spent here.