Q&A with Kate Bedient, Director of Urban Programs


IslandWood is well known for our Bainbridge Island campus, and in particular, for our School Overnight and Graduate Program that were established at our founding, over twenty years ago. But in the time since our founding, IslandWood has grown exponentially, largely due to our programs in locations off Bainbridge Island, including Seattle, Woodinville, Renton, Tacoma and online. Last year, our programs for children and educators in these locations reached over 15,000 people. We asked Kate Bedient, who manages these programs as IslandWood’s Director of Urban Programs, to share about her time at IslandWood, the importance of these programs to our work, and what’s sparking joy for her these days!

” What holds all these (IslandWood) programs together, in my mind, is a desire for every child to feel included in their classroom learning, for their voice and lived experiences to really matter, and for school-based learning to be connected to the most pressing environmental issues of our local places and regions – to be relevant to both our time and our place.”
– Kate B.


What year did you join and what attracted you to IslandWood?

I became an IslandWood employee in the summer of 2010 when IslandWood merged with Homewaters Project, a little environmental education nonprofit in Seattle. There were three of us full-time on staff at Homewaters Project, and we all became IslandWood employees once we completed the process of merging the two organizations. I had known about IslandWood for many years prior though, and was excited about the opportunity to join the team and work alongside so many wonderful and talented people. This merger also marked the beginning of IslandWood’s Urban School Programs [programs off the Bainbridge campus] and I was eager to collaborate on a vision for expanding IslandWood’s reach into the city.


Can you tell us a bit about your role? What does it entail?


I am fortunate to lead the Urban School Programs Team – the arm of IslandWood’s Education Team that is based in various locations around the Puget Sound area. I get to collaborate with a really experienced team of educators to sustain and build programs for students and teachers, aiming to make in-school learning come to life. In my role, specifically, I see myself as a problem solver, an encourager, a remover of barriers. I help to maintain the bridge between our work on our Bainbridge Campus and our work in other regions and set a vision for how our work might evolve in the future.

Kate and her team this summer at Rockaway Beach for tide pooling! From Left to Right: Kate B, Brad (Senior Manager of Teacher Professional Development), Louise (Urban Programs Lead Educator), Celina (Partnerships Manager), Vera (Teacher Professional Development Coordinator), KayLani (Urban School and Community Education Manager) and Kate M (Urban School and Community Education Coordinator).

Why are programs that happen off Bainbridge – throughout Woodinville, Seattle, Renton, Tacoma, and beyond – so important to IslandWood?


IslandWood’s Urban School Programs have a wide breadth – from single-day programs delivered directly to students to multi-part online teacher professional development courses. Our offerings directly for students include programs at two of King County’s Wastewater Treatment Plants, field trips related to the Salmon in the Schools Program, programs on a boat on the Duwamish River and in Seattle Parks, and schoolyard lessons in Tacoma.


Our work aimed at teachers includes a suite of Teacher Professional Development opportunities focused on making connections between in-class science learning and real-world environmental issues.


What holds these all together, in my mind, is a desire for every kid to feel included in their classroom learning, for their voice and lived experiences to really matter, and for school-based learning to be connected to the most pressing environmental issues of our local places and regions – to be relevant to both our time and our place. This is the work that IslandWood has done since it was founded 20 years ago, but the fact that we are also doing this work in so many other locations and settings only strengthens our impact and supports our goal to continue to learn how to best support students and teachers in our region.



What’s bringing you joy and keeping you feeling hopeful these days?


I had the opportunity to listen in as a group of students in our Brightwater Summer Camp observed a dragonfly last month.  It wasn’t clear if the insect was about to fly for the first time or was nearing the end of its life. The care these children took in observing the organism, the questions they asked about its movements, and the wonder they had while gazing into its shiny eyes, all made me pause and reflect on how I see the world; on how I think about the unknown and all the assumptions I often bring to questions or problems I am pondering.  These young people were reminding me to slow down and observe something amazing in the moment without any notion of what might happen next. I hope to bring this sort of openness and presence – challenging my assumptions more fully – into how I move through the world. There’s nothing quite like joining a group of kids on the ground and getting face to face with a dragonfly to make one contemplate better ways to bring joy into one’s life.


What are you looking forward to in the coming school year for IslandWood’s work?


One goal for our team this school year is to end the year with more energy than we had going in.  I think, so often, we set goals that stretch us or focus on growth, that sometimes we forget to look inwards and make sure we’re also focused on the health and wellbeing of our people. We, of course, also have goals around growth and expansion and one that excites me has to do with our growing body of work to create resources for teachers that make classroom science more connected to student identity, climate change, and local topics. If we can build capacity around this work this year AND also tend to the wellbeing of our team, I think we will be successful.

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