Evergreen’s Special Relationship with the Northwest Outdoors
Ken Tabbutt, Interim Provost
Editors Note: Western Washington’s great outdoors has always been part of Evergreen's pedagogy. The rainforest, mountains and beaches have engaged and enchanted four decades of students and are firmly embedded in the memories of as many alumni. Interim Provost Ken Tabbutt recalls the Mt. Rainier Program of 2000 and provides a glimpse of this year’s program, as the tradition marches on.
There were plenty of cold and wet Fridays during the winter of 2000 when vans of students enrolled in the Mt. Rainier program would arrive in the park to work on projects in collaboration with the Park Service. The students spent the year surveying and delineating a forested wetland near the Nisqually entrance, an area that was being considered for a parking lot. The rare low-land wetland was spared and the students gained a foundation in forest ecology, park policy, and biogeochemistry.
A third iteration of the Mt. Rainier program is being offered this year, 2010-11. Students are once again involved in service-learning on the mountain. This time the focus is on the natural and human history - an exploration of the interrelationships of people, place, flora and fauna.
Rain was drumming the tents and tarps when I visited the camp during the first week of the quarter. The mountain, Tahoma, was obscured by the clouds that moved up the Nisqually valley. You couldn’t find a better setting for teaching, learning and developing community. Students were working in small groups, transcribing journals, reading, and cooking dinner. The content of the Mt. Rainier program changes with the faculty teams but the collaboration with the park staff, the service component and the active engagement of the students in the park have made this a popular and successful program.
I can't imagine an Evergreen curriculum without this type of outdoor classroom. It is part of our institutional heritage, one that has shaped the culture of this unique college.