Teaching in the Rain: The Story of North Cascades Institute with John Miles

Teaching in the Rain: The Story of North Cascades Institute with John Miles

Teaching in the Rain: The Story of North Cascades Institute with John Miles

Event Details

Oct 05, 2023 from 05:00 PM to 08:00 PM
Squalicum Boathouse, Bellingham
Institute staff
Class Tuition
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Join us in Bellingham on Thursday October 5 for a celebration of the new book Teaching in the Rain: The Story of North Cascades Institute by environmental historian and Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies at WWU's College of the Environment John Miles. This book tells the story of how the Institute grew from humble beginnings to become a model nonprofit environmental education organization admired throughout the United States.

This special event will be held at the Squalicum Boathouse on the beautiful shores of Bellingham Bay. We will have local beer, wine and cider and catered appetizers on hand. We are focused on inviting Institute alumni from over the years, current and former staff and board members, long-time supporters and partners, so there will also be lots of socializing and mingling time—we hope to see lots of new and old friends! 

Returning to Bellingham from his home in New Mexico, John will read from his new book, explain his motivations for writing it, and share what surprising things he learned about the Institute in his 5+ years of research and interviews. What business practices and approaches have made the Institute a successful nonprofit for the past 37 years? What values and motivations have helped the organization chart their course through nearly four decades of change? How have Institute programs informed and inspired generations of young people and what is the impact of environmental education in the North Cascades?

John will be joined onstage by Saul Weisberg—the Institute's co-founder and executive director for 35 years—as well as by a panel of Institute alumni from the Mountain School, Youth Leadership Adventures and Graduate M.Ed. programs. They will share their personal and professional journeys with us, specifically how environmental education at the Institute helped to inspire and shape their lives.

Teaching in the Rain will be available for purchase at the event and John will be happy to sign your copy!

Teaching in the Rain tells a most unlikely story, one that is far from over but has a happy outcome just the same. John Miles, as the genius loci of the North Cascades and the Institute that took their name, is the perfect person to tell it. In prose both elegant and engaging, sleek yet omitting nothing important, he takes his lucky readers through the life so far of a most wonderful flowering, from outset through evolution to its present place as an essential Northwest institution. If every eco-region had something like the North Cascades Institute, and someone like John to tell us all about it, we might actually scrape through our ecological crisis in good shape. As it is, this book gives me hope.

— Robert Michael Pyle, author of The Butterflies of Cascadia, Wintergreen, and The Thunder Tree

Washington State has a long history of teaching outdoor environmental education with various facilities providing for teacher and student instruction. Teaching in the Rain is a singular summary of the North Cascades Institute, one of Washington State’s most unique, successful, and sustained programs. John Miles has written an important and intriguing history of how the Institute was created and has been sustained for over 35 years. This important book is an essential guide to what it takes to direct education meaningfully in this age of environmental stress and to marshal the common ground of community to develop skills and shape attitudes necessary to address the environmental challenges we all face.

— Tony Angell, Artist and Educator

About John Miles

After earning degrees at Dartmouth College, the University of Oregon and the Union Institute, John Miles moved to Bellingham to work at Western Washington University in 1968. Specializing in environmental education and what he calls the “environmental humanities," Miles taught at Western for 45 years, serving as dean of the College of the Environment (then Huxley College) for seven years. Along the way, he climbed and hiked extensively in the North Cascades, falling in love with this marvelous landscape.

In 1986, Miles received a call from the new North Cascades National Park Complex Superintendent John Reynolds, inviting him to join a meeting to form a board of directors for something called the North Cascades Institute. Miles happily embraced the opportunity, and left the meeting as board chair, a position he held for the next eight formative years of the Institute! Over the years, he taught various field seminars for the Institute, concocted the idea with Saul Weisberg of a Graduate M.Ed. program in partnership with WWU, taught extensively in that long-running program, and continued his service on the Board for twenty years.

In addition to teaching, John delved into the histories and cultures of the North Cascades, writing Koma Kulshan: The Story of Mount Baker and editing Impressions of the North Cascades: Essays About a Northwest Landscape. He also wrote Guardians of the Parks: A History of the National Parks and Conservation Association, and Wilderness in National Parks: Playground or Preserve? In 2023, he edited Wildeor: The Wild Life and Living Legacy of Dave Foreman with his wife Susan Morgan.

He lives just north of Taos, New Mexico, exploring the nearby southern Sangre de Cristo and southern San Juan Mountains, writing extensively about national park and conservation issues.