Frequently Asked Questions

Mountain School Choose Your Own Adventure Day Programs

What does Mountain School look like during the 2021-2022 school year? 

This year we’re thrilled to offer Mountain School again! In accordance with pandemic restrictions, Mountain School is a day program during the 2021-2022 school year.  Some of these day-long experiences take place in public parks close to the schools we serve.  Other classes will visit the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.  To learn more about each program type, please see the respective sections below.

What are the COVID safety procedures for the program? Does my child need to wear a mask or be vaccinated?

According to our most recent COVID policies, students and adult participants are no longer required to wear masks or show proof of vaccination. We still ask that participants, including chaperones and teachers, fill out a COVID waiver that is turned in at the start of the program. 

Why is Mountain School only day trips this spring?

North Cascades Institute is in a remote location within North Cascades National Park. Due to the remote nature, our policies are often more strict than programs closer to basic amenities. Earlier in the pandemic, the National Park Service asked that our organization not lodge participants together who were from different households in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This policy has not yet been lifted. 

How do I sign permission slips and see the schedule for the visit?

We have sent all permission slips and schedules to teachers. Please ask your student’s teacher if you are unsure of what paperwork to turn in. 

Who do I contact if I have questions?

Please refer any questions you may have to your student’s teacher at this time. 

What does my child need to bring with them?

A backpack, closed toed shoes, rain gear, a water bottle, a lunch, a pencil, and a mask if they would like. 

Will food be provided? 

We provide housemade snack packs which include fresh veggies, pita bread, homemade dips, fruit, and a trail cookie. 

Can you accommodate my child’s dietary needs? 

Our kitchen is a nut-free facility.  We offer gluten free and dairy free snack pack options if Teachers state those dietary needs on trail rosters they fill out. 

Who will be on site with the classroom?

North Cascades Institute will provide trail instructors and a site coordinator for all day programs. Additionally, your class teacher will attend the day along with any class chaperones. For programs at Whatcom Falls, Bellingham Parks and Recreation will also have a staff member on-site.

Who will manage my child’s prescriptions during the program?

We ask that students or school staff carry student medications during the Mountain School day program. Our staff are all trained in wilderness medicine and can assist in administering life-saving medication such as epipens or inhalers should the need arise.  For ELC-based programs, wilderness first responders carry additional epinephrine kits. 

How can I reach my child if there is an emergency? 

In the event of an emergency, reach out to your school directly, or call the North Cascades Institute at (360) 854-2599. 

I’m interested in being a chaperone. How do I sign up?

Please talk to your student’s teacher or school to inquire about their need for chaperones. 

Classrooms Visiting our Environmental Learning Center

What will my child be doing during their visit?

During their visit, students will be exploring the ecosystem around North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center. Here is an example schedule of what a trail group might do (there will be slight variations, as each instructor creates their own lesson plan). 

Example schedule: 

8:30 AM

Bus ride from school to North Cascades Environmental Learning center.  Views of waterfalls along the way! 

9:45 AM

Arrival! Meet your trail group instructor, play get to know you games, eat snacks. 

10:15 AM

Head out on the trails. 

10:45 AM

Participate in games and activities to hone our observation skills. 

11:30 AM

Practice our observation skills in a few rounds of the game camouflage. 

12:00 PM

Eat lunch at a wooden shelter tucked into the forest. 

12:30 PM

Head to the lab to use microscopes to observe lichen and moss close-up. 

1:00 PM

Silent hike and reflection activity. 

1:30 PM 

Load back on the bus to head back to school. 

2:45 PM

Arrival back at school. 

What will my child be learning about?

The students will be learning about their local watershed, and their local ecosystems.

How will they get to the Learning Center?

Buses from your school will drive the students to the Learning Center. 

What safety plans does the program have at the Learning Center?

Our staff goes through rigorous risk management training due to our remote location. Each staff member is either Wilderness First Responder Certified, or Wilderness First Aid Certified. 

 What about wildlife encounters?

While wildlife encounters are unlikely at our location, each of our staff members are trained on how to best approach each unique situation. If we get to see wildlife, we have the training to ensure it is a safe and exciting experience for the group. 

Classrooms Visiting a Local Park

What will my child be doing during their visit and where are they going?

During their visit, students will be exploring the ecosystem around Whatcom Falls Park in Bellingham, WA. During their time with us, we will be participating in a service project with the City of Bellingham. Here is an example schedule of what a trail group might do (there will be slight variations, as each instructor creates their own lesson plan). 

Example schedule: 

9:15 AM

Bus ride from school to Whatcom Falls Park. 

9:30 - 45 AM

Arrival! Meet your trail group instructor, play get to know you games, eat snacks. 

10:15 AM

Head out on the trails. 

10:30 AM

Participate in a stewardship project with the City of Bellingham

11:30 AM

Practice our observation skills in a few rounds of the game camouflage. 

12:00 PM

Eat lunch on grassy field

12:30 PM

Walk a trail while learning about the local plants through a lesson called Each One Teach One. 

1:00 PM

Silent hike and reflection activity. 

1:30 PM 

Load back on the bus to head back to school. 

1:45 PM

Arrival back at school. 

What will my child be learning about?

The students will be learning about their local watershed and their local ecosystems.

What safety plans does the program have at Whatcom Falls Park? 

Our staff goes through rigorous risk management training due to our remote location. We have adapted these plans based on the needs in a more urban location, like Whatcom Falls Park. Each staff member is either Wilderness First Responder Certified, or Wilderness First Aid Certified.