Experiential education in action!

October 3, 2022

Experiential education in action!

Field Studies Report: Oct. 3, 2022 – Aley Mills Willis

We just wrapped up a successful second field excursion for our “Parks in Progress or Peril?” class: an exploration of the mission, values and future of the US National Park System.

We definitely won the NW October weather lottery! This class is intended to inspire deep connection with our lands and wildlife and to promote stewardship of public parks and nature at large. I’m so delighted to partner with Honors alumna and UW colleague, Laura Harrington, on this heart-opening experiential learning program. In this series, we take about a dozen students with different backgrounds and levels of experience into “the great unknown,” informing all of our lessons and conversations for the rest of the program. 

Two weekends ago…

We explored subalpine meadows on Mount Rainier and talked about glaciers, wildlife, park history, re-wilding spaces, and Indigenous history and tribal relationships with parks today. All while hiking through the park, stomaching dehydrated backpacker meals, being visited by Cascade foxes, playing rounds of lively UW themed charades to keep warm, and waking up to ice on our tents! 

This weekend…

Dave Conca, an Olympic National Park archeologist, joined us for the bulk of the trip and engaged in discussions around parks, wilderness, resources, Native histories and land rights, and more. We also dove into literature, poetry, reflection, and other forms of reflection/inspiration in our readings and field journals. Like this: 

What I love about this class is the flexibility it has provided for me to explore my relationship with wilderness and nature. I have never backpacked before and, while I am still not a fan of pit toilets, I think it’s worth all the beautiful experiences. Nature connects us and our stories. Natural beauty makes me curious, it makes me excited and it makes me feel so connected to something larger. The power that nature has is so energetic, yet calming, that it pushes for reflection within myself as a citizen who steps on these lands and adds to the history of them.

Mathi Ngamsiripol (senior, public health)

If there is a top defining feature of Olympic National Park, it must be water, so it made sense that students had the opportunity to learn while also wading in rivers and jumping in hot springs, the Pacific Ocean and Lake Crescent!

second beach at sunset

This image shows our campsite on Second Beach at sunset. Just glorious!

I wish I could take everyone in our community on this adventure. I hope this leaves you feeling inspired to explore our national treasures with your colleagues and loved ones as often as you can!