Science in the Great Outdoors
Emily Goodwin’s yellow curls are as abundant as the tangles of Scotch broom that line highway I-84 an hour east of Portland. The breezy, beautiful Columbia Gorge is the spot Goodwin chose to be the home of her brainchild, the Cascade Mountain School (CMS). The program brings high school students into the wilderness for one- and two-week experiences that focus on integrating rigorous science inquiry with immersive outdoor experiences.
This summer, CMS is running three different programs that illustrate the breadth of Goodwin’s vision. One program looks at field ecology systems on Mt. Adams, and engages students in real-life collaborative research with professional scientists. Another integrates learning about food and farming with a focus on cycling—students spend a week biking to farms, dairies and ranches, helping to analyze soil, plant seeds, milk cows, and process meat. A third trip on Mt. Hood studies the peak’s changing watershed systems. Students hike, backpacke, and kayak 50 miles, starting high on the mountain’s glaciers, following the watershed down to the mouth of the Hood River.
Goodwin, MAT. ‘14, decided to pursue a master’s degree in education at Lewis & Clark as a major element of getting CMS off the ground. “I wanted to find an intellectual community around education, and I want to understand how to really engage kids and make the natural world come alive for them,” she says.
Education is a second career for Goodwin, who previously worked for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. She has been busily using her knowledge of grants as well as her connections to raise money to ensure the future of CMS. The school is running now on a svelte $40,000 budget; much of her focus is on making sure that the summer programs be affordable to a wide range of students. But her dream is to turn the program into a semester-long experience that local high school students can get credit for, similar to programs like the High Mountain Institute in Colorado. “I fluctuate between feeling like this will never work and being totally confident,” she laughs.