November 2017 Field Notes E-News

Cider / MADD

On September 20th 2017 150 WRI supporters came together at the Riverside Center in Cashmere to celebrate and support the Wenatchee River Institute, which began its work here 10 years ago this week. 

Our Born in Barn banquet and fundraiser was a huge success and we want to celebrate all of you who helped to make it happen. This year’s event was sold out! For those of you who made it, we are so glad you were there. For those who could not, you were missed!
Every year the event brings together such a wonderful group of people it is often hard to get them to sit down and eat! But with the amazing food provided by Ravenous Catering who provided a spectacular spread. All of the dishes were prepared with locally grown and sourced ingredients and by far the most common comment about the evening was how good the meal was. Thank you Ravenous!
Thanks to our supporters who provided the beer and wine, Icicle Brewing Company, 37 Cellars, Stemilt Creek, Eagle Creek and Icicle Ridge wineries. Your generosity added tremendously to our bottom line fundraising. Thank You!
We had a wonderful presentation by Derek Sheffield (author/poet/educator) who shared his work and his passion for the natural world. WRI Board member and Osborn Elementary Principal, Kenny Renner-Singer, spoke to the direct impact the programs at WRI have had over the last ten years. He highlighted WRI’s role in helping Osborn Elementary students to consistently excel in science testing over the period of time we have worked together. Thank you Derek and Kenny!
All this week our staff, volunteers and elementary school teachers have been taking kids down to wade in the Wenatchee River, where they observe spawning salmon, and hunt for macroinvertebrates. Each one (kids and adults) becoming more in-tune, aware, inspired, educated and connected to the natural world. Our donors get all the credit for this by providing us with the tools and resources we need to continue this work. Thank you Donors!  We are already looking forward to gathering again next year. We hope you are too!
And a big thank you to Heidi Swoboda for taking these amazing photos of our night!


In early September my partner, Beth, and I embarked on a 3-day backpacking trip. Our entry point, Chiwaukum Creek. Our exit, White Pine. Despite smoky skies from the Jack Creek fire we deemed our 27 mile trek a safe one after daily check-ins with local fire reports. While it can be easy to find oneself in a fire haze funk after weeks of brown skies, we kept reminding ourselves that these forests have been unnaturally fire-suppressed for generations and they require fires to keep them healthy. 
Because conditions obscured the expansive views typical of this hike, we were given the opportunity to focus our attention on our more immediate surroundings. The ever-changing forest made us smile at every bend in the trail. Each tree told us a story. To begin with, the thriving ponderosa pines showed their blackened trunks proudly as a reminder of the Chiwaukum Creek fire three years previous and testament to this species’ fire adaptability. Then, after a few hours the valley opened up to present us many magnificent stands of quaking aspen - each stand consisting of but one genetic individual that had sent out its roots to grow a new “individual”. While a gentle breeze got the leaves to dancing we played detective, trying to pick out subtle differences between each stand.
After a restful night at Lake Flore we were soon welcomed by sparse stands of western larch. Their soft bunches of needles, now a light green, were just weeks away of expressing their magic – the anomaly of bursting into a golden hue like no other conifer in the area. Up and over Ladies Pass presented us the occasional white pine, a hearty species better adapted than its cousin, the ponderosa, to the challenges of life at high elevation. The following day continued to surprise us with the more wet-loving species including the magnificent western red cedar, vine maple and red alder. While the summer had been an exceptionally dry one we could only surmise that this valley typically sees more rainfall. Upon reaching our car we were content and cheerful despite the brown haze still lingering in the air.
The following Monday I was back at work as the Youth Programs Manager at Wenatchee River Institute. My goal: connecting kids to the natural world by providing them with personally meaningful experiences outdoors. I not only felt refreshed from my recent trip but also ready to share my reinvigorated enthusiasm for the natural world with our local elementary students. You see, my vacation in the woods heightened my awareness of my surroundings both on the trail and off. I was starting to notice small natural wonders in my own backyard I had previously overlooked. My senses had been reset. My hope is that my generation and the ones to follow are also able to reset theirs. Please, take note of the wonders surrounding you each day.
Please, be aware.

Falling in Love with Fall By: Tinity Korcz, Travelling Naturalist

Stories of what happened over the weekend, in class and at recess bounced off the walls of the cafeteria. Joyful laughter soared to the ceiling, and smiles filled the room. Energy levels were expected to be this high on a Monday afternoon, just after 7+ hours in class. But this was different. I couldn’t help but notice an overwhelming energy of excitement, appreciation, and anticipation. Students finished up their snack and eagerly waited to be dismissed for recess.

Walking outside; a new cool, clean breeze swept my face. I looked towards the blacktop and playground expecting like normal, for them to be overcrowded with kids. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, kids were running in the field and rolling down the hills into piles of leaves. They were throwing leaves in the air to dance and spin under them as they fell. It became clear that the energy of excitement and appreciation during snack was due to the changing season. Fall had come, and it was truly a special time.  

Shortly after, it was time for our activity to start. In weeks prior, students explored the interconnected nature of all things living and non-living. They learned about a salmon’s life cycle and bird migration through games and art. We explored relationships between native plants and animals through scientific investigations, and created simple bird feeders to hang and hopefully attract native birds to their homes. This week, we continued our bird lesson from last week with a specific focus on native bird calls.

We circled up under the most beautifully colored maple tree on campus. We listened to the sounds around us in silence for a few moments. I broke the silence with a question, “What did you hear?” Students from all parts of circle chimed in, describing and acting out the sounds they heard. I couldn’t help but smile. After these past years working with students in the After Sschool Program, I’m convinced that something magical happens outside. Learning seems to come so naturally in an outdoor setting, and in a way students encourage each other to learn. I showed them a few pictures of native birds, we identified field marks, and practiced calls. Then it was time for our walk (or as the students call it, an adventure!) to listen for bird songs, spot birds in the area, and practice our newly learned bird calls. “Cheese-burger, chicka- dee- dee- dee-, YANK YANK YANK, Chi-ca-go” followed as we walked through the field.  

We soon found ourselves on the furthest end of campus next to an undisturbed grouping of maples. The leaves above and below reminded me of the beautiful array of colors only found during a sunset. The kids look at me, and I looked at them, and we all started jumping and dancing under the leaves as they fell.   

That day, just like so many days in the ASP was filled with natural learning, creativity, and an overwhelming sense of being free. The opportunity to expand the minds of our youth though outdoor environmental education is something that I’ll never take for granted. I really appreciate having a job that encourages children to question and explore the natural world. I truly believe in this program, and I see the importance of working with students that without, could fall further behind and eventually be lost.