Alaska has a way of fashioning some incredible people. One of my favorite experiences in Prince of Wales was learning about the Tatoosh School, a collegiate level field school located in southern Southeast Alaska. This non-profit was founded in 2011 by Erin Steinkruger and Dr. Peter Chaillé who have a passion for the outdoors and environmental policy and wanted to create an outdoor learning experience for college students across the country. The grand landscapes, abundant resources, extreme biodiversity, and local experts offer the best hands on classroom to connect aquatic and terrestrial ecology with policy and the surrounding communities.
Their program offers 3 credit-packed courses during the summer months that can range anywhere from 2 to 10 weeks long depending on which courses they take. One class focuses on the principals of tidal ecology, another on the connections of aquatic and terrestrial ecology, and the third on stewardship of salmon rivers. All the while the students are spending as much time as possible outside at riparian project sites, kayaking to managed and unmanaged landscapes, camping and fishing, building small group communication skills, decision making, finding patterns, talking to local fisherman, checking water levels, and having critical discussions about natural resource management, stem exclusion, and other issues facing Alaska.
I really connected with these two because their teaching style exemplifies my own philosophy of education, such that incorporating hands on learning and having valuable group discussions is one of the best methods for teaching. These students will use their experiences throughout their careers and personal lives making positive impacts everywhere they go. I was deeply inspired to see them create such a life changing program from the ground up, and I strive to be a teacher that promotes critical thinking and hands on exploration in the same way. Programs like this will make the future better for salmon, our environment, and the world as a whole and I highly encourage that students get involved as much as possible.
Source: Tatoosh School: Field Learning in Southeast Alaska