Wenatchee River Institute August 2017 Newsletter
Thoughts from the field
The Executive Director talks with Ash Kunz
Among our summer intern staff this summer was another local of the Wenatchee Valley, Ashley Kunz. Ashley, who goes by Ash, grew up in Wenatchee and has recently returned to finish her graduate degree work by working with the Wenatchee River Institute. We sat down for a few minutes and talked about why she is here.
ED:Ash tell me about your graduate program.
Ash:I am currently a graduate student at Western Washington University, pursuing a Masters of Education in Environmental Education through Huxley College, with certifications in Nonprofit Administration and the Natural History of the Pacific Northwest through a residency at North Cascades Institute. As part of this degree, I am required to complete a Leadership Track – I chose to do that at Wenatchee River Institute.
ED:What made you choose WRI for this program?
Ash:The culture within Wenatchee River Institute itself, and the role it plays in the community, is a cornerstone for creating a brighter future that values conservation and equitable access to the world of recreation in our backyard.
ED:What have you been doing while you were here?
Ash:Over the 12 weeks I will have spent working at WRI, I have had the opportunity to meet a variety of students, interact with inspiring partners and see first-hand how a small nonprofit functions and thrives.
I started out the summer co-leading the Wenatchee School District camps for three weeks, since then I have written curriculum and led four of the summer camps that WRI has put on this summer; blending both my interests and the mission of WRI into transformative experiences that connect community and the natural world for the students.
ED: What have you learned through this experience?
Ash: Most of what I have learned this summer has only reinforced my desire to continue on a path of education through service to the community and the students.
This summer has also been a time to recognize areas of growth, the growth I have achieved as an educator and member of this community, and the growth I still must strive for in order to help shape the best version of this world.
ED: How would you sum up the summer here at WRI?
Ash: Spending the summer in Leavenworth has been an amazing experience. I am originally from Wenatchee, but life took me away from this valley for close to 10 years. Returning to the area and the Wenatchee River Institute, being able to work and interact with staff and volunteers – embracing different perspectives and experiences – has allowed me to deeply examine my motives for teaching and opened my mind to diverse ways of thinking and seeing the world.
Being in this place, not only professionally, but totally immersing myself into the community as a whole has been incredible.
ED:So now that summer is over what’s next?
Ash: I am heading to Bellingham to finish my last two quarters at WWU, and write my capstone and will be graduating March 2018. My path after that gets a little less certain, but I would love to return to the valley and work with the community to increase diversity and inclusion in the recreation world, as well as provide equitable access to environmental education. I want to continue building relationships in the community and be a part of the future of this place, and hopefully have some adventures along the way!
We have thoroughly enjoyed having Ash as part of our team this summer. We have loved her energy, passion and skill in working outdoors, leading kids and teaching them about the environment and their role within it. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to work with Ash again when she is done with school.
The Cycle Begins...
As a supporter of WRI you have been directly responsible for connecting kids to the natural world for nearly ten years. Thank you!
Our first few groups of elementary students have now moved on to college, and just like the salmon returning to the river in the fall, our students are returning to WRI.
This summer two of our former students, Joseph and Blakely, came back, to give back, and learn by working with our summer camps and community programs. We wanted you to meet them.
My most vivid memory of coming to WRI as a child was of Jody. As a 4th or 5th grader, I revered her encyclopedic knowledge of everything about nature, particularly about birds. I especially remember playing a birdcall game with her: she taught us a bunch of simplified bird calls (i.e. “chick-a-dee-dee-dee!”), put us into pairs, blindfolded us, and had each pair of partners make birdcalls in order to find each other. Definitely a silly game, but the way Jody led it, connecting birds and environment to us kids, really stuck with me.
The funniest thing that happened this summer was during a salmon dissection. Our 4th-6th graders were watching with a mixture of disgust and wonder, when one of them said, “I wish we could do this to humans!”
I’m considering a major called Environmental Science and Public Policy, which is very broad and can lead down different career pathways. I could focus on government work, nonprofit advocacy, science, education, or myriad other options. I wanted to work with the Wenatchee River Institute to explore one of these possibilities. Now, at the end of the summer, I’ve gotten to experiment with environmental education, and I’ve learned about how a small environmental nonprofit functions. I will think back to this summer as I choose the rest of my classes at school, and even after I graduate. Wherever I end up, I would love to find myself at an organization that has such a meaningful impact on the people and environment in its community.
My most vivid memory of an experience at WRI as a child was when our 5th grade class went down to Barn Beach Reserve in the winter to work with local biologists and avalanche safety instructors. We learned how to determine snow slope stability, and how to use a compass and map to find landmarks placed throughout the campus, which we had to tromp around in snowshoes to find.
For me the most funny thing to happen this summer at WRI was when Don, Mary, and I were working on the automatic watering system in the community garden, and to determine where leakages were, we had to leave the system on and tend to each different sprayer. Every time we dealt with one, water would blast out and we’d end up with either a face full of water or spraying each other, until we were all completely soaked.
Having spent time volunteering for WRI in the community garden and at the Farmer’s Market, my experience this summer has made me realize that I would really love to become more involved in a group such as WRI in the future. It has been really cool to see how the organization connects both kids and adults to our beautiful valley through educational and outreach programs.