Monday, Jul 8, 2013
On a typical cloudy May day in Seattle, 75 eighth grade students from South Shore School, a K-8 school located in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood, one of the most diverse zip codes in the United States, stepped out into Paradise -- or at least, the Mount Rainier’s Paradise Visitor Center -- on a rare and beautiful sunny day.
Most of the students had never visited a national park, but were provided an opportunity to engage with wilderness in their backyard through a Ticket to Ride grant provided by the National Park Foundation, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park collaborated with Mount Rainier National Park, the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, the Urban Wilderness Project and the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute.
“One component of the Call to Action is ‘Arts Afire,’ where we showcase the meaning of parks through the arts,” said Jacqueline Ashwell, the park’s superintendent. “Our partnership with South Shore School presents an opportunity to share the landscapes and stories we love with a new group of people and gain a fresh perspective through their eyes about the national park experience.”
After a beautiful scenic ride up to Paradise at Mount Rainier, the students journeyed on a snowshoeing trek—complete with “penguin belly sliding” down a snowy hill—and later participated in a reflective activity led by storyteller Jourdan Keith, director of the Urban Wilderness Project, where students processed their experience and told stories about their adventure.
Three days later, they traveled to Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in downtown Seattle, where they experienced a different side of the NPS. There, they explored their region’s heritage, discovered how miners panned for gold in the 1890’s, and explored what life was like for “stampeders” who had gold rush dreams.
“We wanted to make sure they had an enriching experience; it was more than just visiting.” said Spirit Trickey, the park’s chief of interpretation. “It’s all about exposure and access to parks. It was crucial that we instilled a sense of ownership, that these are their national parks. The partnerships and National Park Foundation grant enabled us to facilitate these special experiences for the students.”
After the park visits, resident artist Robin Atlas conducted workshops with the students to help them process and reflect on their experiences through visual art, while Jourdan Keith assisted the students with written expressions of their experiences. The artwork produced by the students will be displayed within Klondike Gold Rush in a special exhibit.
This exhibit is “unlike anything we’ve done before,” said Ashwell. “I’m looking forward to experiencing art that conveys what it’s like to be on snowshoes for the first time, or to place themselves in the shoes of those who came before us, took risks, and overcame incredible challenges.”