Experience Magazine 2022

Methow Semester Program

Pioneering a Semester School Program 
    • Luke-Jasmine-18

When Upper School English Teacher Jasmine Smith and Science Teacher Luke Dauner returned from a stay at the Bush Methow Campus in Mazama, Washington, this past winter, the two felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. 

“Jasmine and I were out at the Methow Campus at the same time, and we loved it,” Luke said. “Just being there, it felt like a unique and magical experience to get away from Seattle and live in the rural community.”

Luke and Jasmine shared those sentiments with Assistant Head of School for Academics Sarah Smith, one of The Bush School’s leaders working on program development for the Methow Campus. It didn’t take long for her to identify Luke and Jasmine, as two individuals ideal for another unique experience: help to pioneer a transformative pilot Semester School Program at the Methow Campus. 

“Luke and Jasmine each have strong backgrounds in an interdisciplinary, place-based, experiential education  approach, and I was immediately impressed with their curricular creativity, ability to connect with students, and commitment to stewardship and sustainability in their own lives,” Sarah said. “It was evident how effective they would be as teaching partners in a pilot program for our Semester School vision.”

In the beginning stages and part of the Bush strategic plan, the blueprint for the Methow Semester is an immersive, residential, place-based program that invites students from around the region to explore complex issues of sustainability and become leaders to make collaborative change in their communities. 

“While the ultimate vision is to build a semester-long program within the next three to five years, we will take an important first step in piloting a monthlong Cascades program in January 2023, which will enable us to test the curricular, residential, and experiential education components of the program,” Sarah said. 

Luke and Jasmine will be the two faculty members leading the way in the pilot program for twelve Bush students.

“I feel very lucky we, as first-year faculty, were asked to do this,” Luke said. “I think we were just so excited to visit the Methow Campus at the same time, and we both were in love with the area. It just felt like a chance to provide an opportunity for students to have that same feeling.” 

Both Luke and Jasmine’s passions for place-based education, environmental issues, and stewardship are in line with some of the  goals for the Methow Semester in creating a transformative experience that empowers students to take action as they seek answers to complex questions about sustainability. Luke and Jasmine explained one of the highlights of the curriculum is challenging students to reframe the meaning of sustainability while using the power of experiential education for change. 

“In a place like the Methow Valley, where environmental issues are even more upfront in your daily life and are local in nature—looking at them from a local perspective by bringing in different community stakeholders who are affected by those issues is a really good microcosm for larger issues that our society faces,” Luke said. “In general, it’s hopefully the idea of equipping students with really good leadership skills and the ability to look at and evaluate problems and solutions from a much more holistic and balanced viewpoint.”

Another important vision of the program is to bring students with different backgrounds and experiences together to explore complex problems and learn from one another. A long-term goal is to integrate locally based students into the program with students from the Bush Seattle campus. 

“The model and also the meta of how this program is set up with community engagement and with integrating students from other schools within the community is the idea of reciprocity,” Jasmine said. 

Added Luke: “One of the benefits of an immersive semester program is a focus on community living within your small community of students. To have people outside of The Bush School be a part of that student community would be really important.”

While still in the planning stages, the idea of expanding and nurturing Bush’s community beyond the Seattle campus is something Luke and Jasmine are thrilled to be on the ground floor of helping to create. 

“A lot of me coming to Bush in particular was really fueled by this idea of diversity, equity, and inclusion work, but also a commitment to stewardship and environmentalism,” Jasmine said. “To be on the forefront of building a program—and as a Black woman in outdoor spaces where there is extreme marginalization—and to think about my own unique social positioning and what I bring to that as an advocate for BIPOC women in outdoor spaces and that visibility, too. This feels very organic and very exciting to be in a place where I can merge all of these different interests into one program.”
The Bush School is an independent, coeducational day school located in Seattle, WA enrolling 710 students in grades K–12. The mission of The Bush School is to spark in students of diverse backgrounds and talents a passion for learning, accomplishment, and contribution to their communities.

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