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Methow Campus

Exploring the Methow Valley

The Bush School campus extends beyond the urban landscape of Seattle across the Cascade mountains to The Bush School Methow Campus. In the fall of 2016, the school acquired a twenty-acre campus and educational facility in Mazama, Washington. This campus, located in the region known as the Methow Valley, provides students, faculty, and staff with immersive experiences that highlight the interdependence between community, environment, and self.

The campus consists of forested valley floor that stretches to the Methow River. The surrounding communities in Okanogan County offers rich history, ecology, and partnerships for student learning and service. 

Percy L. Abram, Ph.D., Head of School

The campus and the surrounding area are majestic. Stepping onto the Methow Campus connects us to nature, its power and beauty. It reminds us how important it is to protect and preserve the land and those that inhabit it. To be still, to be quiet, to be reflective, and to be purposeful brings us closer to the power of nature and the Methow Campus.
 
 

DISCOVER THE MAGIC OF THE METHOW

 
The magic of the Methow lies in the beauty of the landscape and the connectivity of the community. Bush students and faculty travel across the Cascades from the wet, tech, urban climate of Seattle to the dry, agricultural, rural landscape of Mazama, Washington. Here they step onto the Bush Methow Campus and become a part of the larger Methow Valley, discovering a place to reflect on their journey, explore big ideas, engage with community, and put their learning into action through place-based learning. As we imagine a future for The Bush School, Assistant Head of School for Academics Sarah Smith shared, “ The possibilities of enriching the educational journey are just tremendous in this campus.”

Methow Ian Fair Fund

The Ian Fair Fund for the Methow Campus was established in the spring of 2018 in memory of Methow Program Coordinator Ian Fair who died in an avalanche while skiing on Sunday, March 4, 2018. Ian, who was hired by The Bush School in August 2017, was a thoughtful and committed educator. He believed deeply in environmental education and our mission to expose students to the splendor and resources of the Methow community. The fund was established by The Bush School, with Ian’s family and friends, in honor of Ian’s vision and dedication, and supports the integration of wilderness, cultural, and academic experiential learning for students of The Bush School and the Methow Valley.

METHOW CAMPUS PROGRAMMING

List of 7 items.

  • Cascades

    Cascades is The Bush School’s signature Upper School program providing  three-week immersive experiences, allowing Upper School students the opportunity to challenge their thinking, ignite their passion for exploration, and deepen their awareness of their connection to the larger community.

    During Cascades students take one interdisciplinary course of study, led by interdepartmental teaching teams. These thematic, immersive, multi-grade experiences are academically engaging, challenging, and require students to grapple with complex problems and face real-life challenges both on and off campus.

    Click here to view the 2022-2023 Cascades Catalog.
  • E-lectives

    The Bush Middle School offers a wide variety of classes through the E-lectives Program. Students are encouraged to pursue their special interest or activity, as well as take this opportunity to try new things and meet new people. We value this experiential program precisely because it gives students opportunities to discover new interests or traits, develop interpersonal, collaborative, and leadership skills, and take on healthy risks in a safe and nurturing environment.

    E-lectives are short, highly-focused courses that provide opportunities for students to explore interests outside of traditional school subjects, and throughout the school’s history have included wilderness experiences, community engagement, and art creation.

  • E-Week

    Experiential Week (E-week) is a time when all regular Middle School classes pause to allow students time for immersive interdisciplinary and experiential learning. Each year, students eagerly anticipate the E-week Catalog and choose from programs focused on arts, wilderness expeditions, intercultural immersions, or—in the case of many programs—a blend of these. E-week programs often integrate studies of academic questions rooted in curriculum with immersive experiences in unfamiliar learning environments to allow time for further reflection, acquisition and application of new skills and knowledge, forming of relationships with new cultural communities, and explorations and studies of new landscapes.
     
    The fifteen E-week courses this year cover a range of interests including local programming like quilting, pottery, and stand up paddling to overnight trips like Methow River Leadership, Montana Mountain Biking, and Black Hills Journeys. Students can select from overnight travel away from home as well as day programming that uses the city of Seattle and the Puget Sound region as an extension of our campus.

    Click here to view the Spring 2022 E-Week Catalog.
  • Middle School Wilderness Program

    Wilderness trips are an important part of the Experiential Education Program in the Bush Middle School. These trips allow students to develop an appreciation and respect for the natural world and to experience real-life situations in which they must take responsibility for their own actions, cooperate with others, and find their place in group situations.
     
    The Bush Middle School wilderness trips occur on extended weekends, and are open to all Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Grade students, unless specifically noted. No experience is necessary for most trips. When a prior skill is needed for a trip, this requirement will be stated in the offering. All Bush Middle School wilderness trips are led by Bush teachers who are also experienced outdoor leaders. In some cases, a trip may be co-led by a professional guide and a teacher.
  • Retreats

    Every September, students in Sixth through Twelfth Grade start the year with a grade level retreat. This is an opportunity for the students and teachers to build relationships and connections before embarking on the school year together. Students in Eighth and Twelfth Grade come to the Methow Campus. Their time together includes project-based learning, community engagement, and opportunities to explore the natural landscape hiking, mountain biking, and more.
     
    In addition to grade level retreats, there are various faculty and student groups who use the Methow Campus for retreats including the Student Athletic Council, Student Wellness Center, Senior Leadership Team, Board of Trustees, and more. The campus provides students, faculty, staff, and Board members the ideal setting to reflect, imagine, and plan.
  • Semester School

    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.
     
    The Methow Semester is a transformative experience that empowers students to seek answers to complex questions about sustainability using the power of experiential education for change. Sustainability is this generation’s immediate challenge, with climate change impacting our most basic needs. Yet only a united society that can understand multiple perspectives will be able to overcome these challenges.

    The Bush School, the only K-12 experiential school in the state, is a recognized leader in equipping students to make change.
     
    Since 1924, our mission has focused on bringing together students from diverse backgrounds and talents, inspiring them through experiential curriculum to make meaningful contributions to their communities.
     
    The Methow Semester is a flagship program of experiential education and place-based learning, uniting present need with The Bush School’s long-standing experience. The semester offers students an opportunity to immerse themselves in understanding complex issues of sustainability, creating a positive community, and developing skills to lead collaboratively and confidently.

    Click here to read more about the Methow Semester School
  • Senior Projects

    Bush Senior Project provides students with the opportunity to work with local, regional, and/or world resources in pursuit of an experiential project that specifically extends skills and ideas that the student has developed during the high school years. Since 2016, the Bush Methow Campus has been the site of a number of senior projects ranging from community engagement to conservation.
     
    Students who choose to participate in Senior Projects must propose their ideas in the fall of their senior year, and have them approved by a faculty committee. Students who are approved receive one credit and will miss the last three weeks of classes in the spring to work on their project. Senior Projects allow a student to further develop and demonstrate significant new understanding while making a difference in the greater community.

Methow Campus News Stories

List of 4 items.

  • A Capstone to Remember: Fifth Grade Trip

    The spring of 2022, the entire Bush Fifth Grade traveled to Mazama, Washington for the students' first trip to the Bush Methow Campus for four days in May as a culminating curricular opportunity aligned with the Lower School’s environmental goals.

    “During their time on the Methow Campus our Fifth Grade students were able to build relationships, break boundaries by engaging in new adventures, and experience the true magic and beauty of the Methow Valley,” Lower School Director Aliya Virani said. “This trip exemplifies what experiential education means in the Lower School, we are always learning by doing and the Methow experiences made this come alive.”

    Led by Bush Fifth Grade teachers Randi Gordner and Neil Davis, and Bush Methow Program Manager Michaela Precourt, students were exposed to the unique opportunities of the Methow Campus while fostering deeper connections with peers as they get ready to transition to  Middle School.
  • Pioneering a Semester School Program

     
    With the North Cascades mountains serving as a backdrop, and ideal summer conditions, from June 28 through July 1, a group of ten educators came together to brainstorm curricular ideas, program features, residential programming, and get a better sense of what the physical space of the Methow Valley can provide for the Methow Semester School Program. 

    Click here to read more about the Methow Semester School Program
  • Methow Land Stewardship and Climbing

    Michael Heald described it as “the magic”.  

    For nine Middle School students at The Bush School, the final evening of a seven-day wilderness trip in the Northern Cascades was spent outside in nature. 

    “I took them on another night hike to the riverbed for stargazing and as a group they decided that they wanted to just lie down on the rock and gravel and stare up at the night sky in silence,” said Seventh Grade Science Teacher Michael Heald. “This was self-imposed and they stayed there for nearly fifteen minutes in near silence without any prompts from me; that is the magic.”
    Unique, unscripted, and “magical” moments like this were missing during the 2020-2021 academic year due to COVID-19, but from October 2 - October 7, Bush community members returned to the school’s home away from home, the Methow Campus, for a wilderness trip through the school’s Experiential Education Program.

    Located in the Methow Valley in Mazama, Washington, the twenty-acre property provides students with immersive experiences that highlight the interdependence between community, environment, and self. This Middle School trip in particular was centered on public lands and rock climbing. Students had the chance to connect with, and learn more about the Methow community through a stewardship project, while strengthening the bonds between one another and Bush faculty and staff. 
     
    “There is a sense that students have lost something in the last year, from social interaction, independent growth, the ability to navigate space, cues, and interactions in the same way as they have in the past,” Michael said. “Coming back as a pandemic still rages makes everything harder, but for me the joy is found at the end of the trip as the routine settles in, the small groups melt.  It becomes one group sharing life with each other from the banter around a campfire that is friendly and kind to the cheering each other on at the cliff's edge.” 
     
    Michael explained all of the Eighth Grade students on the trip took part in the Sixth Grade Immersion Program two years ago, so when the van pulled up on the dirt road to the Methow Campus, there was a sense of nostalgia and excitement to be back. For Hadley ‘26, who went on the Sixth Grade Immersion Program in 2019, the opportunity to come back was something she didn’t want to miss. 
     
    “Last year we were very stuck inside and doing all online school, and getting to come back out here, it feels like such an amazing breath of fresh air,” she said. “Getting to spend this time again, it feels very connected to Sixth Grade, and it almost makes me forget how hard last year was.”

    Bush’s Wilderness and Experiential Week Coordinator Erik Gearhart said one of the highlights from a trip like this is seeing the growth in students from previous years, and even the change in just the week. 

    “There are some students on this trip that I last worked with here (in the Sixth Grade) and they took different roles on the trip,” he said. “I’ve seen them (now) take on that mentorship role to younger climbers.”

    Michael echoed those thoughts saying he saw all nine individuals take a step out of their comfort zone in some form. 

    “For some, this was the longest time away from their family, others have never climbed outdoors or climbed as high as we did on this trip,” Michael said. “Many had little experience belaying another friend/student and feeling the bond through the rope of trust in each other.”

    While the students enjoyed learning and expanding their knowledge of climbing, scaling the crags of Matrix and Fun Rock, they also immersed themselves in the community through a stewardship project - helping revegetate and restore the area of Fun Rock. Erik explained this type of work is important and impactful for students as previous Bush groups have had a hand in helping build the trails and area during previous trips. Two years ago the group moved gravel and rock to help stabilize and harden the slopes. 

    “This trip was an opportunity for me to reflect again on the many ways Bush students have become part of the larger Methow community through stewardship and engagement,” Erik said. “We walked climber trails that Bush students worked with the late Ian Fair (former Bush Methow Coordinator) to consolidate and harden five years ago. We climbed new stairs that Bush students hauled gravel and rocks to build two years ago with the local Forest Service climbing rangers. And on this year's program, students worked with the same climbing rangers to plant native plants near these stairs and trails.”

    On the trip, students replanted in a disturbed area of Fun Rock that the forest service is trying to restore. Michael said they planted twelve service and snow berries, and posted a few restoration signs.

    “I feel like we do a lot of taking in our everyday lives,” Hadley said. “This actually gives us an opportunity (to give back).”

    And after a year of many challenges, this trip became even more valuable in the learning, growing, and the friendships made.

    “Today, I see wilderness education as being even more valuable,” Erik said. “Wilderness education gives students a week without screens, a week where students are put into groups that are different from their normal group, where they make new friendships, and new relationships.” 
    Read More
  • United by Water: Headwaters of The Methow River and Flagg Mountain



    When you stand on The Bush School Methow  Campus, it takes a moment for your ears to  name the sound you hear, constant and low,  beyond the forest. You may have to unplug  your city filters to realize it’s not the stream of traffic  on I-5, but a literal stream, the steady movement of the  Methow River.
    PROTECT WHAT YOU LOVE 
    In 2014, a Canadian mining company filed an exploratory  drilling permit for a copper mine near the headwaters of  the Methow River and Flagg Mountain, directly above  Mazama. Concerned about the long-reaching impacts  of open-pit mining, Methow Valley Citizens’ Council  (MVCC), led by Maggie Coon, organized a community  response called the Headwaters Campaign. Maggie  explained to a group of Bush Upper School students,  part of the AMP Geology Rocks, that she knew in order  to unify the community around the cause, the message  had to be positive. The goal was to unite, not to divide.  Rather than focusing on the negative impacts of the  mine, MVCC called on the community to protect what  they loved, declaring the Methow “too special to mine.”  Partnering with local filmmakers Benjamin Drummond  and Sara Steele, they created a quilt of testimonials  that stitched together what makes the Methow vital  and unique: resilience, agriculture, heritage, public  land, fish and wildlife, hunting areas, treaty rights, jobs,  and water. 
     
    Public support was immediate and immense, inspiring  local officials to take the cause up the legislative  ladder. On March 19, 2019, former President Trump  signed the bipartisan-supported Natural Resources  Management Act, which included permanent  protection of 340,000 acres in the Methow  watershed. This protected land comprises not only  the Methow headwaters and Flagg Mountain, but  also the surrounding hillsides and tributaries, as  well as the avalanche chutes and waterfalls. Our  water comes not only from the river, but also from  the mountains that surround us. The watershed is the  community of the river, and the health of one aspect  impacts the health of the whole. 

    In Drummond and Steele’s short celebratory film,  Permanently Protected, Maggie explains the  extraordinary success of the MVCC campaign is  noteworthy “because of the unanimity of support.”  With this shared success comes responsibility.  Maggie challenges that it is our job to “tell the stories  of these successes, so that as more and more people  come here, whether to live or to visit, they understand  that the Methow isn’t this way by accident. It has  required a whole community acting on behalf of this  incredible place.” Just like the community relies on  the watershed, so too does the watershed rely on the  community. Or perhaps they are simply two words for  the same thing. Everyone who comes to the Methow,  whether on a Bush alumni weekend or a senior class  retreat, is united. A love of place brings us together  toward collective action. 

    CONFLUENCE 
    Local biologist and educator Amy Fitkin leads a  group of Bush Eighth Grade hikers down Lost River  Road, past their classmates belaying each other on  Fun Rocks, and up the steep path of the Spokane  Gulch Trail. From the ledge high above the valley  floor, students catch their breath and their efforts are  rewarded with a grand view. Below them, the valley  expands and flattens, the path of the river reflecting  the afternoon sun. Amy introduces key landmarks  on the jagged horizon by name: Liberty Bell Spire,  Kangaroo Ridge, Driveway Butte. She leads their  eyes down the canyons to ribbons of smaller  streams, intermittently visible between layers of  green branches. Lost River, Early Winters, Robinson,  Cedar—each winds their way down to join forces  with the Methow River. Each of these confluences is  a union of distinct waters from separate landscapes,  a merging of paths now united in a common journey.  
    The town of Winthrop is situated at such a confluence,  where the Chewuch River meets the Methow. Kevin  van Bueren, owner of North Cascades Fly Fishing,  views this spot through the eyes of both a fisherman  and a fish. Because the Chewuch is deeply seated  in the Cascades, it melts earlier and runs higher  first. Kevin explains that “salmon or steelhead will  stage in the Columbia until their watershed is just  the right temperature.” As these big fish make their  way upstream, “they may duck into the mouth of a  smaller river to enjoy cooler waters as they wait to move to their home water.” Fish also benefit from the  introduction of a different perspective, a different  water narrative. 

    The Eighth Grade hikers are about to encounter a  confluence of their own. The Bush School is made  up of several of these key points where rivers of  students combine and braid together: Kindergarten,  Sixth Grade, and Ninth Grade. At each of these entry  points, students from distinct backgrounds and  experiences come together, contributing their own  narrative and uniting on their common Bush journey.  
     
    RIVER AS TEACHER 
    Six hands dunk into the water and work together to  flip a large, flat stone. A quick dip of a net brings  up small bits of debris and several naiad stoneflies,  wriggling in the sunlight. Stonefly are an indicator  species, their presence a sign of good water quality.  They are also a choice snack for trout and salmon.  Learning the habits of the stonefly is key in learning  to fly fish.  
    Jonathan Stratman has been teaching students to fly  fish in the Methow for over ten years. His popular  after-school club and summer camp sessions fill quickly with students eager to try their hands  at creating their own flies and learning to think  like a fish. But there’s more to becoming a fly  fisher than casting. Students begin to learn a  perspective beyond themselves, a connection  between self and river. When Jonathan considers  the mindset of fly fishing, he shares that when  he’s “focused on a specific run or a section  of water, I can almost feel the connection. I’m  a part of everything that’s happening around  me.” Jonathan hopes that his students take  much more than science from his fishing clubs:  “Being on the river allows me to be completely  who I am, free from distraction and worry. This  is what I hope students take away from the  experience.” Teaching this awareness at a  young age grows not only a healthy community,  but also a community attuned to the health and  importance of the river.  

    When Phil and Cathy Davis purchased a corner of  vacant riverfront along Highway 20 in Winthrop,  they had a vision for a community space that  honored the people, the river, and the fish who  have called this place home. Phil describes both  the goal and the process of creating the park  as a “shared stewardship of land, water, and  each other.” Dynamic metal sculptures by Virgil  “Smoker” Marchand titled “Water is Life” and  “Coming Home” bring to life the Methow people  who fished and lived along these banks for  thousands of years. Now the river’s edges rely  on newcomers for restoration and protection. 

    The September heat was no ally to the  group of Bush students wielding shovels and  wheelbarrows at Homestream Park, helping  create the trail that mirrors the homeward path  of the Methow salmon. Punctuated by nine  boulders that represent the dams a salmon  must overcome to return to its home river, the  path invites participation and speculation.  Speculation is more challenging in the heat of  the afternoon, and when Cathy Davis arrived  with boxes of ice cream bars, rakes were quickly  dropped in exchange for a treat and shared  laughter. Behind them, the river echoed in its  own language, and the cottonwoods’ shadows  beckoned with reprieve. Collective work  deserves collective rest, the group stronger  because of their efforts.  
     
    Just a month later, Homestream Park held its  grand opening celebration, a confluence in its  own right of cultures and contributors, united by  a shared support of the park’s purpose. Mark  Miller, whose family has lived in the Methow  for 500 generations, spoke on local radio  station KTRT with host Don Ashford about his  perspective of Homestream Park and why  he chose to be involved. The goals of park,  Mark explains, exemplify “the concept of a  whole valley ecosystem and spiritual system.” 

    Homestream Park “represents salmon, it  represents water, but it also represents dirt, the  soil, that environmental wholeness that people  come to the Methow for.” By contributing their  hands and hours, Bush students become part  of that wholeness, carrying the awareness of  purpose on their journeys, carrying the story of  the salmon and the river. 
     
    Back on campus, trails diverge into the dappled  light of the cedar forest. Whether you travel the  beaver pond trail or the ski trail or the snowshoe  trail, you will find the path you chose brings  you eventually to the Methow River. Here, the  sound of water fills your ears and details assert  themselves on your senses. You are here and  nowhere else. When we are in the presence  of water, whether casting a line or dipping a  paddle, we enter a shared narrative of time  and place. This water circling our feet reminds  us to be mindful of the present, grateful for our  surrounding watershed, and thoughtful of what  we bring to the next confluence. 
    Read More

CONNECT WITH US

List of 2 members.

  • Photo of Michaela Precourt

    Michaela Precourt 

    Methow Program Manager
    (509) 996-3202
  • Photo of John Harter

    John Harter 

    Bush Methow Campus Facilities Manager
    (509) 996-3202
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.

3400 East Harrison Street, Seattle WA 98112    (206) 322-7978
The Bush School does not discriminate in matters of employment, recruitment, admissions, or administration of any of its programs on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national or ethnic origin, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. In addition, The Bush School does not discriminate in matters of employment on the basis of age or marital status.
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