Program Updates

March 4th, 2019 - Students from Methow Valley Elementary joined forces with Bush School Students to explore the Methow ecosystem

March 4th, 2019 - Students from Methow Valley Elementary joined forces with Bush School Students to explore the Methow ecosystem


Bush Students and Methow Valley Students Remember Ian Fair

by Hilary Kaltenbach, Methow Program Coordinator

On the morning of Monday, March 4, 2019, sixty Second Grade students tumble out of the Methow Valley school bus, all hats and gloves and bouncing backpacks into the snow-covered parking lot of The Bush School Methow Campus. Chaperones and teachers shape the jumble into a circle. Bush Middle School students clump together in anticipation. Instructors introduce themselves and the day begins, sunshine glinting through the trees.

All are here to learn about this beautiful, snow-covered place. This is the Methow Valley Elementary Second Grade’s annual Field Day in Mazama, when they engage in four experiential stations, to learn how animals adapt to winter.  Four Methow naturalists lead these learning stations, this year with the help of nine Bush Middle School students who are eager to share their newfound knowledge of identifying which way a snowshoe hare was traveling, why the bobcat has such big paws, and the meaning of the word “subnivean.” Soon, hands are busy with snowshoe straps and temperature gauges, tracing the shape of a cougar print and examining a chewed pinecone. This is learning: engaging with the world and with each other to understand science, place, life.

Yet the day carries another meaning. We are also here to commemorate Ian Fair, who was a passionate educator and avid explorer of the Methow. Many of the adults worked with Ian in his roles as teacher, guide, program coordinator. On this day, the anniversary of his death, we are reminded of his enthusiasm for sharing his knowledge and love of the Methow with students from both sides of the Cascades. At last year’s Field Day, Ian was here, pointing out the differences between the lynx and bobcat fur, smiling down at glowing young faces, doing the work he loved.  

Today, as shouts of discovery rise through the air and laughter finds its way between groups, he is still here in this work, the Ian Fair Memorial Fund supporting students’ growing curiosity of the Methow and connection to each other.  


As an educator, Ian Fair knew the power of experiential education firsthand.  As a Methow resident and avid explorer, he was also passionate about all the Methow Valley has to teach curious minds.  A year after Ian’s passing, the fund to connect students to each other and the Methow is actively creating his legacy. In early March, second graders from Methow Valley Elementary School came to the Bush School Methow Campus for a daylong exploration of winter animal adaptations.  They were joined by Bush School middle school students, part of a wilderness trip, who assisted local instructors in teaching small groups of younger students. Throughout the day, they learned and practiced tracking skills, identifying traits that help animals thrive, and explored life in and under the snow.  The Ian Fair fund pays for instructors to bring this winter landscape to life and fuel students’ appreciation for the animals around them.

This May, Bush upper school students will engage in two collaborative projects with Liberty Bell High School students.  Students in the “Relays and Reels” AMP will hit the trails, literally, as participants in or supporters of the annual Sunflower Marathon.  They will also explore the narrative of the trails, conferring with a Liberty Bell High School class on the importance of the trail system to the community.  After a film workshop and a few days in the field, Bush AMP students will present their short films to the same Liberty Bells students, who will serve as the Academy, selected two short films to be entered in the first annual Methow Trails Film Festival.  

Separately, upper school students from Liberty Bell and The Bush School will gather for a mental wellness summit on the Methow campus in May.  The Bush Wellness Center, a group of ten selected students who act as point persons and resources for upper school issues of balance and health will join together with Liberty Bell’s HOPES (Helping Our Peers End Suicide).  They will participate in a Forefront training together, then spend the morning in conversation and activities exploring the challenges to teen mental wellness and strategies for supporting their peers.

These three projects demonstrate the power and promise of connecting students across the Cascades.  Seeking new perspectives and joining together in purpose, students in these programs gain not only new experiences, but also relationships that connect them to a daily life different from their own.  These relationships lay the foundation for the long-reaching legacy of the Ian Fair Memorial Fund: uniting curiosity and concern for a place and its people.