An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Michael Town, Upper School science and engineering teacher

As an educator, I’m always looking for ways to teach real-world skills by solving real-world problems. It is a mantra that often leads me down various rabbit holes in the classroom, some more complex than others. This summer, Lakeside Summer School Programs is supporting our effort to take active learning to another level as we pilot an apprenticeship model for doing science. The project has an auspicious (and audacious?) name: The Lakeside Summer Research Institute (LSRI), with correspondingly ambitious goals. 

The LSRI is a four-week research experience in which a small group of students interact with an experienced mentor asking and answering data-based questions. While it is not a unique model, it is the first time we have introduced the model at Lakeside. This summer, the LSRI will be looking at questions related to avalanches and avalanche forecasts in the Cascades. The choice of this topic fits a confluence of important factors: accessible data, local experts, low-hanging questions, and my expertise. 

In addition to data analysis and potentially some field work, students will also interface with researchers at UW and forecasters at the Northwest Avalanche Center, gaining perspective on the relevance and quality of their work. Ultimately, our goal is for students and mentors to publish their results externally in a blog, outdoor magazine, or eventually a peer-reviewed journal.

Yesterday was the first day of the Institute. The students spent most of it reading and researching concepts and vocabulary, grounding themselves in the field of avalanche science. It was a slow but foundational start to what I hope will be an exciting summer experience for everyone.