Cascade Mountain School is a place-based outdoor science school for K-12 students located in the Columbia River Gorge. We partner with local and regional schools, scientists, engineers, farmers, and natural resource managers to develop unique curriculum that combines relevant global issues and practical hands-on learning. Our community-based science is taught within the context of the natural beauty of the Cascade Mountains and augmented by a healthy dose of physical activity each day; biking, hiking, rafting, farming and  service.

Students and staff explore the interconnected dimensions of the Gorge--wilderness, agriculture, natural resources, industry, transportation, energy, and native communities. Most importantly, students learn how to think from a systems perspective on ecological and human issues while using the landscape as their teacher. We offer Outdoor School Programming, K-12 In-School S.T.E.M. enrichment, Summer camps and Community Workshops.

Cascade Mountain School has been offering innovative programming since 2011 and is a program of the Mt. Adams Institute. The Mt. Adams Institute is a 501c3 nonprofit with the mission of strengthening the connection between people and the natural world through education, service learning, career development and research.  



Tax-deductible donations can be made to the Institute in support of Cascade Mountain School here.


At Cascade Mountain School we believe in encouraging strong and lasting connection with the natural world for all students through environmental education. We’re dedicated to:

  • Fostering strong communities and stewards of the natural world;

  • Excelling in scientific inquiry, systems thinking and sustainability studies;

  • Cultivating individual responsibility and personal growth; and

  • Creating opportunities for students of all backgrounds to connect with the natural world.

The Need

Across the globe, natural and human systems are showing signs of declining health and compromised resilience. Our oceans, rivers, land, and atmosphere provide abundant natural capital for human sustainability, although finding the right balance for use remains a serious challenge. The challenge of our time is to learn how to see natural and human systems in their complexity and understand that our solutions must be both local and global. At the same time, young people are in search of authentic experiences with the natural world and each other. Experiential immersion programs offer guidance, purpose, and excitement during a time when students are questioning who they are and how they want to live.

The Experience

At Cascade Mountain School we believe students should be given a real-world context for their learning and be pushed to analyze and synthesize information to understand the world around them. Too often, traditional academic environments can seem irrelevant to students. At Cascade Mountain School, we offer a dynamic learning environment, one in which senses are enlivened and academics become relevant to daily life. Students learn to work collaboratively and thoughtfully together, look at an issue from a variety of perspectives, draw conclusions, and make informed decisions. Our focus is "systems thinking" where the emphasis is on understanding the parts of a whole and their interrelationships to understand and solve problems.

Outdoor Classrooms
wild | farm | contemplative

Cascade Mountain School lies at the unique intersection of a fertile farming valley community, the dramatic glaciated peaks of the Cascade Mountain Range and the Columbia River Gorge. We use this landscape as our dynamic classroom, traveling between the mountains, beautiful river valleys, and old-growth forests; dairy stalls, organic orchards, and contemplative community spaces. We seek to explore and understand  people's connection to this landscape for thousands of years and our role as a stakeholder in the natural world.   

We frequent the Gifford Pinchot National Forest; Broadfork Farm, Mountain Laurel Jerseys, and Treebird Organics; and the Trout Lake Abbey in our dynamic explorations.

Forest Campus

Our Forest Campus is a 5-acre rustic camp facility in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest right behind the Mt. Adams Ranger District Office in Trout Lake, WA.  The beautiful Forest Campus includes three bunkhouses, a study hall, a mess hall, open fields, woods, and a small garden.  The facility can accommodate 60 overnight guests. The bunkhouses include bathrooms and showers.  Each room, which is shared by two people, has two beds and a small amount of storage space. The rooms are clean, basic, and comfortable. 

We use the Forest Campus as our home-base for overnight and day programs to synthesize our experience and reflect on what we have learned.


Mike Gundlach

Education Programs Director

Mike is a native of Washington who credits much of his love of the outdoors to growing up in a family that spent a lot of time camping, hiking, skiing, windsurfing and fishing. Mike has 15 years experience working with a variety of outdoor youth education programs and non-profit organizations. He is passionate about engaging youth through transformational experiences in the natural world that provide opportunities to learn and grow. When not working at MAI, Mike enjoys mountain biking and hiking.

Brendan Norman

Executive Director

As founder and first executive director for the Mt. Adams Institute, Brendan has twenty years experience operating AmeriCorps programs such as the Northwest Service Academy and “I Have A Dream” Foundation – Oregon and operating youth camps. An educator at heart with dirt in his blood, Brendan loves the outdoors nearly as much as his family.

Contact Brendan at:

Dana Rivkin

Summer Programs Coordinator

Dana's passions are fueled by a desire to build connections to ourselves, to others, and to nature. She has been working in the conservation, outdoor education, adventure guiding and teaching field since 2007. Her free time is filled with yoga, surfing, dance and cooking food from her garden.

Emily Martin


Emily founded Cascade Mountain School in 2011 after realizing it was the perfect intersection of her passions: environmental stewardship, youth education, and experience of the natural world. Emily received her BS and MS in Earth Systems, an interdisciplinary environmental science program, from Stanford University. Cascade Mountain School joined the Mt. Adams Institute as its local education program in 2013.

Kelly O'Dowd

Environmental Educator & Outdoor Leader

Kelly grew up as the middle daughter of a big family in New Jersey. She graduated college with a degree in International Relations and Anthropology. Her interest in the global network of people and places led her to an environmental study abroad experience and her own independent travel adventures. These experiences began to shape a passionate steward of the environment, driven by the curiosity to understand our world. Kelly has worked with children in traditional and experiential capacities over the years and enjoys the chance to share her love of nature through outdoor education in all CMS programs. Kelly moved to Washington two years ago to join the CMS team, where she shares her excitement for exploring new environments and personal growth with students of any age.


No positions available at the moment.

Cascade Mountain School is a program of the Mt. Adams Institute Institute and receives three of MAI's Public Lands Stewards AmeriCorps placements each year to serve as our seasonal environmental educators on outdoor school and summer camp programs. We hire in February for May - October and June - August positions.

To read the Position Description and apply: Check out Mount Adams Institute's Internship Openings


Keep up with volunteer events and job postings via our monthly MAI Newsletter and Facebook.


Cascade Mountain School, a program of Mt. Adams Institute

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