Juneau Nature Seminars: Community and Teacher Classes

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Weekend classes open to the community and providing free professional development for teachers*.  Instructors Richard Carstensen and Steve Merli address natural and cultural history with a focusing question  ‘why do we live here?’

If a course is full or “out of stock” please join our waitlist here.  We expect to take participants off the waitlist.  The June 2 & 3 course is currently full.

Aak’w Aani:  Outer Point and the Glacier

  • June 2 & 3: Geologic Landforms
  • June 9 & 10: Changing Habitats and Forest Succession

Enroll in either weekend, or both!  Suggested donation of $50 for the general public and free for teachers.

*Teachers seeking Ed 581 credit:  Each weekend provides 1 credit, and includes two additional classroom sessions Thursday and Friday evenings beforehand.  Discovery Southeast will reimburse UAA tuition fee upon successful completion.

Please see the full Description below for all the details!


Category: SKU: N/A



Geologic Landforms (June 2 & 3) explores geology and cultural history from two spots on either side of the Mendenhall wetlands.  We look at marine, alluvial (river-powered), colluvial (gravity powered), glacial, and anthropogenic (human-powered)  landforms, with a special emphasis on how the landforms influence human settlement. For teachers seeking professional development credit, Thursday and Friday classroom sessions will introduce some basic concepts.  Saturday and Sunday we’ll visit Kaalahéenak’u, inside a person’s mouth (Outer Point/Peterson Creek); and Áak’w Táak, inland from little lake (Mendenhall Valley). Time will be set aside during each field day for solo journaling, followed by sharing of thoughts on how these concepts/experiences can be introduced to students.

Changing Habitats (June 9 & 10) concentrates on forest succession in coastal and terrestrial habitats, with special emphasis on human inhabitation and foraging needs. Thursday and Friday sessions for the teachers will introduce basic concepts. Saturday and Sunday we’ll have field days exploring: Kaalahéenak’u, inside a person’s mouth (Outer Point/Peterson Creek); and Áak’w Táak, inland from little lake (Mendenhall Valley). Time will be set aside during each field day for solo journaling, followed by sharing of thoughts on how these concepts/experiences can be introduced to students. 

Saturday and Sunday courses are roughly 10am-4pm.  The Thursday and Friday classroom portions for teachers are roughly 7-9pm.

These courses are part of a new series offered by Discovery Southeast: Juneau Nature Seminars.  It’s comprised of complementary 1-credit classes blending natural and cultural history, offered to Juneau educators and open to the public at large too. Each year we’ll cycle 3-to-4 of these classes on the same themes—landforms, succession, others based on demand—but always in different locations accessible to Juneau student field trips. The classes are highly place-based, so a teacher can take, for example, the class called Landforms in successive years without concern that material will be overly redundant.  

A third course during the October rainy season will be mostly indoors: Written histories of Áak’w Aaní: Between the lines of explorer’s journals. Guiding question for all of these classes is: “Why do we live here?” which was the title of a semester course we offered for high school students in 2013 with Goldbelt Heritage and UAS.  We asked “what were the factors in home-site selection in pre-contact times?” This question is a good fit for studies of both landforms and habitats/succession. As we did for our 2013 students, teachers will be asked as homework to pick a village site somewhere in Southeast Alaska in Google Earth, then in the summary session, explain their choice to the group, based upon factors explored during the course.

Instructors Richard Carstensen and Steve Merli have been teaching together since the late 1980s. As a general tendency, Carstensen structures the left-brainy, conceptual-technological course material, and Merli keeps us grounded, from his dual background as naturalist and healer. Steve will lead sessions on nature as therapy for youth-at-risk (and for us all). Although highly hands-on and experiential (ie, bushwacking!), our course also introduces cutting edge technologies such as LiDAR-based cartography, high-resolution GPS, and UAV (unoccupied aerial vehicle) videography.

Course is limited  to 15 participants and may include the general public as well as teachers. Educators will discuss methods of incorporating natural resource lesson plans in curriculum. We’ll walk teachers through Juneau School Districts’ hot-off-the-press Science Curriculum for K-5, MS, and HS, with emphasis on intersections with our Landforms course, and Why we live here.   

After registering you’ll receive a link to our online Participant Agreement, which needs to be completed before the program starts. We recommend you take a moment now to look over a copy, so you’re comfortable with it before registering. Registration is voluntary, so if you don’t agree with the terms there, please don’t register, and instead let us know at info@discoverysoutheast.org.