Spring Block

Participants in Spring Block stand in a circle on a beach

What is Spring Block? 

“Spring Block” is an immersive experience focused on environmental education and eco-social justice change that occurs during spring quarter each year, when students enroll in a “block” of four courses, totaling 17 credits. The program integrates theory and practice, using experiential and community-based learning modes. The Spring Block cohort (15-20 students) will study educational theory and practice by participating in activities like:

  • Designing learning experiences on a chosen cultural-natural history aspect of our outdoor classroom and teach to other students in the cohort.
  • Working with students and teachers at local schools.
  • Working with partner schools serving Indigenous students, co-learning on shared lands, practicing education and “reconcil-iaction.”
  • Participating in an urban eco-social justice learning experience.
  • Keeping a journal throughout the quarter, integrating personal and professional, academic and practical assignments.
  • Near the end of the quarter, undertaking a 72-hour stationary solo. This culminating experience is unique for every student and is intended to be an opportunity for reflection and contemplation in a natural space while practicing good risk management.

Spring Block has run every year since 1980 and is continually evolving. Students learn by doing and should maintain an attitude of curiosity, adaptability, and flexibility, understanding that the participants, the weather, and chance shape this unique experience. Although there are outdoor components, Spring Block is not about personal recreation adventuring. Instead, the focus is on growing as educators.

    Who is Spring Block for?

    • Students who plan on being or who have an interest in environmental education and/or education and eco-social justice.
    • Students who have an interest in, or learn well, using experiential & community approaches.

      The basics:

      • Spring Block is open to all Environmental Studies and related majors.
      • Prerequisites: 
        • Fall quarter
          • ENVS 381 (4 credits) Introduction to Education for Eco-Social Justice and Sustainability. Offered fall quarter only!)
        • Winter quarter
          • (recommended) ENVS 492 (4 credits) Curriculum for Environment and Sustainability (Winter) - one-credit prep class
          • ENVS 499b (1 credit): Spring Block Planning Seminar
      • Spring Quarter
        • ENVS 485 (4 credits) Natural History Education for Eco-Social Justice. 
        • ENVS 486 (5 credits) Field Methods in Education for Eco-Social Justice
        • ENVS 488 (4 credits) Outdoor Education
        • ENVS 489 (4 credits) Leadership for a Sustainable Future

      Commitment and costs

      • Spring Block is a big commitment. Students will be enrolled in 17 credits and should not plan on working a full-time job outside of school. Some weeks will be spent almost entirely in the field, cooking and eating together and sleeping in tents.
      • Students need to attend and participate in all community activities.
      • Students will keep a journal throughout the quarter, as well as other written/creative products.
      • Students will take responsibility for their own and the group’s success, institutional risk management, and following approved child protective policies and procedures.
      • A $450 fee covers group transportation and expenses. 
      • Additional costs usually include short-distance carpooling and food and equipment when in the field. Contact us if these costs present a barrier. Spring Block strives to reduce accessibility barriers.
      • Some outdoor and camping gear is required. Boots and raingear that fit you are critical. We will provide participants with a list of needed equipment and ideas on how to obtain it.
        • CENV is developing a gear-lending library
        • Outdoor Center
      • Students are required to complete self, peer, instructor, and program evaluations at the end of the quarter.

      How to apply?

      • Fall quarter
        • Register for ENVS 381 (Intro to Education for Eco-Social Justice and Sustainability) Offered fall quarter only!
        • Attend an info session during fall quarter. Time and place will be announced early in fall quarter.
        • Complete this short application that will help us understand where you are in your educational timeline and how this program fits your educational goals. Deadline to apply is November 10, 2024. Students will be notified in time for winter registration.
      • Acceptance criteria:
        • ENVS students in education & eco-social justice emphasis majors who need it this year to graduate.
        • Other ENVS or WWU students who need it this year to graduate.
        • ENVS majors with courses in Education & eco-social justice emphasis.
        • Other ENVS or WWU students.
        • Students who could return to assist in the following year’s Spring Block.
      • Winter quarter
        • Register for ENVS 499b in winter quarter, a required 1-credit Spring Block planning seminar. Register during any phase with an instructor override.

      What do former participants say about Spring Block?

      I have gained self-confidence and self-awareness as a facilitator and have had the opportunity to practice many forms of leadership both with my peers and the communities we worked with this quarter. Leaving this experience, I feel prepared to lead others in many different kinds of educational experiences, and I am excited about the possibilities of continuing to work with college-age students in the field, as well as working with younger folks.
      - Clary Greacen de la Montagne, 2023 Spring Block cohort

      The experience of developing and implementing a curriculum from start to finish was a new experience and provided me with much insight I will carry forward into future situations. The challenge to make a program adaptable and the practice of engaging two very different groups of learners felt very daunting, but the outcome in our group was so rewarding. Holding the space to co-learn, co-teach, and co-develop curriculum is unconventional to Western education, but is an extremely valuable feature of meaningful teaching.
      - Eliza Moyer, 2023 Spring Block cohort

      Throughout Spring Block, I feel like I have grown as an educator and as a leader and am pleased with all that I have learned from my peers, TAs, and instructors. I have put a lot of effort into this class and have tried new things, stepping out of my comfort zone.
      - Rose Valiant, 2023 Spring Block cohort

      Have questions?

      Contact Gene Myers at gmyers@wwu.edu.