In Seattle, Summers Should
Be Lived Outdoors

Tim Billo

For those interested in environmental studies and the Olympic National Park, Summer Quarter offers the unique chance to take a class that is off the beaten path. 

Experiential learning is really important to me, and the format of Summer Quarter has allowed our class to do something really special outside the classroom.

 — Tim Billo

In his first year teaching at the University of Washington, Tim Billo was encouraged by his director to teach a course for UW Summer Quarter. Tim decided that, whatever his course covered, he and his students wouldn’t be stuck indoors. 

“Our summers are beautiful here,” he said. “I’m not going to have my students sitting inside a classroom in the middle of summer.” 

Tim, a lecturer in UW’s Environmental Studies program and a part-time lecturer in the Department of Biology, went all out: his summer course would take nine students on a nine-day backpacking trip through Olympic National Park. 

And the Summer Quarter program staff thought it was a great idea.  

“I’m so grateful that Summer Quarter supported it and provided a platform,” said Tim, who’s now taken students to the backcountry in six summers. “Summer is a wonderful time for students to be doing something a little different.” 

Tim has found that a fulfilling, particular type of learning can happen outside of a traditional classroom. 

“Every evening we sit around the campfire, and one student takes the lead and directs the learning, and the level and depth of conversation is so incredible,” Tim said. “To me, that’s what education should be: a natural flow and exchange of ideas around a campfire.” 

Getting off the beaten path helps Tim and his students connect with nature and learn more organically — whether it’s in Olympic National Park or Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park, where Tim has taken students to explore issues of tribal sovereignty and the co-management of wilderness resources by both the National Park Service and Huna Tlingit people.

“Students thrive in natural environments — it allows them to focus more on the task at hand,” he said. “In my mind, this is the ideal setting for education.”