Contact us Monday through Friday 8:00am CST to 4:00pm CST at 715-327-4402

Residents “in the field” with Andrew Walsh


Residents from Prairieview, Lakeshore, and Riverside joined professional photographer and Webster native, Andrew Walsh, yesterday for an ‘in the field’ portrait shoot in Crex Meadows. Andrew has traveled to us from Portland, OR for the second time in 12 months to volunteer a week of his time and talent for our kids.

The wetlands of Crex were alive with the calls of trumpeter swans, red winged black birds, and song birds. The weather cooperated perfectly for this unique opportunity for Northwest Passage photographers to be on the other side of the camera and see first-hand what the life of a professional photographer is like.

From resident, CJ, on having his photo taken by a professional photographer:

“I don’t know how to describe it, it’s kind of like the greatest thing ever…”

If you’re in the area please join us for an artist reception at our gallery on Friday, May 20, from 4 – 6 p.m. Portraits of the kids, taken by Andrew last year, and some of his nature photography, will be showcased, next to the artwork of our kids. Come and check our talented youth’s photographs, pottery, sketches, and more. Also meet Andrew and our artists!


Cait Irwin is Artist in Residence for entire month of June


Through a collaboration between Northwest Passage and The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway Artist Cait Irwin will be spending the month of June on the banks of the Namekagon River as an Artist in Residence. Cait is a woman of many passions. She is an artist, entrepreneur, activist, environmentalist, author and visionary. Through the medium of mural painting, her expressed goal is to create “spaces that inspire”. She is also a published author of two books chronicling her fight with depression. Cait will be spending the month residing at the National Park Service’s Schaefer Cabin overlooking the Namekagon River. The Cabin, built in 1927 was recently restored through a cooperative initiative between Northwest Passage and the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

Cait will be travelling to Northwest Wisconsin from her home state of Iowa. However, as a graduate of Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, this will be a homecoming of sorts for her. While in residency, Cait will lead art workshops with residents of Northwest Passage and host events with the public. She will shape the kids’ work into four finished paintings reflecting the nature and wildness of the Namekagon and St. Croix Rivers. Under Cait’s mentorship Schaefer Cabin will surely become a “place that inspires” many.

This Artist in Residency is being made possible through a generous grant from the St. Croix Valley Foundation, The Wisconsin Arts Board and Eastern National. More about Cait can be found on her website at

The following is written by a resident of Northwest Passage Prairieview after an interview with Cait.

“Cait Irwin is a professional mural artist who I got a chance to speak with and find out what inspires her. She also does Graphic Design, Fine Art, and Sculpture Cake Art. A mural artist is someone who paints art on building walls or in large displays. Cait is a very unique and inspiring woman. Ever since she was a child, she always knew it was her calling to be an artist. Cait says, “Art is the one thing I never doubted, I was always sure of it.” Cait wanted to do mural art because she loves to paint large spaces. She finds it challenging and loves how it makes her work hard. “Bigger is better”, and in this case bigger certainly is better for Cait.

In June, Cait will be coming to Northwest Passage to share her love of art. She had expressed to me how excited she was to meet us and was thrilled to be getting the opportunity to experience art with kids working on their mental health. When Cait was going through her teen years, she turned to art because it helped her cope with her depression.

At the age of 14, Cait started writing a book, Conquering the Beast Within, about her struggles with depression. The book was originally her journal and she needed a way to communicate in those dark times. Cait describes her journey in writing the book as “Emotional and very raw.” Her hopes in writing Conquering the Beast Within, is to reach out to teens struggling with depression and other mental health issues. Her book includes many paintings she did while she was struggling with depression. Many would think writing a book about personal experiences would make you feel vulnerable. But Cait got to a point where she was comfortable talking about depression. “It’s a sacrifice putting yourself out there. But if it means hearing someone say ‘I’m not alone’ and helping them, it’s worth the sacrifice.” In talking with Cait, I thought this was one of most inspiring things she said.

Cait has a big interest in animals and nature. One of her paintings, Grandmother Elephant, she painted because she wanted to show the idea of our life cycle. If you look at the photo you will see how the elephant is holding the egg. The egg signifies our birth, the roots represent how we grow. The elephant is our memory; the skull is merging into old age and the moon is death. I thought this was a very interesting and fascinating portrait.

I am excited to meet Cait. She is a very passionate and strong woman and I think she will inspire every person here, whether they are staff or a resident, in one way or another. Cait has already inspired me to use art to help me cope with my problems and to not be afraid to talk about them.”

Northwest Passage cares about the artistic growth of our kids. We invite artists to come in, as an artist in residence, to guide them on journeys of self-expression through the language of art.


Need for Speed met at Riverside through Pinewood Derby



This April was host to the 20th annual pinewood derby races at Northwest Passage Riverside.

The need for speed was racing through our Riverside Creative Arts program as the residents worked feverishly to create unique and original car designs to enter into the big race. From trucks to convertibles, the various designs were tested and adjusted by each student to maximize the speed of their cars. We were even lucky enough to have a celebrity appearance by Mater from the movie Cars as he raced backwards down the track.

After the cars were completed, and race day arrived, we all gathered around our pinewood derby raceway. The races took place, cheers and laughter could be heard echoing around the Riverside grounds, as each student entered their car to race against staff and peers. The excitement and sportsmanship witnessed amongst the residents truly made the 20th annual pinewood derby race a memorable and inspirational experience.

Ben Johnson – Riverside Teacher

Northwest Passage focuses on many areas of care for our kids. One is through our expressive arts program. This program at Riverside gives the boys a chance to take part in classic boyhood experiences that they may be missing out on during their stay with us or that they may never have gotten to experience if they did not come to be with us.


Thinking outside of the box, with boxes… and MORE!


As you know, our experiential education programming has allowed InaNewLight to soar to great heights and allows learners of all types to reclaim a love for the classroom. Now take a moment to see our educators, and kids, in action as they strive to provide a classroom experience to fit all of our kids’ needs; to ignite a passion for learning.

By combining service, nature, and project-based learning we are curating classroom experiences where our kids are excelling at learning, sometimes for the first time. If you’d like to learn about what we’ve been up to, here are just a few stories to get you started.

We are proud of the education the kids at Passage receive during a very difficult time in their lives. The kids that come to us are dealing with mental health and emotional challenges, but they’re also struggling with the realities of living away from home, meeting new people, making friends, and learning many new life skills. One thing we can do to help ease the kids into their home-away-from-home is to provide an adaptive education that looks and feel like a normal classroom. We still have science fairs, papers due, and those desks connected to their chair, but we also inject project based learning that can open up the classroom to learners of all levels.

Our educational curriculum is guided not only by state and core standards, but by the principals of living the PassageWay – learning to live a Therapeutic Lifestyle. This means that many of the elements to living a therapeutic lifestyle are incorporated into the classroom, resulting in a more dynamic approach to teaching. From service to time spent in nature, our kids have a robust learning experience that we’re proud to say is fully accredited and truly serves as a building block to success in life.


Exploring Robotics through Trial and Error


The kids walked away from the classroom learning more than just a little science, but how to persevere through challenges and to trust that through hard work and a little time, they can overcome the obstacles in their lives.

Recently the Cedar classroom within the Assessment program has been busy using Legos to learn about programming, building robots, and overcoming obstacles. As part of this project each client participated in “the hour of code”- learning the basics of computer programming and got a hands on opportunity to use it to guide characters through a minecraft maze. “The Hour of Code” is organized by which is dedicated to expanding participation in computer science by making it available in more schools, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color. It is broken into self-guided tutorials that allow students to work through the skills at their own pace. By far the most popular choice for Cedar was MindCraft!

After learning these skills residents got the opportunity to work in groups to solve a challenge. Using two Motors they were asked to create a vehicle that could move items from once place to another. After a quick group brainstorming session the kids were off and designing away! Three designs came out in the end and were all very unique.

The final test was trying to move a group of marbles. After some initial challenges the groups had to return to the drawing board to add some additions onto their creations. It was discovered that just a single plow was not effective, so sides were added and SUCCESS! Another group developed a gear system to move the wheels to increase their vehicles speed while the last group opted to attempt to build a claw that would pick up items.

Through this project the kids really got the chance to “do” science and learn that it is not a single step process, but something that is always changing and that can take several tries before getting it right! We look forward to continuing our robotics adventures and expanding on our programming skills.

Hannah Curran – Assessment, Cedar Unit Teacher

Northwest Passage is dedicated to creating an engaging classroom. Our teachers are skilled in connecting with each child’s individual strengths and challenges.


Off to the Theater

The Prairieview girls have been reading To Kill a Mockingbird in school and recently attended the Guthrie Theater’s To Kill a Mockingbird play in Minneapolis, MN. It was their first time to the Guthrie for all of the girls and the first time to Minneapolis for several of them. The girls were in awe of the theater and the experience was a great one for all who attended! After the play, the girls attended a Q and A session with the cast members. In class, the girls have been dissecting the book by learning new vocabulary, practicing their creative writing skills by developing and extending the characters, participating in literature circles, and researching the themes of the book.

Brittany Bosak, Northwest Passage Prairieview Teacher

Prairieview-Guthrie- (1) Prairieview-Guthrie- (2)

Our teachers at Northwest Passage are always looking for new ways to teach our youth. Taking the girls to see “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Guthrie Theater is another example. Seeing the play after reading the books is not only a culturally enriching experience but also has significant educational benefits. It helps students to better understand the plot and vocabulary of the book/play, so overall improving their literary knowledge. It also improves their ability to read the emotions of others, enhancing empathy.

Prairieview Science Fair

Prairieview held its second annual science fair this fall! The science fair is a showcase to display weeks of hard work in the classroom. The science fair unit begins with an in-depth look at the scientific method and experimental design. The girls begin with basic classroom labs, writing hypotheses and analyzing data. They learn how to design a sound experiment with all the necessary components. The exciting part about this unit is that it mixes science, writing, language, math, art and social skills all into one exciting experience.  The expectation of the project is that the students are leading the way with their teachers guiding them as needed. Each student is allowed to do a project of their choice at their own academic level.  The process is full of inquiry and discovery. The girls learn that there is no failing in research and that the scientific method is always successful in some way. The types of projects chosen varied, including experiments researching the statistical probability of M&M colors, respiration rates in dogs, the genetics of the tortoiseshell cat, best way to make a chocolate chip cookie, visual vs. auditory memory, how do puppies stay warm, what is the best homemade pop recipe based on bubbles, grittiness and flavor, and how to make the best bubble solution. Some projects took several hours to conduct while others took days, challenging the girls to be patient and consistent.  They learned how to organize their data and report the results using visual graphs. They incorporated the use of technology using iPads to film their trials, record data and take photos. Several of the projects required the girls to use specific computer programs or websites to conduct their research and carry out their procedure.

At the cumulating event, the girls all stood proudly in front of their projects and shared them with residents and visiting staff members of Northwest Passage. The education team at Northwest Passage strives to set high standards for their students while supporting them through the process. We are very proud of these young scientists from their diligent lab work to their outstanding presentations. We also appreciate those who attended the science fair to make the event a success. Thank you and we look forward to doing it again next year!

Brittany Bosak, Prairieview Teacher


What is experimental design?

The Prairieview girls are learning about the scientific method and experimental design in science! The girls have completed several science labs and are working on their own science projects for the upcoming science fair. They spent a morning learning about scientific research in the real world from Northwest Passage’s own, Ben Thwaits.

Ben worked as a Biologist prior to his employment with Northwest Passage with a Masters in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior with a neuroscience minor from the University of Minnesota. He has completed research from the Wisconsin Northwoods to India. He spoke about his experiences with science and the integration of science and art.  Ben focused his presentation on a three-year project he completed on Lake Superior studying homing mechanisms in trout and salmon.

The girls were engaged and intrigued as they saw the diversity of experimental design and the tasks that research scientists endure. Thank you Ben for coming to talk to us and sharing your experience and passion for science!

Brittany Bosak, Prairieview Teacher

Science is one of the many subjects that Northwest Passage teachers focus on in their classrooms every day of the week. Science helps to teach students how and why things work the way that they do. Science teaches a wide variety of concepts. It can help those at Northwest Passage to understand many different mechanics and functioning of complex systems.

Cardboard + Duct Tape = Boats?

The Northwest Passage Riverside boys ended their summer with some cardboard and water fun! The kids spent time in school learning about different boats and how things float. To bring the lesson to a close, the boys created their own life-size cardboard boats to take out on the open water.


Prairieview Super Heroines Run in Monster Dash

On Friday October 20, the Prairieview ladies ran the 5K Monster Dash in Cumberland, WI.  The ladies have been training hard, getting up early to run during the week.   They have demonstrated such dedication, it seems, due to having something to look forward to (mastery), while running also helps to regulate emotions and improve mood.  The group decided on being super heroines, to celebrate empowerment and self-acceptance.

Lisa Courchaine, CAPSW, Mental Health Clinician


At Northwest Passage, our mental health clinician’s go beyond just typical office therapy in working with our youth. They like to incorporate all of the many things that help to keep people mentally healthy, including physical activity. The mind and body are connected, so when one is healthy the other is healthier too. It is much easier to deal with life’s problems and challenges when your body is active because it lifts your mood. Physical activity can also act an antidepressant.

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