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By Bridget Laird
SLE Outdoor Education Coordinator 

Adventure Club wraps up another year of outdoor adventure and place-based learning


August 23, 2018

Bridget Laird

The Adventure Club at Garnet Ghost Town.

The Seeley Lake Elementary Outdoor Program recently wrapped up another fun summer of outdoor adventure and place-based learning. The 10-week long Adventure Club was led by Gus Batchelder, a graduate of NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School), and Ibby Lorentz, a recent Seeley-Swan High School graduate.

This summer, SLE student participants in the program enjoyed kayaking and paddleboarding on the lakes in and around Seeley, hiking our many trails, mountain biking and taking part in the natural history lesson offered by the Bird Ecology Lab, Swan Valley Connections, the Montana Natural History Center, and the Missoula Insectarium. They even had the opportunity to tour Garnet Ghost Town and learn about the history of mining in this area.

The goal of the Outdoor Adventure Club is to teach kids to be competent in the outdoors, develop a love of the landscape and natural resources around them, and provide place-based learning that is relevant and hands-on. More kids than ever attended this summer and a few parents even joined in the fun.

In addition to the three day per week Outdoor Adventure Club, the program offered the Wilderness Backpacking Course again this summer. In early July, before the smoke rolled in, Gus Batchelder joined me in leading a group of eight kids into the Scapegoat Wilderness for four days. The days were sunny and hot, and the trail was dusty, but the Northfork backcountry was spectacular, and the fish plentiful! Kids learned about backcountry "Leave-no-Trace" principles, backpacking skills and safety (i.e. hang all the food including the chocolate bar in the backpack), and were reminded of the fun to be had without electronics of any kind, far away from the comforts of home.

As the school year approaches, we're gearing up for the annual seventh grade camping trip to Glacier National Park. The seventh graders will travel to the east side of Glacier to explore outdoor leadership, Native history, participate in citizen science, and a geology hike led by Park rangers. Students will follow up their trip with an in-depth study of the effects of climate change on the glaciers and the wildlife that require severe cold, such as pika and mountain goats. This trip is an integral part of the Outdoor Program at SLE and is the first half of the Junior High National Parks Project. The eighth graders will travel to Yellowstone in the spring for the second half.

The Outdoor Program will continue to be incorporated into the regular school-day academics with our curriculum-based outdoor education field trips for all grades. As always, these field days are intended to augment and enrich subject matter covered in the regular classroom setting.

In the fall, classes will explore habitat and fire ecology by engaging in hands-on lessons and activities in settings such as Camp Paxson and Morrell Creek. Winter always means winter ecology, Nordic skiing and snowshoeing, and come spring, classes can be seen birding, learning about local wildlife, testing water quality and exploring the human history of this area. Each of the Outdoor Education field days includes a lesson on the particular topic of that day, an interactive game or activity that helps demonstrate the concepts, a physical activity like a short hike or snowshoe, and something creative, such as sketching insects or building temporary sculptures out of whatever natural materials happen to be available.

We often invite guest teachers who provide a level of expertise on different topics, encouraging a connection between our students and their community. Our proximity to abundant natural resources and local experts provide the perfect platform for such opportunities for our students.

Bridget Laird

Jesse Wink with his nature sculpture made during Adventure Club.

In June, I was fortunate enough to take the Montana Master Naturalist Certification class through the Montana Natural History Center. Most of the participants in the class were also teachers hoping to deepen their understanding of the natural world and pass on their passion and love of nature to their students. These teachers applauded SLE's Outdoor Program (ok, maybe I bragged it up a little) and made sure I understood how lucky we are to have the resources and support to sustain it.

I do understand how lucky we are. I try to never lose sight of the fact that we live in paradise, and that we are endowed with support from our partners, our community, and a staff at SLE that believe in the value of outdoor learning and the importance of connecting kids with the natural world around them.


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