Chances to learn outdoors all year for Clark Fork students

For Clark Fork kids, there’s a wild world just around the corner, waiting to be discovered. Yet many have never explored the mountains in their backyard. 

Much like New Yorkers who never visit the Statue of Liberty, it’s easy for locals to forget the wonders close to home.

Fortunately, local teachers are committed to getting teens outside. That’s why they team up with Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness to hit the trails, learning about compass navigation, wildlife identification and more.

Clark Fork High School teacher Rebecca Haag knows all about it. Every Friday, she coordinates experiential learning tracks, days where students can get out of the classroom and learn hands-on. Earlier this summer, she worked with FSPW volunteers to plan three Fridays full of learning in the wild. 

“We plan our experiential learning tracks based on student interest, and each semester that student interest lends itself toward pursuing a natural resource theme,” Rebecca said. “The Clark Fork students and I had a great time with FSPW on each of our days with them.”

FSPW’s outdoor programs are exciting for students and equip them with the skills they need to safely recreate in wild places. On day one, they learned how to navigate with a map and compass. On day two, they traveled to Scotchman Peak and learned how to build trails. And on day three, they went birding with local expert, Rich Del Carlo. 

“I was impressed with the high-quality volunteers willing to donate their time and share their expertise to enrich my student’s understanding of the natural world around them,” Rebecca continued, “from tree ID and silviculture, mammalogy using an extensive collection of specimens for hands-on learning, and safe use of tools to build and retread trails found right at the virtual doorstep to our school! I am grateful for each volunteer’s time and patience.”  

As summer winds down, FSPW and teachers are already making plans for outdoor learning this winter. Similar to the spring education programs, FSPW’s Winter Tracks program introduces students to the winter ecology of their wild backyard. Among other things, students learn to track animals in the snow by identifying scat and tracks. It’s an exciting, hands-on way to learn why wilderness matters, and local teachers and students can’t get enough. 

“We have participated in the Winter Tracks program for a few years, and the day flows beautifully with a variety of stations each being taught by knowledgeable volunteers,” Rebecca said. “I have enjoyed the program so much that when I retire, I hope to be able to participate in the program as a volunteer!  I have also brought students up Scotchman’s Peak each year for trail maintenance and as Goat Ambassadors, and it has become a cherished tradition for our school.”  

There is so much for students to discover outside the classroom and in wild places. In the coming school year, FSPW is excited to continue working with dedicated teachers like Rebecca. We’re hoping to give students the tools they need to explore the rugged peaks and snowy forests of their wild backyard and beyond. 

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About The Author:

Cameron Rasmusson is a writer and journalist who grew up in Scotchmans territory. While he now calls Sandpoint home, he spent his formative years in the natural beauty of Libby, Montana. From elementary to high school, he enjoyed the outdoor experiences that mountain towns provide.

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