Learning in the Wild All Year Long

For kids growing up in the Western United States, there’s a wild world just around the corner, waiting to be explored. Yet many kids never get the chance to explore 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, teachers at public schools across the region are committed to getting teens outside. That’s why they team up with Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness (FSPW) to get students on 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.”

Rebecca Haag, Clark Fork Teacher

FSPW’s outdoor programs are designed to be exciting for students, while also equipping them with the skills they need to safely recreate in wild places. For high school students, that means learning to use a compass for navigation and how to build trails on Scotchman Peak. For younger students, it means identifying animal tracks and scat. 

There is so much opportunity for young folks to find joy and grow by exploring outside. For many of the Clark Fork high school students, this summer was their first time ever exploring the Scotchman Peak trail – even though it’s less than 10 miles away from their hometown!

Our hope is that these students now feel empowered and excited to get out there on their own to hunt, fish, hike, and camp safely in the Scotchmans. 

Phil Hough, FSPW Executive Director

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.”  

Rebecca Haag, Clark Fork Teacher

There is so much for students to discover outside the classroom and in wild places. In the coming school year, FSPW will be continuing to work with dedicated teachers like Rebecca to give students the tools they need to explore the rugged peaks and snowy forests of their wild backyard.  

If you are interested in volunteering as a Winter Tracks educator or if you are a teacher looking to partner with FSPW in the coming school year, please contact FSPW at info@scotchmanpeaks.org. Most winter Tracks field trips take place on Fridays from January through March. There are opportunities to volunteer in Lincoln, Sanders, or Bonner County.

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