In its fifth season, the 2020 Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Winter Tracks program was a big success in outdoor education. Nearly 50 FSPW volunteers showed over 325 students from eight schools ways to find their own wild place in winter settings.
FSPW volunteer and staff instructors taught students about winter in their wild back yards by presenting 11 distinct modules over the course of the Winter Tracks season. Though most Winter Tracks days include only four learning modules, the variety of modules has expanded to include avalanche awareness and safety, native mammals, winter adaptation in mammals and birds, winter survival, leave no trace principles, tracking, tree identification, orienteering with map and compass, bears, shelter building and fire building.
Winter Tracks is offered free of charge to schools in Bonner County, Idaho and Lincoln and Sanders County, Montana. The students love it and so do the teachers. “We’ve been doing Winter Tracks with Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness for the past four years,” said Libby Fifth Grade teacher Jessica Thoeny. “Our kids love it! They love being outside for the day and learning about nature, which is pretty incredible because we live in Montana.”
Instructors are dedicated volunteers who enthusiastically “download” their personal knowledge to the kids. Jeff Pennick, a retired forester who teaches tree identification, says, “One of my favorite things to do is to teach the kids to be curious and go out an explore.”
Some schools have been part of Winter tracks for several years. This year saw new groups from Washington School, Southside and Farmin-Stidwell schools in Bonner County. In Lincoln County, there were two sessions of fifth graders from Libby Elementary at Timberlane Campground on Pipe Creek northwest of Libby. Troy’s WF Morrison Elementary school sent two classes to Roosevelt Park. In Sanders County, Ray Brown put together a day for Noxon and Thompson Falls at the “Mule Pasture,” a Forest Service recreational park on the north edge of Thompson Falls.
FSPW’s Winter Tracks for 2020 engaged kids ranging from kindergarten to high school, though most classes are fourth through sixth grades, an incredibly important time to get young people outdoors with intent to teach them that it’s theirs to explore. “If that’s all we get across to them,” Pennick said, “if they are curious to explore these wild places, it’s a wonderful thing.”