An Outside Chance

PPLT is making a concerted effort to expand our outdoor education and experiential programming—an excerpt from our 2019 Spring Newsletter.

AN OUTSIDE CHANCE

We all know it—getting outside is important. For some of us, including many of Prickly Pear Land Trust’s supporters, it is a fundamental part of our day. But even though we live in an outdoor mecca, not everyone in our community has opportunities to explore outside. Others may not feel safe or comfortable. This year, PPLT is making a concerted effort to expand our outdoor education and experiential programming to overcome these obstacles and get more folks – especially young people – out in nature, by a creek, or on a trail. The future of our wild places and open lands depends on future generations of stewards and advocates.

It’s a natural fit, too. For decades now, PPLT has led hikes, taken school groups to explore Mount Helena, acquired land and creek access that benefit the public, and grown an outstanding corps of trails and education volunteers. With PPLT’s purchase of the Tenmile and Sevenmile properties, there are opportunities for residents to interact with our landscape in new ways. Tenmile Creek Park has easy creek access and is being developed as an outdoor playground for all, and Sevenmile Creek is an outdoor classroom where students can watch a new floodplain take shape in real time.

PPLT needed some help turning our outdoor classroom dreams into reality, and turned to the Americorps VISTA program. The Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) program marries federal funding with management by the state of Montana to offer nonprofits a talented volunteer for one year of service. Help us welcome Callie Schultz to Montana! Outlining the program and piloting projects this spring and fall, she will piece together an educational roadmap to guide PPLT staff and education volunteers for the next several years.

Counter to screen time and additional stressors, everyone experiences health benefits from being outdoors – lower blood pressure, better heart rates, and improved moods. The positive impacts, however, are far greater when exposure to the outdoors begins at an earlier age. Environmental education programs and intentional outdoor play targeted at youth have been shown to lower stress and treat mood disturbances that lead to mental disorders, as well as treat ADHD, anxiety, depression, and loneliness. And we’re betting that when kids start asking their parents to go outside, we’ll see more families out in nature.

There is a practical component to a youth-focused outdoor education program that goes beyond public health. To address the challenges of the 21st century – population growth and pressure, drought, wildfire, habitat loss, and the loss of agricultural land – we need an entire generation comfortable and confident with the outdoors and its natural systems. We need to grow our future conservation and outdoor leaders. That starts by helping kids connect with and understand the environment – and you make this possible. 

Expanding on existing programs at the Montana Wild Education Center, the Montana Conservation Corps, and the Montana Discovery Foundation, Callie is reaching out to teachers and volunteers, and is creating curriculum for learning science first hand. We are excited to host classes for monitoring and stream work at our Sevenmile and Tenmile properties this spring. Callie is also developing summer challenges for families. Keep an eye out for new programs and events as summer inches closer!

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