Up-Close with PPLT’s New Education Initiative

Become a volunteer with our education program! Learn why we are doing this and how you can be a bigger part.

We’re in the education game! This last spring Prickly Pear Land Trust launched a small pilot program to increase outdoor education opportunities for local high school science and civics programs. Not only is education a part of PPLT’s mission, it is our belief that the only way to safeguard Montana’s public and protected lands into the future is to nurture a generation of Montanans who understand the value and importance of these lands and waters and will advocate for them. To make this happen it is our community’s duty to make sure that local high school students of all backgrounds have the opportunity to engage with their local environment.

Given PPLT’s ownership and work on the Sevenmile Stream Restoration, Tenmile Creek Park, and influence in Helena’s South Hills, we are in a unique circumstance where we have incredible, local access to lands and water. The proximity of these properties to schools is reason enough to invite high schools to use us as a resource for outdoor and experiential learning. With the number of experts, educators, and energetic volunteers that work with PPLT on these properties, however, we can provide quality, interactive instruction too. Our goal is for classes to get the most out of their time with volunteers well-versed in local conservation topics.

By pairing with the AmeriCorps VISTA program, PPLT has developed the education program to make the most of our nearby lands and a future crew of trained volunteer educators. Our VISTA, Callie Schultz, has created a variety of outdoor based and conservation centered lesson plans, that fulfill high school education standards and are tailored to our specific properties. Last spring, PPLT partnered with Project for Alternative Learning to pilot these lesson plans with a handful of volunteers. It was a hit! Since then, Callie has fine tuned the plans and added some additional lessons and we are ready to expand our number of volunteers. Once given the lesson plan, materials, and training, it is PPLT’s hope that individual education volunteers can be matched to high school classes interested in getting out on the property or learning about these topics.

This is where you, our community comes in. PPLT does a lot of work for a little land trust, but the high school interest and the need for youth engagement outside are great. We are calling on volunteers to help us fill our roster of education volunteers to meet demand. We can provide training, lesson-plans, land and water, but we need energetic folks interested in working with high school and potentially middle school students. Education volunteers will be given the opportunity to pick their top choices for lessons they would be interested in teaching. Topics range from stream health and invasive weeds, to Montana’s history, and conservation centered food production. Depending on the lesson, volunteers will have the opportunity to lead students in sampling and identifying aquatic invertebrates (water bugs!), designing a sustainable fish production facility, identifying and removing invasive weeds, and discussing habitat loss and urban sprawl from Mount Helena. Prior knowledge or experience is wonderful but not at all required! Volunteers will be given all of the information they need to lead a lesson. If conservation is important to you, this is an opportunity to both learn more about conservation issues and to kindle students’ interest in conservation as well.

Become a part of PPLT’s Education Program

If this sounds up your alley or you know of someone ideal for the program, join Callie at PPLT for one of two information sessions for our fall programming on Sept 18th and Oct 2nd at 5:30 at the Prickly Pear Land Trust office at 40 W. Lawrence St. Suite A, Helena, MT. A full training session will take place sometime during the week of October 7th. Please let us know if you’ll be attending so we can get a rough headcount–callie@pricklypearlt.org; (406) 442-0490; 40 W. Lawrence St. Suite A, Helena.