Partners in Conservation : Non-Profit Group
 
Arnold Olsen

 
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Arnold Olsen

 
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Our Story

"What better testament is there from a 4th grader?" asks Maureen Froehlich, a fourth-grade teacher at Alberton School. "Each month, when it's time for our naturalist to visit, and I announce her arrival, it's always to a chorus of ‘All right!’, ‘Yes!!’ and ‘Oh, boy.’ My students love being in the ‘out of doors classroom’ and feeling that they are understanding and learning about nature, not just reading another textbook."

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Maureen is speaking of the Visiting Naturalist in the Schools program for 3rd through 5th grade classrooms, a program of the Montana Natural History Center that provides a professional naturalist visit once a month throughout the school year and two full-day experiences out in the field.

Even in Montana where natural areas surround our towns, kids aren’t outside as much as their parents or grandparents were. They aren’t exploring or learning from nature. They aren’t developing a conservation ethic.

“In our school district, 50% of our elementary student population is on free or reduced lunches," Maureen says. "In everyday terms, that means 1/2 of my students are at or below poverty level.  These are students whose parents don't take them to museums, who don't have cable TV, and who don't own library cards.

"The Visiting Naturalist in the Schools Program through the Montana Natural History Center gives my students the opportunity to discuss, interact and participate in the study of our world and its resources in ways they are unable to do at home.  I have had students who were completely unaware that there was even such a career as a naturalist exclaim, ‘I plan to be a naturalist when I grow up!’ 

"My students now notice and share the smallest nuances of the changing seasons.  After handling an eagle's talons, or a Merganser's webbed foot, or the skull of a bobcat, my students come to school excited to tell me about their latest sighting of a bald eagle or elk, and they want to discuss the adaptations and behaviors of the various wildlife they took for granted before the Naturalist Program engaged them." 

The Visiting Naturalist in the Schools program was designed to use fourth and fifth grade science study as the portal through which nature-based investigations can enter the classroom.  And it's been wildly effective.  Each year more than 1200 students from 60 different classrooms in the region participate in the program. 

Designed to truly immerse students in the year-long study of natural history, the program embraces public education curriculum standards and teaches the students to ask questions, make observations, and simply explore. 

VNS is our keystone program for youth, and it truly gets at our mission.  But we do so much more for kids, families, and our community.  We are passionate about education in and about the natural world. We celebrate discovery, learning, and observation in all aspects of our work. We encourage you to get outside with us or where ever you are and see what’s happening today.

Partners

The following is a list of our current MNHC organizational partners who help make it possible for us to achieve our mission.

Animal Wonders Inc.
Cinnabar Foundation
Elizabeth Wakeman Henderson Charitable Foundation
First Security Bank
GLM Chapter Ice Age Floods Institute
Harrington Charitable Trust
Hellgate Hunters & Anglers
Kendeda Fund
Loken Builders
Lolo National Forest
Max & Betty Swanson Foundation
Missoula Parks and Recreation
M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust
Montana Native Plant Society
Mountaineers Foundation
MPC Ranch
Owl Research Institute
Pleiades Foundation
Plum Creek Foundation
PPL
Southgate Mall
Springfield Foundation
The University of Montana
USDA Forest Service Northern Region and Lolo National Forest
William H. and Margaret M. Wallace Foundation

Creating a Legacy

Our legacy will be a community whose members feel they are a part of, and not apart from, the natural world around them.  We seek to inspire community members to build a conservation ethic based on understanding of natural ecosystems and processes.  We work hard to teach the children today to become more environmentally informed citizens tomorrow.  

Our kids will have to make difficult resource allocation, environmental and conservation decisions (likely more difficult than what we face today).  We believe that one of the biggest threats to our future could be a whole generation or more of people for which appreciation and stewardship of natural resources is not relevant to them.  

If these young people never go on the national forest, never go into a wilderness area, never play outside and never learn from their natural surroundings why would they want to continue to demand good stewardship of our natural resources?  Knowledge leads to appreciation and appreciation will lead to stewardship.

Take Action

You can get involved by participating in our programs, joining as a member, giving donations directly, or giving your time to one of our many program areas.  Visit our website www.MontanaNaturalist.org or contact us directly at 406-327-0405.  We are also looking for communities outside of Missoula which are interested in replicating our Master Naturalist Course with our initial assistance.

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Grant Recipient of Cinnabar Foundation

Contact Information

Montana Natural History Center

120 Hickory Street

Missoula, MT 59801

Phone: 406-327-0405

Fax: 406-327-0421

administrative@montananaturalist.org

www.MontanaNaturalist.org

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