Something (Besides Fish) is Hatching in Creston, Montana!
by Dexter Lane, Nature Explore Consultant
If you’d think that the Creston National Fish Hatchery, in Kalispell, Montana, is an unlikely location for a Certified Nature Outdoor Classroom- think again. Supplier of trout to Tribal Lands across Montana, of fish for educational projects and local fishing ponds, Creston also hatches children’s interest in the natural world. Its Outdoor Classroom is Creston’s latest addition to resources directed towards schools and families. Creston’s self-guided trail walk introduces children to a variety of natural phenomena, animal, and plant life; while the Outdoor Classroom beckons them to engage actively with natural materials.
Evie Bradley, Education Coordinator to the Outdoor Classroom (now retired), hosts local schools and families to this showcase area. As delighted as she’s been by seeing children engaging in many hands-on activities, Bradley has been deeply touched by reactions from many teachers, who find the space unique and wonderful. Children can relate to their teachers and to the natural materials in the Classroom differently than they do in their indoor classrooms. Both are relieved from the pressures of their indoor curriculum. Many teachers have expressed a sense of relief and excitement.
Not only is Creston’s Nature Explore Classroom in a rural area, but the space itself is in dense woods. Yet despite the children’s easy access to wild natural areas where they live, many rarely engage with natural materials as they do at Creston. Bradley, concerned by this lack of children’s familiarity with nature, hopes that “Creston’s Classroom in the Forest” will inspire teachers, children, and families to get outside more often, to explore nature, and to develop a sense of stewardship towards things natural.
Thankfully, the young children engage with materials in the Classroom eagerly, though this is not the experience of some older visitors. Bradley has seen even young adults who are fearful of spider webs, bees, and other wonders of nature. We all hope that the easy familiarity with nature that is born at The Creston National Fish Hatchery will remain a valuable part of children’s lives, and that as they grow they in turn can pass this “Sense of Wonder towards the Great Outdoors” to their Children.