Conservation and Education

woman shows group of children a page from a story

KLT is trying something new: proving the relevance of nature and conservation to the broader community by creating authentic opportunities to connect with the land.  Nature is a powerful force for change, be it community health and wellness, education, or a long list of other hurdles.  By applying a community-driven model to its conservation work, KLT can address community challenges while simultaneously cultivating a strong conservation ethic.  What a wonderful sandbox for a land trust to play in!

Clark Fork High School provides one great example.  Faced with staffing cuts and imminent closure due to declining enrollment, the innovative staff of this small, rural school set out to attract new students by providing something fresh and fun: nature.  And plenty of it.

In partnership with KLT and others, an outdoor learning program consisting of 38 days of “on-the-land” education was launched for the present school year.  Topics ranging from wetland exploration and forestry to soil science and wilderness skills are being taught in the woods and wetlands by local experts and community volunteers.  Text books are replaced by dip nets and binoculars, by the sounds of squishing mud and chattering squirrels.  What better place to develop knowledge and appreciation for our natural resources than in their midst? One 11thgrader summed it up perfectly: “Getting outdoors and still getting an education (is) awesome!”

Meanwhile, KLT is hoping to purchase the private 75-acre parcel just minutes from Clark Fork where much of the outdoor programming is happening.  With abundant wetlands, a regenerating forest full of wildlife, and views of the Cabinet Mountains, it’s the perfect space for… well… everything.  The students have learned to identify the tree species and wetland types of their outdoor classroom, and are giving back by pruning pine trees to prevent disease and installing hand built duck boxes to encourage nesting ducks.  “I’m so excited to see the impact that our little school has had,” said one ninth-grader grader.

If KLT manages to purchase this land through grants and local partnerships, the door will open for unlimited public programs and education opportunities for the surrounding rural communities.  And hopefully the students of Clark Fork will continue to figure prominently in future plans for the land, from forest stewardship to trail building and wildlife monitoring.  When that occurs, this dynamic partnership will have succeeded in fostering a deep connection between these young people and the natural world, one that they will carry with them throughout their lives.

Student Testimonials

Oct. 21, 2015
We went to the delta today. We pulled weeds and put up a wood duck box. We filled about 30 bags of weeds. We put one duck box up and put the other 11 away. We were scraping, that means putting things around baby trees. We had lunch and then we did the same thing, pulled weeds. We got on the Delta Queen back to the dock. While we were waiting for the bus, there was a field of tall grass. We ran around tackling people. It was so much fun. Then we went back to school.

Aleehia 8th grade

Sept. 13, 2015
Today we went out to Kaniksu Land Trust land with the art track to do Plein Air art. When we arrived there we took off to go find a good scene to paint. We explored the land for about an hour, but eventually found our spot. The Art Track taught us how to do Plein Air art. My drawing didn’t turn out so well, but it was pretty fun spending an hour on it. After art, we hiked back and then ate lunch. We did a scavenger hunt and found most of the items on the list. Overall, today was really fun for me.

Brice 7th Grade

Oct. 22, 2015
With the sun streaming down onto the water and the Green Monarchs speckled with orange trees, I realize that I really do love school. Today was our third trip to the Clark Fork Delta and it was yet another dazzling day. We started off with a team meeting and then headed to the triangle on the Delta Queen. My team and I were the Conifer Queens. We went around and pulled weeds away from all the little conifer trees so they can grow into big happy trees. Then after lunch we had a very ceremonial duck box planting. Next the “Conifer Queens” headed out to the peninsula and rescued more trees. Finally, to wrap up the day, we headed back to the boat launch and took some really crazy pictures. All in all, today was a great day and I’m so excited to see the impact that our little school has had on the delta.

Lily 9th Grade

Oct. 20, 2015
This day consisted of a lot of super fun stuff. First we learned about compasses. Then we learned about maps. We did a little course on compassing. We then were on our way to the pond to eat lunch. We did some White Pine pruning along the way. The group ate lunch next to the “beauty-ness” of the area. After lunch we learned about cruising and I liked that part a lot. When cruising you find the DBH or Diameter at Breast Height and also its height to calculate the board foot volume. Then we scaled the trees which is what they do at lumber yards. Then after that we headed back to the bus, pruning along the way.

Grace 9th Grade

Oct. 20, 2015
On this Tuesday Track Day, we went to Judy’s Place. In the morning we learned how to use compasses. We also learned how to read and use maps. We also pruned White Pine trees to prevent Blister Rust. Then we learned how to see how tall a tree is. We also learned how to tell how much lumber a tree can produce. Lastly, we learned how to scale a log. It was a fun day today.

Chuck 8th Grade

Oct. 15, 2015
Out in the field on this amazing day we had an even more amazing time. When we first arrived we broke into four groups; Skunk Apes, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Yetis. I was a skunk ape with Mr. Mac and a bunch of my friends. First we learned that three essential things that trees need are sunlight, nutrients, and water. Then we went out on a tree ID walk and learned how to identify many trees, such as ponderosa pines, white pines, and lodgepole pines. After that we headed back to our meeting point and ate lunch. After lunch we broke into smaller groups and went out to gather clues to solve the mystery as to why the cedars are all gone from that area. They gave us tools to prune trees. We were trying to prevent disease.

Grace 9th Grade