COLUMBIA FALLS – More than 1,000 fifth grade students from schools stretching from Eureka to Charlo will leave their classrooms to visit the Trumbull Creek Educational Forest in Columbia Falls this week for the Family Forestry Expo.
The outdoor educational event is in its 29th year and takes place through the dedicated involvement of over 20 diverse organizations, many individuals and numerous local donations.
Kason Hunt, 11, has learned a lot from his books but on Wednesday he left them behind and headed to the woods for some hands-on learning. “It kind of makes me want to think about being a forest person that takes care of the forest.”
Hunt is one of more than 1,200 fifth grade students from around the region who will visit the Family Forestry Expo to learn about natural resource topics.
“They need to figure out how forest management is beneficial, how fire plays it role out there, when is fire good, when is fire not as good,” said Deb Starling the chair of the event. “How to camp on the land, how to leave no trace. How to use stock, how to use trails, how to go fishing, how to identify the fish.”
The students visit 10 different stations ranging from archeology, to plant identification, and forest management. At the Fisheries Station, the children learn how to identify different types of fish and aquatic insects.
“We want kids to understand the importance of maintaining healthy populations of native fish, sport fish and really maintaining healthy aquatic habitat,” said Kenny Breidinger a Fisheries biologists for FWP Region 1. “Having a good understanding of the importance of these resources and instilling that understanding will help them throughout the rest of their lives.”
“Exploring what we have here to provide for our backyard is a great way for them to see what direction they might go in their own life,” said Glacier Gateway Elementary School teacher Liz Colleran.
The events continue all week and on Saturday families are invited to share in expo activities from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Trumbull Creek Educational Forest which is located about two miles north of the junction of US Highway 2 and Montana Highway 40, just west of Columbia Falls.
Reporting by Nicole Miller for MTN News