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Friends of Metcalf Refuge supports Montana Natural History Center

By Michael Howell

Friends of the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge has donated once again to the Montana Natural History Center (MNHC). The $10,000 check recently turned over to the MNHC will further that organization’s mission which is to foster a meaningful sense of understanding and stewardship of nature through education.

“The Refuge has proven to be a perfect setting to conduct natural history education,” said MNHC Executive Director Thurston Elfstrom in his letter of acceptance for the gift.

The money will go towards supporting the Center’s programs including the Visiting Naturalist in the Schools program; the Summer Outdoor Discovery Camps; Community Discovery Day: Saturday kids Activities at the Wildlife of Lee Metcalf; the Master Naturalist Course; and additional adult education.

The Naturalist in the Schools program is a 4th through 5th grade nature education program provided to schools in the greater Missoula area once a month for the entire school year. Two full-day field trips are sponsored in October and May. Those field trips in the Refuge are attended by over 320 students from Lolo, Florence, Stevensville, Victor, and Hamilton. Bitterroot Valley teachers also receive training and the benefit of two outdoor field trips with a trained naturalist.

The Refuge is also one of the sites at which outdoor camps for 400 kids, pre-school through 5th grade, are held. The camp curriculum spans the breadth of natural history from birds to insects to geology.

MNHC will also be hosting a free community event on May 19, at the Refuge this year, focusing on children’s activities. MNHC staff and volunteers will lead a variety of natural history themed activities.

The Natural History Center also offers a Master Naturalist Course twice a year with 40 to 60 hours of instruction. It is available for college credit and Montana Master Naturalist Certification. Once the course is complete, Master Naturalists can maintain their certification through annual volunteerism in the field of conservation or outdoor education. MNHC plans to use the Refuge for bird identification tactics and waterfowl observation and nature journaling during the summer course.

MNHC also plans to bring its Naturalist 101 (beginning naturalist) class to the Refuge for bird identification tactics and observation. This class is held annually in June and engages adults with a budding interest in natural history and encourages them by providing basic natural history education about western Montana ecosystems.

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