By T.J. GILLES - For The Outpost
Getting children outdoors and active can help children’s physical, cognitive and mental abilities while also helping abate such health problems as obesity, diabetes and stress.
That’s the focus of Children and Nature Network (C&NN), according to Carolyn Sevier of the Rim Country Land Institute, which has a 3,200-acre prairie preserve just west of Billings on Molt Road.
Ms. Sevier, who manages institute affairs from an office at Rocky Mountain College, spoke about the children and nature movement Tuesday at the Billings Area Conservation Roundtable meeting.
She said Rim Country plans to hold more kid-oriented activities in the future, perhaps as sort of a dryland complement to the Audubon Education Center in the swamps, sloughs and ponds in the Yellowstone River riparian area south of Billings.
This year, said Ms. Sevier, Rim Country has been part of a multi-area educational effort involving 50 fourth-graders from Miles Avenue school.
The multifaceted program “is providing a context for the land” and even incorporates Indian Education for All by identifying native plants and their roles and uses in nutrition or medicine, Ms. Sevier said.
A “bug camp” for seventh- and eighth-graders also is planned for this summer. Seventh- and eighth-graders in Billings - part summer camp, part research project. Three high school student mentors will help guide the students, along with are involved as on-site mentors entomologist Ralph Scott, high-school science teacher Joe Catron and Rim Country program director Carolyn Parrish.
Theodora Weatherwax of Browning said out-of-doors activities are a crucial part of the alternative high school’s curriculum. Overnight expeditions are useful in campfire learning about astronomy used by natives as a navigation tool for millennia, biology, Blackfeet folklore and other scientific and cultural topics.
Ms. Weatherwax said she was amazed to discover how few students ever gone camping in a reservation that once included Glacier National Park and abuts the Badger-Two Medicine Wilderness Area and other little-used natural areas.
Most never had camped out in the wild before in their lives, she said.
Ms. Sevier said indigenous culture also is woven into the youth activities at Rim Country. The gated Cove Canyon Grasslands ecosystem offers family field trips for groups of up to a dozen for $150 and the experience ends around a campfire in a fire-pit modeled after ancient native sites.
Rim Country may be most famous for its biweekly wildflower walks every other Tuesday evening beginning May 5. Cost is $8 for adults, $5 for children or $20 for each family. Season hike passes are $150.
Reservations are required (238-7479) for monthly moonlight and campfires program from March through August. At $10 per person, the next scheduled program is April 28.