Story and photo by Jean Pocha, Pathfinder staff.
OVANDO – “There’s three kinds of bears in Montana, black, brown and very, very brown,” chimed a young student at the Ovando School when asked how many bears live in Montana during a “Bear Necessities” presentation.
Students in both the Little Room, kindergarten through third grade, and the Big Room, fourth through eighth grade, at Ovando school were anticipating another interesting class when Patti Bartlett, freelance science educator, came in the door with totes of animal skulls and bear hides.
“Bear Necessities” is a series of classes being presented in the Ovando and Helmville schools through a collaboration with the Blackfoot Challenge. The nationwide curriculum was written by Blackfoot Challenge Education Coordinator Elaine Caton, published by Bear Trust of Colorado and is being taught by Bartlett, a long time science educator and Seeley Lake resident.
“The goals were to create lessons that were science-based and covered everything from basic bear biology and ecology to conservation and ways that people are learning to live where bears live,” Caton said. “Whenever possible, students explore information and older students even analyze data from scientific studies, in order to engage them in discovering information like scientists do.”