The Nature Explore Classroom at
Creston National Fish Hatchery
In the winter of 2011, The Discovery Center’s January newsletters described Nature Explore and the Center’s intention to work on certification.
With a beautiful view of the mountains to the east and the historic Jessup Mill Pond that supplies water to the Creston Fish Hatchery to the north, this is the site of the state’s first Certified Nature Explore Classroom. Working closely with many volunteers, donors and the Montana Tribal Youth Conservation Corps, this outdoor space on the historic fish hatchery grounds was transformed into a multiple use area for educational and family engagement opportunities.
The Creston site is one of the two most recently certified Nature Explore classrooms on FWS property and serves as a model for similar outdoor learning spaces throughout the nation. The other newly certified Nature Explore classroom is located at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
The Entryway of the classroom is bordered by an arbor of multi-stem birch trees with a welcome sign above the path that features a “Fish” as a symbol of the National Fish Hatchery. Designed with third grade students in mind, the Creston outdoor education program also works in conjunction with Flathead C.O.R.E group. This group is a network of individuals and organizations working together to increase awareness and understanding about the natural, historical and cultural resources of the Flathead Region.
Trees and brush were cleared to open up the classroom area and to give a feeling of separation of each area. Tree cookie flooring was made out of logs used from area construction work.These logs were also used for seating and borders around areas. Natural items fill the area. Twisted tree roots, a variety of pinecones from different types of pine trees, shells, birch bark, moss, feathers and small stones of different shapes and sizes from the river are found throughout. Downed logs were cut and hollowed out for drums to be used in the Music Area and containers to hold items in the Messy Materials and Art Area.
This Nature Explore Classroom is located in a forested area in what was once in the area of the town of Jessup. Creston is surrounded by majestic mountains, timbered areas and pockets of open space where grassy meadows push up to the opening of the forest. Within this space, there are wildflowers, native plants, mushrooms, animals, migrating waterfowl, songbirds, many tree species and seasonal colors. An Open House was held on August 3, 2012, with people eager to celebrate this newly created space where families will have the opportunity to connect with nature.