Friends of Scotchman Peaks introduces kids to ‘Winter Tracks’

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  • (Courtesy photo) Celesta Collacchi shows kids how to tell the difference between trees by their needles.

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    (Courtesy photo) Half the Libby fifth-grade students celebrate a day out of the classroom at Timberlane on Jan. 25.

  • (Courtesy photo) Celesta Collacchi shows kids how to tell the difference between trees by their needles.

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    (Courtesy photo) Half the Libby fifth-grade students celebrate a day out of the classroom at Timberlane on Jan. 25.

January (and the first day of February) saw a storm of activity with the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Winter Tracks program in Lincoln County.

“We had a high-density program in Montana this year,” said FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton. “Between Jan. 18 and Feb. 1, we took almost 250 Lincoln and Sanders County kids out for either a complete Winter Tracks program or one-off tracking classes.”

January 18 and 25, Libby Elementary fifth graders enjoyed a day of Winter Tracks at Timberlane Campground northwest of Libby. Over two days, volunteer instructors and FSPW staff took about 90 students through four learning modules; tree identification with Celesta Collacchi, animal adaptation with Gene Reckin, orienteering with Robin Chisholm, and tracking with Brian Baxter. Volunteer Mary Freniere and FSPW staff Annie Gassmann and Sandy Compton helped Libby teachers and parent volunteers keep kids warm with hot chocolate and a fire.

Collacchi, who works at the Libby Ranger District, was an enthusiastic teacher, “I really enjoyed working with the kids. They asked awesome questions.”

Reckin taught science in Libby schools for an entire career and now volunteers for FSPW. He was pleased with his days with the Libby kids. “Getting kids outside is not only fun for them, but me as well. And this is such an important part of their education. I’m proud to be part of it.”

On Jan. 22, Brian Baxter led 40-plus kids in the Libby After School Program through a tracking exercise in Skidale Park near the school. On January 31, Baxter visited Yaak School and took students out on a tracking expedition, as well.

Chisholm, who loves to teach her special skill, map and compass. drove all the way from Bayview, Idaho, to be part of Libby Winter Tracks. This is her third season as a regular Winter Tracks instructor.

“I want to tell you what a wonderful presentation your organization has for animal tracking,” said Rose Wilson, head teacher at Yaak School. “Even my Kindergartners sat through the presentation without any problems. We also had a great time being outdoors and tracking some of the animals Brian talked about.”

The Lincoln County FSPW Winter Tracks season ended with a session on February 1 at Troy. FSPW staffers Britta Mireley and Annie Gassmann coordinated with Freniere, Baxter, Collacchi, avalanche safety instructor Liz Figgens from the Forest Service and winter survival teachers Karie Lee and Jake Riley to teach 30-plus fifth graders at Roosevelt Park.

FSPW is also grateful to the Forest Service for the use of Timberlane Campground, the city of Troy for the use of Roosevelt Park and the Lincoln County road department for clearing the road at Timberlane.

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