By Robert Lucke
Each year the Glacier Institute in Glacier National Park offers a whole array of adult- and child-related classes that are of interest to folks who have a love for the outdoors, birds, flowers and animals of Western Montana.
The Glacier Institute has two campsites, although it uses Glacier, which it refers to as the "Crown of the Continent," as its classroom. One campsite is the Glacier Institute Field Camp. It is located just north of Park Headquarters at West Glacier. The other campsite is the Big Creek Education Center up the North Fork of the Flathead River, south of Polebridge.
Although most courses are taken just for the enjoyment of taking them, academic credit is available either through the University of Montana or Flathead Valley Community College.
Classes continue winter and summer, although, as might be expected, most classes that involve Glacier Park are offered during the spring, summer and autumn.
During the winter, classes range from tracking game to winter-survival skills in the wild to wildlife on Wild Horse Island in Flathead Lake. Such exotic subjects as winter photography on cross-country skis are offered.
In March, classes involving winter birds, winter predators and owls are played out in the shadow of the Mission Mountains at Ninepipes Bird Sanctuary.
Spring brings a whole host of interesting topics to explore. How about biking for bears, which involves biking on Going-To-The-Sun Highway in search of avalanches and bears. Other classes include the study of prairie patchwork, Glacier's orchids, birding on Glacier's Eastside, and a Glacier's famed Harlequin ducks.
Summer brings classes on Glacier's grizzlies, river ecology by raft, railroad history and folklore in Glacier Park, wildlife from bull trout to bighorn sheep, the wolves of the North Fork, and Many Glacier ecology. There are even watercolor painting classes on location in August, along with the splendor of the Rocky Mountain Front, and Kintla Lake ecology by sea kayak.
Autumn offers such diverse and tantalizing subjects as autumn in Glacier and a course just named "The Rut." That is a program exploring bighorn sheep and is conducted entirely on Wild Horse Island in the middle of Flathead Lake.
In addition to individual classes, there are a wide range of family programs and a whole host of classes tailored just for children and young adults. Courses like a wolf pup mini camp, wetland hiking and rafting, and junior fly-fishing camp are a few choices in that category.
For further information, contact the Glacier Institute at (406) 755-1211 or visit its Web site, www.glacierinstitute.org.