Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ecology Project International by Nate Connors

Ecology Project International is a non-profit group based in Missoula.  Ecology Project International (EPI) focuses on outdoor education for adolescents and has programs based in Yellowstone, Costa Rica, Belize and the Galapagos Islands.  During this semester I had the privilege to intern with EPI and learn both about their current programs, but also how they go about establishing a new program as they form a partnership with MPG Ranch, located outside of Florence, Montana.

EPI and MPG Ranch are starting a new internship this summer for high school students based at MPG Ranch.  This internship will assist current researchers at MPG Ranch with their projects and will expose the high school interns to a hands on, unique educational experience.  The research ranges from studying yellow bellied marmot populations to tracking the wild animals that call MPG Ranch home. I assisted Joshua Theurer in developing lesson plans for this internship and setting up some of the curriculum for the students when they are not working with their assigned researcher.  My primary project was writing a cultural lesson regarding the Bitterroot Valley to help the high school interns develop a sense of place while they work at MPG Ranch.  This lesson touches on the Native American presence here prior to European influence and highlights some of the reasons that make the Bitterroot such a unique and special place.

I also had the privilege to design the cover art for the journals that will be used by the high school interns as well as the t-shirts that will be given to both the instructor team and the interns.  Due to the work with elk habitat preservation on MPG Ranch, I decided to use a elk motif.  Behind the elk is a rough interpretation of Castle Crag, which is visible from the Ranch.

When I was not working to develop lesson plans for this summers internship, I spent my time helping around the EPI office in Missoula.  EPI offered a unique chance to see the inner workings of a non-profit and the way in which they manage their classes, students, and instructors.  Everything from recruiting, to enrolling students, doing gear inventories, and helping to sell a company vehicle ended up on my plate.  It was fascinating to see the way in which this vibrant group of people have built such a well respected name in the outdoor education field.

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