Creston National Fish Hatchery Receives National Designation with Nature Explore Classroom
By: Sharon Rose, USFWS
The Creston National Fish Hatchery, located in Kalispell, MT, earned the national designation of a certified Nature Explore Classroom from the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. Creston, a unit of the Fisheries Program in the Mountain-Prairie Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the first facility to receive the celebrated certification in the state of Montana. The historic hatchery serves as a national outdoor classroom model for others throughout the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It now joins a growing network of organizations that have created effective outdoor learning environments for children, allowing for idea-sharing, peer support, and continuous learning and development.
These classrooms, which are being developed across the country, offer interactive elements, including musical instruments made of natural materials, climbing structures, wooden blocks, garden areas, and natural materials for building and creating art that give children important and inspiring nature experiences. While connecting children with nature, such unstructured play and activities are shown to enhance concentration, develop creativity and problem-solving, relieve stress, and improve skills in many areas.
In addition to staff at the hatchery, many volunteers, donors, and the Montana Tribal Youth Conservation Corps, worked to transform this outdoor space into a multiple use area for educational and family engagement opportunities.
The classroom is part of the Nature Explore Program, a collaborative project of the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation and was developed to help fill the void by educating young children using research-based principles for integrating nature into their daily learning.