Education Outreach on Woodson Ranch
When Craig and Martha Woodson joined forces with The Montana Land Reliance to establish the Ruby Habitat Foundation, a significant part of their vision was to provide a venue for educating people about the synergy that can result when a ranch is managed for wildlife, agriculture and recreation. At the Woodson Ranch, we bring that vision to life in a number of ways.
First, we follow the Woodson’s vision of attracting visitors through our recreational opportunities, whether those are fishing, birding, hiking, or just observing nature. When folks arrive at the ranch for the first time, we do our best to spend some time with them explaining the broader mission of the place. We can provide an overview of the place in a few minutes, or we are willing to take people on a tour of the ranch—whatever people have the time and interest for.
Second, we actively reach out to the local schools to invite the students to our special space so they can experience our “outdoor classroom” environment. Students from Alder, Dillon, Ennis, Glen, Helena, Sheridan, and Twin Bridges Montana, have come to see and learn what happens on the ranch. Last year, the entire 7th and 8th grade class from Dillon came to study and learn about our approach to running a ranch in a way that complements nature while supporting recreation. These students then wrote about their experience and their thoughts have been captured and incorporated in various places on the ranch; students from Helena Junior High wrote poetry about their experience and it is displayed on our interpretive Nature Trail signs. This year, we brought in professional educators from Montana State University and Montana Watercourse to give students some hands-on learning, and they learned about both aquatic insects and some of the birds on the ranch.
We are working to enhance the relationship with local schools because we believe firmly that students learn best through experience, and we have a venue where such experiences can take place. We are currently pursuing a relationship with Montana Watercourse to create a curriculum which may be used when students of varying ages, and from various schools, come to visit the ranch. It is our hope to provide meaningful and memorable experiences to the “next generation” of land stewards.
Third, the aforementioned Nature Trail is open to the general public and provides not just a wonderful place to walk and experience the ranch, but we have invested in interpretive signage explaining why we have done many of the things we have done.
The Woodson’s saw the obvious need for funding to sustain the education efforts on the ranch, they created a $30,000 endowment, the earnings from which may be used to support the education outreach efforts. That was over 10 years ago and the rates for qualified educators have gone up, as have the costs of just about every aspect of our education outreach. If you would like to support our cause with a donation to the cause, simply specify that you’d like your contribution to support the “Hill Education Endowment” and we will be certain to put your money to good use. You can do that in the check memo section if you send a check, or with a phone call if you make your contribution electronically.