BOZEMAN — Hyalite Reservoir isn’t your typical classroom, but Bozeman Field School isn’t your typical school either. The only secular private high school in Bozeman focuses on experiential learning. In other words, the students get the opportunity to learn real-life or ‘place-based’ skills that they can apply in the real world.
On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, a handful of students were digging snow pits around Hyalite Reservoir and analyzing the snow structure and snowpack in the area. The group of high school students had spent the last month learning about snow structure, snow density, and how the make-up of snow crystals may change over time. Today, they were taking what they had learned in the classroom and were putting that education to work in the field.
“This is inquiry-based science” Tory Dille, BFS’s science teacher said. “Rather than me coming out here and telling them here's the snowpack, this what's happening, and take notes on it, they get to learn a little bit and then ask questions.” Digging pits and looking at individual snow crystals with a magnifying glass took up the biggest part of their morning.
It is a hands-on approach to education that puts science right in the hands of the students. “These are environmental science students and they are studying thermodynamics in the snowpack and looking at how snow changes over time, response to environmental factors and human factors,” Dille said. Each group of students had a research question that they were investigating. They took the skills they picked up in the classroom to answer those questions in the field.
Bozeman Field School has been around for about four years. The students go on a variety of adventures in the Yellowstone ecosystem to investigate what they learn in the classroom. These experiences build confidence for the students and allow them to expand and apply what they learn. Shoshona Bruk is a student who explained that doing these experiments herself helped her understand what she was doing in the field. “What I am noticing here is that it's a lot sturdier here I think because the reservoir is under us and it is more frozen.”
According to Dille, it is a great way to promote deeper learning and to make it more authentic and real than what kids may normally see in the classroom.
Besides that, it also gets the students out of the classroom and experiencing something that their typical classroom doesn’t. It gets them out doing something that other students may never get to experience.
Bozeman Field school teaches most classes in six-week blocks and offers courses ranging from performing arts and music to stem and cultural studies. You can get more information on Bozeman Field School by clicking here.