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SSM Partners with Montana Organization for Inaugural Field Course Study

SSM Partners with Montana Organization for Inaugural Field Course Study
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What started as a conversation in the hills of Montana in 2019 came to fruition this fall when five students had the opportunity to participate in Shattuck-St. Mary’s inaugural field course study in Ovando, Montana through a partnership with The Blackfoot Challenge.

The Blackfoot Challenge, which came to be in the early 1970s, formed when those who owned land along Montana’s Blackfoot River realized the strong need for partnerships with the public in order to address the multiple resource threats facing the watershed area.

Before the pandemic, Matt and I were fortunate enough to join an alumni fishing trip to Ovando, Montana with Stoney Burke ‘65,” stated Courtney Cavellier, Associate Head of School and Middle School Director. “On that trip, Stoney introduced us to Seth Wilson from the Blackfoot Challenge. I got to join Seth and his team to visit the trumpeter swans they had reintroduced to the region, explore sites where grizzly bears had been known to visit, and try out radio telemetry to track wolves. We also visited ranches to see how the Blackfoot Challenge was working in collaboration with land conversationists, ranchers, and biologists to help maintain a healthy and active ecosystem and working landscape. After years of thinking about ScholarShift® and weCreate®, Matt, Seth, Stoney, Nick Stoneman, and I all immediately saw the possibilities for our school, our faculty, and our students.”

In this very first collaboration with a high school, the group focused on collaboration and conservation leadership. Specific areas of focus included the importance of developing public and private partnerships within the context of working agricultural landscapes and addressing some of today's most pressing natural resource issues such as climate change, water, conserving wildlife habitat, and the role of fire in western forest ecosystems.

“I found the experience very humbling because going in I knew of the stereotype of ranchers…that they were all agriculture, not the environment,” stated senior Paige Ostroushko. “Coming out of this experience though, I realized how much they work with the watershed and the natural resources around them to preserve the “wild west” of Montana. I already had an interest in environmental study too, so this course was very helpful as I continue to look into this.”

Shattuck-St. Mary’s plans to offer this opportunity to students next year as well. To learn more about The Blackfoot Challenge, please visit

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