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Class at Columbia Falls High focuses on hands-on experience

KALISPELL, Mont. - A science class at Columbia Falls High School aims to limit students' time in the classroom and instead take full advantage of the environment northwest Montana has to offer.

The class is field ecology taught by Kelly Houle. It is in its second year and is gaining momentum.

A $7,000 grant from the Glacier National Park Conservancy helped give the class life. Thursday a new group of students walked into Houle's classroom excited for the upcoming year.

"I know there's an interest, and that's what makes me excited," said Houle. "I've always wanted to have a class where I can get kids outside."

Much of the class involves studies at Glacier National Park and other surrounding areas.

Last year was a test run, and now Houle feels he has the necessary resources to add even more to the class.

"We have these connections with the professionals in our community, in our environment," he said.

Last year those connections allowed for Houle and his class to collect Glacier National Park disturbance data for NASA.

They also enabled Houle to incorporate Global Information Systems to the class curriculum.

He said having a background in working with this data will help all of his students, and they agreed.

"I'm excited about learning how to collect data, since I'm going to be an ultrasound tech after high school," said senior Josie Hinzman.

Others are intrigued by the opportunity to spend time outside.

"Looking forward to learning about the place I live at. Learn more about the environment and ways that we can help it," said junior Russell Albin.

The first day of class was spent in the classroom, but the students know soon they will be out exploring the real world.

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