American Prairie Field School

The American Prairie Field School is getting kids outside and into nature. The program uses the prairie as a living laboratory to inspire the next generation of scientists, conservationists, and stewards of the land and our planet.

Support the American Prairie Field School

The American Prairie Field School is creating early and enduring connections to Montana's prairie ecosystem.

The Field School comprises education programs for grades K through 12, with residential or day programs available depending on grade. The STEM curriculum connects students with experts and research scientists from Smithsonian Institute and American Prairie. Subjects vary and include natural and human history, astronomy, plant biology, wildlife ecology, and geology. All programs will align with NGSS Next Generation Science Standards.

For more information and to register, contact Education Coordinator Dusty Rixford:

2024 Summer Day Camps

The American Prairie Field School is excited to announce its upcoming summer day camps for kids. With a focus on environmental science and hands-on learning, these camps are designed to engage young minds and foster a love for the natural world.

July 9-11 | Water Wonders: Designed for students in grades 3 and 4, this camp will immerse participants in the fascinating world of aquatic ecosystems. From exploring underwater habitats to learning about water conservation, this camp promises an unforgettable experience for young nature enthusiasts.

July 16-18 | We Can Wing it: This exciting program will encourage students grades 5 to 6 to take to the skies and dig into the dirt as they explore the captivating worlds of birds and insects. From birdwatching to insect identification, this camp promises to ignite curiosity and foster a love for the natural world.

July 23-25 | Girls STEM Camp: For girls in grades 5 to 8, this camp offers an exciting adventure in environmental science, with a focus on empowering young girls in STEM fields. This camp aims to inspire girls to pursue their interests in science and foster a sense of environmental stewardship.

Residential Program

The residential program gives Montana middle school students (grades 5 through 8) the opportunity to spend three days and two nights in the field under Montana’s big prairie skies. Using Antelope Creek Campground near Zortman, Montana, as a backdrop for learning, students are exposed to the full diversity of ecological, cultural, and historical elements unique to the Northern Great Plains. Each class has a maximum of 20 students, and meals, lodging, and a busing stipend are provided for participating schools. Groups have a 5:1 instructor-to-student ratio and students stay in climate-controlled cabins.

Day Programming

The American Prairie Field School offers day programming free of charge for grades K through 12 at the American Prairie National Discovery Center. Students learn about a variety of topics, such as keystone species, birds of the prairie, skulls and furs, camera traps and tracks, plants and ethnobotany, and traditional native games. Registered groups are paired with an American Prairie expert to guide the visit, and a transportation stipend is available for schools to cover travel costs including gas and lodging. Programs are scheduled during National Discovery Center business hours, unless special arrangements are made. Registration is requested a minimum of 30 days in advance of visit.

For more information and to register, contact Education Coordinator Dusty Rixford:

Field School Instructors and Experts

American Prairie Field School instructors and experts bring a broad range of knowledge to the program, including expertise in astronomy, plant biology, wildlife ecology, geology, and natural and human history. In addition to program instructors, students interact with experts and guest speakers from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and American Prairie. Instructors change seasonally, and all are trained in outdoor education, risk management, and Field School curriculum. The final roster depends on the program.

Dr. Daniel Kinka is American Prairie's Wildlife Restoration Manager. His primary responsibilities include restoring and monitoring wildlife on the Reserve and managing the wildlife-friendly ranching program "Wild Sky." He also acts as a liaison to scientists conducting research at American Prairie, other non-governmental organizations, agencies, and other external entities. He joined American Prairie in 2018, shortly after completing his doctoral degree in ecology at Utah State University. In graduate school, he studied the use of livestock guardian dogs to promote coexistence between large North American carnivores and ranchers. Originally from Florida and the Washington DC area, Daniel has enjoyed living “out west” since 2010. In addition to restoration ecology and applied science, Daniel harbors a deep passion for science communication, having worked as a science reporter for Utah Public Radio, publishing in High Country News, and serving as a National Geographic Society Fellow.

I was trained as a researcher and an academic. That is a noble career and we rely heavily on the work of research scientists to guide our restoration work at American Prairie Reserve. But, I consider it an honor and a privilege to head out everyday and do the hard and complicated work of actually restoring an ecosystem. I prefer getting my hands dirty, figuratively and literally.

Dusty coordinates all logistics for the American Prairie Field School located at Antelope Creek Campground. She works closely with American Prairie field staff as well as Montana Outdoor Science School (MOSS) to implement a year-long prairie science program for middle school students from all around the state.

Dusty grew up in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona among the mighty saguaro cactus and mesquite trees. Her love for the outdoors began as a child — hence the nickname — continued to grow while working as a firefighter on a hotshot crew and smokejumper traveling all over the Western states. Before working with American Prairie, she worked in conservation education and fire prevention for the Forest Service as well as Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks as an office manager in Lewistown.

She enjoys sharing the outdoor world with children and looks forward to connecting kids with nature and the prairie in which we live. Dusty loves spending time with her family and doing anything that gets her outside.

I am so excited to be a part of American Prairie, conserving the prairie for my grandchildren and yours. American Prairie's educational work reminds me of a Wallace Stegner quote: 'Whatever landscape a child is exposed to early on, that will be the sort of gauze through which he or she will see all the world afterwards.

Katy supports operations of the Wild Sky Program and executes field projects on Wild Sky Ranches, including the Cameras for Conservation Program. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from Rocky Mountain College in Billings, MT. Before joining American Prairie in 2019, Katy was a field technician for various research projects that focused on grassland ecosystems in Montana. She also loves spreading a passion for the outdoors and has led student trips into the Beartooth Mountains and through the Upper Missouri Wild and Scenic River. Growing up in North Dakota, she loved visiting the western badlands. It's where she gained an appreciation for our public lands and prairie wildlife.

I have a strong connection to our Central Montana landscape. It holds many special memories for me. Working to protect this area so that generations to come have the opportunity for the same experiences is so rewarding.

Lars’ primary responsibilities include general maintenance and habitat restoration on American Prairie lands. Before joining American Prairie, he was the interim manager at the University of Nebraska’s Barta Brothers Ranch. He is originally from Chappell, Nebraska and received his education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he earned an MS in Agronomy specializing in Range and Forage Science and BS degrees in Rangeland Ecosystems and Fisheries & Wildlife. He is a member of the Society for Range Management and The Wildlife Society. Lars began working for American Prairie in 2013 and is excited to be part of a project that is effecting change over an entire landscape.

American Prairie has the ability to enrich visitation for a wide range of people and interests.

Scott’s primary role is leading American Prairie’s bison restoration program; including working with neighbors, agencies and partners around bison and setting long-term goals and strategic direction for the program. Scott moved to Montana in 2015 to join American Prairie. Prior to joining American Prairie, he was a Park Ranger for Sioux County Conservation in his home state of Iowa and earned his B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from South Dakota State University. Since a young age Scott has imagined intact prairies teeming with wildlife and living and working on the prairies of Montana offer just that.

Having intact ecosystems as a place for people to imagine and visit is an important part of the human experience. It is exciting to lead efforts to bring back a missing piece of that experience, the bison. Seeing pieces of an ecosystem come back together is so rewarding, and knowing it will be preserved in perpetuity is fulfilling.

Other Community Engagement Projects & Programs

National Discovery Center

Field Notes Newsletter

Regional Economy

Indigenous Communities

Wild Sky

Prairie Union School

Regina Town Site

Land Acknowledgement Statement

American Prairie Sticker Signup