By Renae Counter, Explorebigsky.com Contributor
BIG SKY – Two Ophir School classes paired up with the Gallatin County Noxious Weed Committee this September to identify, map and contain weeds.
Nancy Sheil’s Environmental Science class used the new GPS units to map noxious weeds along trails and roads in Porcupine Creek. The class of 10th-12th graders was spilt into four groups and led by Sheil, Jennifer Molher, coordinator of Gallatin/Big Sky Noxious Weed Committee, Mike Jones of Gallatin County Weed District, and Shantell Frame-Martin of the Montana Department of Aquiculture.
“Nancy’s class will map this area this year, and next year the new class will come out and map and be able to see the difference,” Molher said. “They’ll see if the treatment helped. Was the area cured or did new weeds spread?”
This is the first year Ophir School has offered environmental science.
“It’s great to be able to go out into the field for this class,” said sophomore Gabrielle Gasser. “We’ve also gone to Yellowstone to learn about fire ecology.”
The noxious weed committee will use the information collected from the class’s Porcupine Creek trip to assess and treat the area.
Brittany Ellis’ second grade class also mapped noxious weeds in the Big Sky Community Park with the help of GCWC. Ellis, Frame-Martin, Molher, and Big Sky Community Corp. Executive Director Jessie Neal led the groups. This is the fifth year that the second graders have mapped weeds in the Big Sky area.
“Every year my class visits local areas like Red Cliffs or Moose Flats to map and learn about noxious weeds,” Ellis said.
Information collected will be given to the Big Sky Community Corp., which will turn the information into maps for use at both the park and classroom.
“The school will get a copy of the map, and we’ll do activities back in the classroom, things like math equations to figure out which weed was most abundant,” Ellis said.
Later on down the road, Molher hopes the second graders will be able to take what they learned into the Environmental Science class as well as their everyday lives.
“They’ll grow up and be able to take what they learned to Nancy’s class, bringing them into the next level of learning and understanding of noxious weeds,” Molher said.