Best Forest & Outdoor Education Schools In Montana 2023

If you’re looking for a place where kids can explore and learn in a natural outdoor landscape, there’s nowhere better than Montana. 

Between Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, Flathead National Park, and countless lakes and valleys, Big Sky Country is the perfect place to connect with nature and gain unforgettable hands-on experiences in its vast wilderness. 

With so many stunning natural settings, Montana offers a variety of outdoor and forest schools designed to help your students learn wilderness and survival skills while becoming more confident and skilled leaders.

Whether you’re looking for a one-day program or an immersive multi-week adventure, these are some of Montana’s top outdoor education schools. 

montana outdoor schools

1. The Montana Wilderness School

Address: 17640 Rocky Mountain Rd, Belgrade, MT 59714

Programs Offered: Outside of School Classes

Who’s It For: Parents

Located in Bozeman, the Montana Wilderness School offers some of the best outdoor programs in the state. Surrounded by scenic mountains, lakes, rivers, and canyons, it’s a perfect place for youth to gain hands-on experience in the Montana wilderness. 

This non-profit school is dedicated to helping youth achieve personal growth through building leadership skills, confidence, and compassion as they connect with a natural environment. Through multiple weeklong expeditions, kids not only learn about technical wilderness skills and conservation but gain the tools and knowledge they need to overcome challenges and become strong leaders.

The Montana Wilderness School offers expeditions for youth ages 14-18 and doesn’t require any previous experience in the course’s technical skills. Groups are usually 8-10 students and are accompanied by 2-3 instructors. 

Students can participate in a variety of courses that cover local ecology, conservation, and navigation skills for different remote environments. Expedition opportunities span from 6-25 days and include canoeing in the Missouri River, a backpacking trip through the mountains of Yellowstone, Rock Climbing and Mountaineering, and so much more.

2. Montana Outdoor Science School

Address: 4056 Bridger Canyon Rd, Bozeman, MT 59715

Programs Offered: Summer Camps & School/Non-School Classes

Who’s It For: Teachers & Parents

Since it was founded over 24 years ago, the Montana Outdoor Science School (MOSS) in Bozeman has become a fantastic choice for a hands-on outdoor experience. Each year, it serves thousands of students and offers both summer and year-round programs designed to engage youth in science and nature and cultivate a love for the outdoors. 

One of MOSS’s most popular programs is their 10-week summer camp. With programs for kids in kindergarten through 9th grade, their summer camps are the perfect place for children of any age and experience level to learn about the environment, wildlife, backpacking trips, and more. 

If you’re looking for additional resources for students throughout the year, MOSS offers several other unique classroom programs and activities for kids between grades K-8. These include things like their Science in residency where their own instructors come to your classroom,  science at-home kits, field trips to their location, and much more.

Outside of the traditional camps and school programs, MOSS also offers family-friendly discovery walks and festivals for even more hands-on fun for kids of all ages.

3. Aerie Backcountry Medicine

Address: 100 North Ave W, Missoula, MT 59801

Programs Offered: Out of School Classes

Who’s It For: Older Students

Aerie Backcountry Medicine in Missoula, MT, is surrounded by national forests, mountains, and remote areas, making it a perfect space to learn medical and wilderness training for outdoor enthusiasts. Since being founded in 1995, Aerie has trained over two thousand students with a range of experience and skill levels, offering unique and authentic courses in wilderness medicine.

With courses for all hospital personnel and even introductory students with no medical background, Aerie offers something for anyone interested in wilderness medical training. Course instructors are all current professionals in related medicine and rescue fields, ensuring that the classes are engaging, educational, and effective in preparing students for remote patient care. 

Students can take courses such as Wilderness First Aid, Advanced Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness EMT, or a Medic Refresher class. And for students preparing for a medical career, there are several Semester in Wilderness Programs offered throughout the year where they can earn aid certifications.

4. Sweet Pea Outdoor School

Address: 225 Sweet Ln, Kalispell, MT 59901

Programs Offered: Out of School Classes

Who’s It For: Parents

The Sweet Pea Outdoor School is situated close to Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake in Kalispell, Montana. Their classes are designed around youth and aims to help kids discover the natural world as they build confidence, problem-solving skills, and a passion for nature through play-based learning. 

This 6-acre outdoor school incorporates math, science, music, and art through an outdoor curriculum that engages participants while driving a passion for learning and exploration. Its preschool program is perfect for kids ages 3-6 to interact with the natural environment, learn about local wildlife and plants, and study animals and the weather.

Older kids 6-12 can also participate in the Youth Summer Program, which focuses on connecting to the environment through weekly themes such as wilderness survival, Native American heritage, rock and mineral exploration, and much more.

5. Outdoor Wilderness Living School

Address: PO Box 697, Pony, MT, 59747

Programs Offered: Summer Camps & School Classes

Who’s It For: Teachers & Parents

Nestled under Hollowtop Mountain in the small town of Pony, Montana, you can find the Outdoor Wilderness Living (OWL) School. The school helps kids learn and connect to nature through unique youth classes, making it a top choice for teachers and parents. 

OWLS’ mission is to help children develop a bond with nature by practicing earth skills, learning about wilderness living, and using passion-based learning and games. As students learn how to build shelters, start fires, find edible and medicinal plants, and make crafts, they also develop their self-confidence and collaboration skills.

Students and teachers throughout schools in Southwest Montana can participate in Classroom in the Woods, which provides unique expeditions centered around learning ancient skills and outdoor adventure. These trips range from 1 to 5 days and include a variety of difficulty levels and custom-designed curriculums for grades K-9. Parents can enroll their kid’s ages 9-15 in a two-night ancient skills summer camp located along the Jefferson River.

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