Education and Outreach

Programs Overview  Scientific Research Community Stewardship

The staff of WLI believes it is important to reach citizens of all ages in Whitefish and its surrounding communities about water ecology. Efforts in this area include providing educational programs for grades K-12, high school job shadow opportunities, college internships, and graduate thesis support, educator in-service training, and presentations to civic groups.

Annual presentations by WLI scientists include classroom visits and field trips to WLI's Living Wetland Interpretative Nature Trail. Topics cover "aquatic insects" for preschoolers, "pond life" curriculum for Whitefish 2nd graders, fish dissections for Whitefish 4th graders, and 5th grade classes tour several educational stations along the wetland trail. WLI partners with Whitefish High FREEFLOW and the advanced chemistry class for field trips and participation in field studies, and participates in the high school job shadowing program.

WLI offers Whitefish School District teacher in-service training, where they learn about Whitefish Lake ecology and are familiarized with water quality data collection techniques in the classroom and aboard WLI's research vessel.



The Ripple Effect Scholarship Program
WLI was built on three pillars; Scientific Research, Education, and Community Stewardship. The WLI staff is therefore committed to educating citizens of all ages about water ecology and water quality issues. In 2013, WLI opened the Living Wetlands Interpretive Nature Trail where classes throughout the Flathead Valley now visit annually for educational programming and field trips. At the wetlands, students are introduced to general watershed dynamics, lake ecology, and the effects of introduced species to aquatic environments. One important aspect of our educational programming is encouraging and mentoring students to follow their curiosity and continue their studies in environmental sciences. The Ripple Effect Scholarship Program exists to accomplish this goal. LEARN MORE

Upon request, WLI speaks to various civic groups ranging from the Rotary Club to private homeowners associations on regional issues related to lake ecology and the research underway at WLI.

Flathead Community of Resource Educators (CORE)
The Flathead CORE is a network of individuals and organizations working together to increase awareness and understanding about the natural, historical and cultural resources of the Flathead Region. The group seeks to:

Serve as a communication network between resource educators and the community,
  • Provide practical tools, training and materials for educators in the Flathead Region,
Be open to all resource educators and professionals to promote the diversity of ideas and cooperation, and
Promote knowing more about the place we live.

WLI has been a member of the Flathead CORE Watershed Education Committee since 2009. Through this relationship, WLI contributed content and reviews for the Flathead Watershed Sourcebook: A Guide to An Extraordinary Place which was authored, coordinated, and published in 2010 by WLI’s Science & Education Director, Lori Curtis. The book was produced in print, is available on CD, and was developed into a complete website www.flatheadwatershed.org). The committee—in cooperation with Montana State University—recently developed the Flathead Watershed Sourcebook Educators’ "Guide".  A companion curriculum to the Flathead Watershed Sourcebook, the Guide provides a set of engaging activities that enable educators to creatively introduce middle school students to resource conservation concepts while meeting Montana State curriculum standards.

WLI's ultimate educational goal is to develop and build the Living Watershed Learning Center— a world class environmental learning center located on our Whitefish property abutting the wetlands. Built for present and future generations, The Living Watershed Learning Center will feature large aquariums, imaginative exhibits, and engaging interactive displays designed to entertain while educating visitors. The facility will also provide meeting and classroom space, it will host presentations, seminars and other outreach programs to promulgate environmental awareness and encourage watershed stewardship. The combination of the Averill's Viking Creek Wetland Preserve Interpretive Trail and the Living Watershed Learning Center will offer a premier indoor/outdoor educational facility unlike any in the state of Montana and differentiated from the many other learning centers across the US. WLI is currently in the due diligence phase of addressing the feasibility of this project.


WLI is proud to sponsor the Chris Ruffatto Excellence in Education Award—an avenue for recognizing and honoring educators (traditional and non-traditional) who dedicate their lives to engaging the next generation of environmental stewards.

Nomination Form Past Winners