Mindy Ferrell has been dragging kids into the outdoors for their own good for decades. In recognition of that and many of the other things she has done for the natural world, the Montana Wilderness Association recently gave her a Brass Lantern Award for “continued volunteer service promoting public lands, wild spaces and outdoor education.”
Mindy lives in Trout Creek with her husband Doug (incidentally current chair of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Board and past president of Montana Wilderness Association), and has been passionately involved in outdoor education since before she graduated from college. Her education degree is from The College of William and Mary and she earned a Masters Degree in Outdoor Education from Northern Illinois University. “I’ve always loved teaching and being out-of-doors,” she said, “and I’ve had many great opportunities to combine both.”
Mindy taught at Noxon School for 23 years, focusing her instruction in the elementary school and retiring in 2012. When funding was available, the school coordinated three-day outdoor education programs based at the Clark Fork Field Campus. She also taught adult education for five years and ran summer programs for adults and kids alike in the Bull River valley at the East Fork Historic Ranger Station.
“For years there was summer Saturday programming sponsored by Cabinet Resource Group which covered many, many aspects of the natural world. A week-long Bull River Nature Center Day Camp ran for four summers for kids between 4th – 8th grade, funded by the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenburg Foundation,” she said. “The last year, the camp was a five-day, four-night Wilderness backpacking experience taking 4 patrols of 6 junior high aged kids into various parts of the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness.”
Mindy grew up in Illinois and Wisconsin. She and Doug married in 1980 and she moved to Montana “full time” in 1982. They spent more than a decade living “off the grid” with their sons Jack and Peter, skiing in and out of their place on Swamp Creek in the winter. They grew most of their own food, and lived life with kerosene lamps and cook stoves. She is an avid hunter who put in 15 days in the field this year, as well as co-captain of the sailboat Doug built a several years ago. In 2017, she organized a bus trip for 50 citizens from Sanders County to take part in the Public Lands Rally at the Capitol Rotunda, and she organized a float promoting Public Lands in five parades in Sanders County last summer.
She has been both a Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader. This year, as a board member, she helped organize the 29th annual Green Mountain Conservation District Watershed Festival, which brings every Sanders County 5th Grader to Thompson Falls State Park for a day of water-based learning.
Mindy is not slowing down. Her driving passion is still this mantra: “Kids need to be outdoors. Their overall well-being, and the very well-being of the Earth depend on it.” She coordinated the Freinds of Scotchman Peaks Sanders County Winter Tracks program at North Shore Campground in early January and is currently working on establishing a Western Sanders County outdoor education continuum in conjunction with local teachers, FSPW, Kaniksu Land Trust, Avista Corporation and the Forest Service.
If you would like to join Mindy in her mission of dragging children outdoors where they belong, write to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will pass the message along.