Great Bear Foundation
is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in Missoula, Montana, dedicated to the conservation of the eight species of bears and their habitat around the world.
- Great Bear Foundation Education Programs
- Bear Basics Program
- What’s New in the Bear Basics Program?
- Scheduling a Bear Basics Program
- Bears of the World Curriculum
- Annual Bear Honoring
- Bear Email
Great Bear Education Programs
NEW! Bear Basics classes now available in Alaska, Yukon, and Northern BC!
Contact us to schedule GBF Director, Shannon Donahue to speak at your school or event. Shannon is based out of our northern office in Haines, Alaska, and travel expenses and some form of overnight accommodation will be needed for programs outside of Haines.
Great Bear provides free Bear Basics programs to K-12 schools and other groups in western Montana, holds the annual Bear Honoring each spring in Missoula and Pablo, Montana, publishes the quarterly newsletter Bear News, and provides free email updates on bear issues via Bear Email. Check the tabs above for more information on each.
Bear Basics is our most important educational and outreach program. It’s an interactive and engaging presentation that educates thousands of Montana students on the natural history, behavior, and ecology of large North American predators.
We focus primarily on black, grizzly, and polar bears but have expanded our circle to include two other notable natives: wolves and mountain lions. Living with top-level predators is a reality in Montana and we feel strongly that learning about these animals is an essential component for kids growing up. Even today, damaging misinformation is promoted about our native predators and we have taken on the challenge of dispelling these myths.
Read more about Bear Basics at the tab above, recent changes in the classes, and schedule a program, too.
Bear Basics Program
The Bear Basics program is an interactive and engaging presentation that educates thousands of Montana students on the natural history, behavior, and ecology of large North American predators. We focus primarily on black, grizzly, and polar bears but have expanded our circle to include two other notable natives: wolves and mountain lions. Living with top-level predators is a reality in Montana and we feel strongly that learning about these animals is an essential component for kids growing up. Even today, damaging misinformation exists surrounding our native predators and we have taken on the challenge of dispelling these myths.
NEW! Bear Basics is now available in Alaska, Yukon, and Northern BC, May through October!
Contact us to schedule GBF Director, Shannon Donahue to speak at your school or event. Shannon is based out of Haines, Alaska in the summer months (May through October), and travel expenses and some form of overnight accommodation will be needed for programs outside of Haines.
Our program is unique for several reasons:
We do not charge a presentation fee to schools, allowing us to reach a diverse array of communities regardless of school budgets. We will, however, require travel expenses and some form of overnight accommodation for programs delivered outside of our local area.
We screen and have bear biologists review the extensive amount of information that currently exists on bears and predators to remove the inaccurate or misleading information. As a result, we leave teachers with high quality, factual curricula and educational packets that they can use with their classes.
Teachers have expressed to us how much they appreciate our providing a guest speaker to present our material and to interact one on one with the students.
What do we provide in a program?
We provide programs for grades K-12 as well as any interested adult or community group. Our standard program includes:
- An informative slide show/video clip on bear identification
- Hands-on interaction with bear skulls, pelts, claws, and track casts
- Creative activities and games highlighting bear and predator adaptations and ecological concepts
- Information regarding safe travel and responsible living in bear country
- Information packets on black, brown, and polar bears as well as wolves and mountain lions
- Post-visit classroom activities requested by teachers
- If a group already has a solid background on bears and predators, we can customize our program to fit the needs of individual classrooms. Some of our program options include:
- The bear in myth and culture: Explore the role of bears in Native cultures
- Track casting: Create plaster track casts of bears, wolves, and mountain lions and discuss the many signs that animals leave behind in the wilderness
- Amazing adaptations: An in-depth discovery of the adaptations that enable bears and predators to survive.
What’s New in the Bear Basics Program
In response to an overwhelming interest in the Bear Basics program, we have expanded our program to include additional program options, teacher resources, partnerships with other groups working on similar issues, and avenues for schools and classrooms to become more involved in bear conservation.
We are now offering the Bear Basics Field Programs. The field programs take students out of the classroom and into a local park, schoolyard or trailhead. Students learn how to identify different carnivore signs, how to properly set up a campsite in bear country, how to avoid a negative encounter with bears and mountain lions, and how different carnivores survive in their natural habitats.
Also we have embarked upon a project to evaluate children’s books and videos on bears with the eventual intent of distributing for free the highest quality materials into classrooms. There is an overwhelming amount of information, both positive and negative, available to teachers and we would like to act as a filter to identify the best resources. We are confident that the book and video project will ensure that the information on bears being taught to our children is both factual and appropriate.
Scheduling a Bear Basics program
Bear Basics is now available in Southeast Alaska!
You can call 406-829-9378 to schedule a Bear Basics program in Montana, Alaska, or Yukon, or email us via the form with a requested time and date and we will contact you with confirmation or if we need more information. Programs are usually an hour long, but Great Bear can also set up tables for longer events and provide educational programs as part of larger festivals and educational gatherings.
Bears of the World Intro and Table of Contents (Downloadable PDF)
Bears in the Media Lesson (Downloadable PDF)
The Great Bear Foundation’s Bears of the World curriculum, developed by education specialist, Chris Olsen, examines these questions and more! This project offers resources to teachers and community members interested in learning about or teaching others about bears and their habitats.
The Bears of the World curriculum contains units on each of the bear species of the world: Grizzly Bear, American Black Bear, Polar Bear, Sloth Bear, Asiatic Black Bear, Spectacled Bear, Sun Bear, and Giant Panda Bear. Each unit contains a lesson focused on population and distribution, a scientific concept or activity, a writing activity, and a cooking activity.
Students will learn about adaptation with spectacled bears, about biomes with Asiatic black bears, or about climate change with polar bears. With hands-on cooking activities, students learn more about the diets of the various bear species, and prepare food dishes using only foods eaten by a particular bear. Recipes are provided in each lesson.
This curriculum was primarily designed for elementary and middle school aged children, particularly grades 4 through 8. Lessons are adaptable, however, and can be modified to fit the needs of younger or older learners. This curriculum is adaptive, and teachers do not have to follow the order of the lessons as presented. While it is more effective to follow the order of lessons and topics as presented in the curriculum, the various sections and lessons are also designed to stand on their own. In this way teachers can pick and choose activities that fit more easily into their previously established classroom curricula.
The curriculum aims to be interdisciplinary, with various lessons incorporating combinations of math, science, writing, history, cooking, and art. An interdisciplinary model is used to emphasize the various interconnections that exist between disciplines and to show how the topic of bears is connected to a multitude of disciplines as well.
A sample lesson is available for download here: Bears in the Media Lesson (PDF). The Bears in the Media lesson has students research how bears and other wildlife are commonly presented in television, movies, magazines, and other popular media and prepare a presentation for the class. If you are interested in receiving the whole curriculum, please contact us. Download the Introduction and Table of Contents to see what’s included in the curriculum here: Bears of the World Intro and Table of Contents.
Bear Honoring is on hiatus in 2015, but please honor the bears in your own way. Check back for future Bear Honoring events.
“Bear ceremonies and myths…recall to us our first wisdom, when we honored our kinship with animals.” – Anonymous
The Bear Honoring is Great Bear’s annual welcoming the bears out of hibernation and celebrating spring! Bear Honoring is a multicultural, weekend long event in the tradition of spring bear celebrations that have occurred for thousands of years in cultures around the world.
Each Bear Honoring includes:
We’ll kick off the weekend with a program and Bear Foods Buffet at 5:00, where GBF staff will talk about sharing our habitat with bears. At the Bear Foods Buffet, you can learn about and sample what bears eat. Meet at the Greenough Park Picnic Shelter. Admission is free, but donations are kindly accepted.
A tour of the Salish-Kootenai College Art Department, the annual Kicking Horse Job Corps Pow Wow, & learning about bear habitat in the Mission Mountains.
Join us as we head to Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, MT to visit the SKC art department. Then, we’ll head to the Powwow at Kicking Horse Job Corps, where we sponsor a bear dance. We’ll wrap up the day exploring the Mission Mountains, learning about bear habitat. Meet at the Great Bear Foundation office, 802 E Front Street, Missoula, at 9:00 AM, or contact us for details to meet us in Pablo. Space in our vehicle is limited, so please let us know ahead of time if you plan to join us.
Bear viewing in Glacier National Park
On Sunday, we’ll head up to Glacier Park to spend the afternoon walking the Park Road, learning about bears and their habitat, and looking for bears in the avalanche chutes. Meet at the Avalanche Gate in the Park at 12:45 (or, if the road is not yet plowed that far, at Lake MacDonald Lodge). Or meet at the Great Bear Foundation office, 802 E Front Street, Missoula, at 9:00 AM to ride up or caravan with us. Space is limited, so please let us know if you plan to join us. Suggested donation: $20.
Bear Email is a free email service (one to two emails a month) alerting members to important current news items concerning bears and bear habitat, upcoming field courses and other Great Bear Foundation happenings. You don’t need to be a member of Great Bear Foundation to subscribe to Bear Email. Just fill out your name and email below and send, and you will be subscribed to Bear Email.