by Bailey Zook, Teaching Naturalist

The Montana Natural History Center has witnessed a ton of changes in the last year and the holiday season has provided us with the lovely opportunity to do a little self reflection.

If you have been in to see us in the last six months, you may have noticed a few things. We have been gifted with an incredible opportunity to reorganize and update our museum layout. While we are still in the process of making many of the changes, our new display allows you to explore what creatures you might expect to see in Montana’s different bio-regions. Our Magic Planet has gotten quite a bit of press, and we remain excited about the current programming on this amazing digital globe that helps you to explore our planet.

Our new gallery space is currently home to a display of beautifully-felted wool birds and a collection of nature-themed “curiosity cabinets,” delighting staff and visitors alike! And our Naturalist Lab is full of specimens that visitors can see, handle, and observe at various levels, and we design a “Featured Lesson” each month to help visitors explore naturalist topics a little deeper.

Naturalist Classroom at the Montana Natural History Center

In addition to these exciting changes, a visit to MNHC quickly reveals the absence of our beloved Camo the gopher snake. Though he is missed by staff and visitors alike, Camo was given the opportunity for a new home at Lone Pine State park with the promise of a better enclosure, some time outside, and a calm, restful retirement. We couldn’t be happier for him!

You may have also noticed a few new faces as MNHC has grown to a cheery number of 13 permanent staff members all with their own unique talents and interests. We are so fortunate to have such a delightful group of folks to see and collaborate with each day!

Speaking of delightful people, our volunteers continue to astound us with their contributions: everything from leading programs, visiting classrooms, organizing books, watching the front desk, working in the gardens, assisting with events, and generally giving life to MNHC. We are so, so thankful.

As we strive to meet our mission to promote and cultivate the appreciation, understanding, and stewardship of nature through education, we continue to examine and reimagine our programming. In the last year we have updated many of our lessons to allow student exploration to guide learning and instill a sense of curiosity. We are so grateful to be entrusted with student learning and constantly strive to make the most of that gift.

student looking through a microscope and making observations in his nature journal

Change can be scary as you step out of old habits and look to an uncertain future. Here at MNHC, we are grateful that so many of the changes we have experienced in the last year have blossomed into really beautiful displays, moments, engagement, and friendships.

Thank you for the parts you have played in supporting, encouraging, and giving here at MNHC. We are extremely thankful and look forward to growing with you again in the year to come.