DOI / VISTA Team Projects

Glacier National Park

Sarah Lent

DOI / VISTA: Sarah Lent
Supervisor: Laura Law
Address: P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, Montana 59936
County: Flathead County
Voice Telephone: (406) 888-5837
Web site:
Congressional District: At-Large
Bureau: National Park Service (NPS)


Located in northwestern Montana, Glacier National Park encompasses over one million acres of grasslands, montane forest, and subalpine and alpine habitat within the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem. Referred to as the “backbone of the world” by the Blackfeet, this area includes some of the narrowest sections of the Rockies. The park is a zone of convergence where species from the Great Plains, Pacific Northwest, Boreal Forest, and Rocky Mountains are all found. Glacier is also known for its geologic features showing an incredibly long geologic history, including ancient sedimentary features, mountain building, and glaciation. Glacier holds three international designations: International Peace Park (1932), UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (1976), and World Heritage Site (1995).

About the Surrounding Community

Browning schools and other schools within the Blackfeet Reservation suffer from a high rate of poverty and low criterion referenced test (CRT) scores.  Six of the nine elementary schools in the Browning school district as well as the high school have Title 1 status. The other schools have “targeted” Title 1 status.  For the 2013 school year, CRT results were generally lower across the board. During the 2013 school year 62.9% of American Indians scored “proficient” on the reading assessment. This was a significant decrease compared to the 67.6% that were “proficient” in 2012. Decreases occurred for both American Indian and White student groups, but the decrease for American Indian students was larger and was down to the level seen in 2010. The same decreasing trend occurs in Math CRT proficiency rates. For the second year in a row the American Indian math proficiency rates have decreased. The math proficiency level is now at a level not seen since before the 2010 school year. Science CRT scores were one of the few bright spots of the CRT test during the 2013 school year. 27.1% of students tested proficient in 2011.  American Indian science proficiency has increased each of the last two years and is up to 33.0%. The proficiency rate for White students in science increased in 2013 to 65.5%, indicating a large gap between the two groups.  For American Indian students, the mean CRT reading score for a student attending a school outside the reservation boundaries is 12.0 points higher. The same trend continues for the math assessment. For the math assessment, there is a slight difference in White student’s mean scores, but not as large of a difference for American Indian students. The mean math CRT score for American Indian students attending a school within a reservation is almost 15 points lower than their counterparts outside the reservation boundary.  In addition, the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is home to the Blackfeet tribe. There are about 7,000 individuals living on or near the reservation. The annual unemployment rate in the reservation is 69%. Counties on Native American reservations are among the poorest in the country. Nearly 60 % of all Native Americans who live outside of metropolitan areas inhabit persistently poor counties.


Project Overview

The DOI/VISTAV Chelsea Martin is developing a youth engagement and partnership program between Glacier National Park, the Browning School District, and other non-profit organizations already working on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation aiming to improve students’ academic skills and test scores, especially in science and math. The project also works with partners to get students outside and learning about conservation fields, especially as related to employment in Glacier National Park. This is leading to increased interest in applying and working toward obtaining jobs in conservation and other outdoor fields. The DOI/VISTA is working with Glacier National Park’s Education Specialist, and Browning School District Administrators, and Blackfeet Reservation Social Service Agencies to target underserved students.

Sponsors and Partners

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