Gap Year Experience

College-age participants in our Gap Programs spend time immersing in the communities and landscape of Montana’s Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Like all VISIONS experiences, our Gap Programs are rooted in hands-on experiential learning geared toward professional development and honing outdoor skills, community-building, preservation of natural resources and adventure.

Gap Year Experience

College-age participants in our Gap Programs spend time immersing in the communities and landscape of Montana’s Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Like all VISIONS experiences, our Gap Programs are rooted in hands-on experiential learning geared toward professional development and honing outdoor skills, community-building, preservation of natural resources and adventure.

Gap Year Experience

College-age participants in our Gap Programs spend time immersing in the communities and landscape of Montana’s Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Like all VISIONS experiences, our Gap Programs are rooted in hands-on experiential learning geared toward professional development and honing outdoor skills, community-building, preservation of natural resources and adventure.

Ages 17 – 23
Spring: March 1 – April 26
Fall: September 3 – October 29

Ages 17 – 23
Spring: March 1 – April 26
Fall: September 3 – October 29

LIFE-CHANGING GAP PROGRAMS IN MONTANA

Immersion programs take place in the field on ranches, farms and wildlands. Here, between the wild and urban, participants in our ambitious hands-on  projects discover the connections between the land, community and ourselves.

“I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love.”

John Steinbeck

Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Gap Philosophy

GROUNDED IN HANDS-ON PROJECTS, EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING AND OUTDOOR ADVENTURE.

Like all VISIONS experiences, our U.S. Gap Programs are rooted in the immersion of a place. Rather than a travel-based experience, our university-aged participants settle into the Rocky Mountains of southwest Montana, in the middle ground between the wild and the urban, to learn about endangered environments and ways of life in the West.

  • HANDS-ON PROJECTS. Immerse in farm and ranch work (varies by season) to foster a deeper connection to the land, complemented with community service work with local nonprofits like the Food Bank and Hopa Mountain, which invests in rural and tribal citizen leaders.

  • COMMUNITY BUILDING. Connect sincerely with people of different backgrounds and interests—not just with other participants, but with locals from the farming, ranching and conservation communities.
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE. Head into the backcountry of Montana to learn about and connect to wild nature, to understand how to take care of it and find harmony with it. Build outdoor skills in order to participate in backcountry life in safe, experienced ways. Depending on the season, courses might include Wilderness First Responder, avalanche safety or ecology. 

*Please note that this is not an extreme wilderness program. Our options are accessible to everyone who enjoys spending time in nature without pressure.

Gap Philosophy

GROUNDED IN HANDS-ON PROJECTS, EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING AND OUTDOOR ADVENTURE.

Like all VISIONS experiences, our U.S. Gap Programs are rooted in the immersion of a place. Rather than a travel-based experience, our university-aged participants settle into the Rocky Mountains of southwest Montana, in the middle ground between the wild and the urban, to learn about endangered environments and ways of life in the West.

  • HANDS-ON PROJECTS. Immerse in farm and ranch work (varies by season) to foster a deeper connection to the land, complemented with community service work with local nonprofits like the Food Bank and Hopa Mountain, which invests in rural and tribal citizen leaders.

  • COMMUNITY BUILDING. Connect sincerely with people of different backgrounds and interests—not just with other participants, but with locals from the farming, ranching and conservation communities.

  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE. Head into the backcountry of Montana to learn about and connect to wild nature, to understand how to take care of it and find harmony with it. Build outdoor skills in order to participate in backcountry life in safe, experienced ways. Depending on the season, courses might include Wilderness First Responder, avalanche safety or ecology. 

*Please note that this is not an extreme wilderness program. Our options are accessible to everyone who enjoys spending time in nature without pressure.

OUR HOME

SETTLE INTO THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN RURAL WEST

Much of your time will be spent on a historic homestead at the base of the Bridger Mountains outside Bozeman, Montana, where Lewis and Clark once camped with Sacajawea. Rural life and rugged beauty define this home away from home. Read more about the VISIONS Ranch here.

  • SETTLE into the modest ranch house that’s equipped with two bunk rooms, bathroom, living room and kitchen, and our large wall tents with wood stoves for sleeping and meeting space.
  • PREPARE locally sourced meals and participate in the chores that keep a western homestead running.
  • JOURNEY to the backcountry, farms and ranches of the Greater Yellow Ecosystem that serve as our classroom during VISIONS Gap programs.

EMBRACING WORK THAT MATTERS

CONNECT TO THE LAND AND ITS PEOPLE

Through hands-on local service projects and place-based curriculum, participants experience local culture and connect with some of the most diverse ecosystems in the contiguous United States. You’ll dig in on the frontlines of ecosystems and livelihoods that are under threat, learning the life skills and gaining the professional training to help preserve them and move forward sustainably.

  • VOLUNTEER with farmers, ranchers and environmental organizations.
  • WORK the land, renovate historic barns, and plant and harvest crops.
  • FOCUS on sustainable agriculture and natural resource preservation.
  • PRACTICE and discuss ways to implement solutions that build a bridge to the world we want for ourselves and generations to come.

EMBRACING WORK THAT MATTERS

CONNECT TO THE LAND AND ITS PEOPLE

Through hands-on local service projects and place-based curriculum, participants experience local culture and connect with some of the most diverse ecosystems in the contiguous United States. You’ll dig in on the frontlines of ecosystems and livelihoods that are under threat, learning the life skills and gaining the professional training to help preserve them and move forward sustainably.

  • VOLUNTEER with farmers, ranchers and environmental organizations.
  • WORK the land, renovate historic barns, and plant and harvest crops.
  • FOCUS on sustainable agriculture and natural resource preservation.
  • PRACTICE and discuss ways to implement solutions that build a bridge to the world we want for ourselves and generations to come.

GAP MODULES

All VISIONS Gap Year programs encompass the following core learning modules, which follow Project Drawdown’s 2020 climate solutions to reach drawdown: the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline.

MODULE 1

REDUCE SOURCES & BRING EMISSIONS TO ZERO

BUILDINGS & MODERN HOMESTEADING

  • Learn hands-on construction skills and help build and repair ranch infrastructure. 
  • Learn how to take into account the natural landscape and incorporate designs developed by past programs. 
  • Examine ways to enhance efficiency and utilize clean energy sources.

INDUSTRIAL PROCESS & MATERIALS

  • Learn solutions for reducing waste and dependence on fossil fuel-based energy. 
  • Explore the ways we reclaim and redirect program waste and instead use it as resources for shelter, soil health and plant growth.

FOOD SYSTEMS & SECURITY

  • Learn to reduce food waste (and with it, the resources used and greenhouse gases emitted to produce it).
  • Learn where your food comes from, including partaking in activities like the field harvest of a bison. 
  • Learn about the nutrition potential from animals that spend time in natural environments, as well as their benefit to the health of the land and wildlife habitat.
  • Prepare and create memorable meals with your peers, utilizing organic and local food, including local produce, wild game (if available) and bison.

SHIFT AGRICULTURE PRACTICES

  • Feel the earth on your hands and feet as you work in the fields at a cattle ranch and a sustainable farm in the Paradise Valley, both of which practice strategies for regenerative land management. 
  • Examine holistic approaches to regenerating soil and agroecosystems, irrigation efficiency, carbon sequestration and managed grazing practices. 
  • Engage in ranch work like building fences for wildlife and bridges for riparian health, and harvesting produce. 
  • Gain first-hand appreciation for the complexities, culture and rewards of farming and ranching.

MODULE 1

REDUCE SOURCES & BRING EMISSIONS TO ZERO

BUILDINGS & MODERN HOMESTEADING

  • Learn hands-on construction skills and help build and repair ranch infrastructure. 
  • Learn how to take into account the natural landscape and incorporate designs developed by past programs. 
  • Examine ways to enhance efficiency and utilize clean energy sources.

INDUSTRIAL PROCESS & MATERIALS

  • Learn solutions for reducing waste and dependence on fossil fuel-based energy. 
  • Explore the ways we reclaim and redirect program waste and instead use it as resources for shelter, soil health and plant growth.

FOOD SYSTEMS & SECURITY

  • Learn to reduce food waste (and with it, the resources used and greenhouse gases emitted to produce it).
  • Learn where your food comes from, including partaking in activities like the field harvest of a bison. 
  • Learn about the nutrition potential from animals that spend time in natural environments, as well as their benefit to the health of the land and wildlife habitat.
  • Prepare and create memorable meals with your peers, utilizing organic and local food, including local produce, wild game (if available) and bison.

SHIFT AGRICULTURE PRACTICES

  • Feel the earth on your hands and feet as you work in the fields at a cattle ranch and a sustainable farm in the Paradise Valley, both of which practice strategies for regenerative land management. 
  • Examine holistic approaches to regenerating soil and agroecosystems, irrigation efficiency, carbon sequestration and managed grazing practices. 
  • Engage in ranch work like building fences for wildlife and bridges for riparian health, and harvesting produce. 
  • Gain first-hand appreciation for the complexities, culture and rewards of farming and ranching.

MODULE 2

UPLIFTING NATURE’S CARBON CYCLE

AGROFORESTRY & PERMACULTURE 

  • Participate in permaculture classes and learn to design landscapes that mimic patterns and relationships found in nature. 
  • Discuss how even the smallest landscapes and plots of earth can yield food for yourself and community needs. 
  • Draft your own permaculture design for future use, and possibly implement it on location at the ranch.

PROTECT ECOSYSTEMS

  • Embark on hiking and skiing adventures (dependent on program season) to discover firsthand how forests and their ecosystems are powerful carbon storehouses, and how the protection of forests enables ongoing carbon sequestration and healthy diversity of flora and fauna.
  • Learn from guest conservationists and professors how to protect our wildlands from a future of human disturbance. 
  • Travel to Jack Creek, a 4500-acre preserve near Big Sky Ski Resort to learn about animal biodiversity, current conservation efforts, human interaction, disease and adaptation, as well as federal policies and possible roadblocks to sustainability.

LAND USE & CONSERVATION

  • Meet with community ranchers, activists and locals to learn about conservation leadership on private lands throughout the community. 
  • Delve into how conservation came of age, and discuss potential conservation efforts and solutions to increase sustainability. 
  • Understand the risks facing rural values from increased recreational interest and resource extraction. 

At the end of each program, participants will have a solid understanding of how the protection of private lands also protects cultures, traditional practices, ecosystems and, ultimately, the climate.

MODULE 3

IMPROVE SOCIETY

 COMMUNITY & COLLABORATION

  • Live with a group of students on a historic ranch ten minutes from downtown Bozeman, Montana. 
  • Experience the rhythms of life that yield a connection to self, each other and the natural world through living, working and cooking together. 
  • Make lifelong friendships, all while learning tenets of leadership, communication, collaboration and community building that are woven naturally into the program.

CULTURAL SHIFTS

  • Understand how methods of story and art can shape culture and collective belief, and how they can shift behaviors and create new ways of operating. 
  • Learn some of the methods and techniques of storytelling through film, photography and writing. Hear guest speakers from the film and photography industry discuss their processes.
  • Receive mentorship as participants embark on telling their own stories for future climate and equality solutions.

POLICY SHIFTS & COMMUNITY SERVICE

  • Learn tools for effective advocacy to make your voice heard, in order to advance solutions while stopping sources of the problem. 
  • Hear from guest speakers and partner organizations on how you can become an advocate for change across local, state and federal campaigns. 
  • Participate in volunteer projects like packaging food for individuals and families in need, and helping a local nonprofit that serves Native American reservations throughout Montana.

MINDFULNESS & PROFESSIONAL TRAINING

  • Partake in classes and activities throughout each program to develop mindfulness, emotional intelligence and leadership skills to create a more livable future.
  • Learn essential and pragmatic hands-on life skills while discovering topics and professions of interest. 
  • Acquire certifications and skills like Wilderness First Responder certification, Avalanche Certification, skiing and snowboarding instruction, basic carpentry, ranching, farming, wildlife biology, outdoor skills and more (varies by season and program).

MODULE 3

IMPROVE SOCIETY

 COMMUNITY & COLLABORATION

  • Live with a group of students on a historic ranch ten minutes from downtown Bozeman, Montana. 
  • Experience the rhythms of life that yield a connection to self, each other and the natural world through living, working and cooking together. 
  • Make lifelong friendships, all while learning tenets of leadership, communication, collaboration and community building that are woven naturally into the program.

CULTURAL SHIFTS

  • Understand how methods of story and art can shape culture and collective belief, and how they can shift behaviors and create new ways of operating. 
  • Learn some of the methods and techniques of storytelling through film, photography and writing. Hear guest speakers from the film and photography industry discuss their processes.
  • Receive mentorship as participants embark on telling their own stories for future climate and equality solutions.

POLICY SHIFTS & COMMUNITY SERVICE

  • Learn tools for effective advocacy to make your voice heard, in order to advance solutions while stopping sources of the problem. 
  • Hear from guest speakers and partner organizations on how you can become an advocate for change across local, state and federal campaigns. 
  • Participate in volunteer projects like packaging food for individuals and families in need, and helping a local nonprofit that serves Native American reservations throughout Montana.

MINDFULNESS & PROFESSIONAL TRAINING

  • Partake in classes and activities throughout each program to develop mindfulness, emotional intelligence and leadership skills to create a more livable future.
  • Learn essential and pragmatic hands-on life skills while discovering topics and professions of interest. 
  • Acquire certifications and skills like Wilderness First Responder certification, Avalanche 1 Certification, skiing and snowboarding instruction, basic carpentry, ranching, farming, wildlife biology, outdoor skills and more (varies by season and program).

ADVENTURE

Outside of the core modules, each program offers fun and exciting outdoor adventures to help you gain a greater sense of self, inspire a lifelong love of the outdoors and a conservation ethic, and create group comradery. Backcountry trips and outdoor excursions include backpacking, hiking, climbing, rafting, ski touring, snowshoeing and ice climbing (varies by program and season). No previous experience is necessary, as our leaders will teach you everything you need to know.

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VISIONS Featured In The New York Times!