Spring Roundup Gap Program

57 Days

Ages 17 to 23
Connecting to Earth as Student, Volunteer & Explorer

57 DAYS | TUITION $13,900
 to APRIL 26 

57 DAYS | TUITION $13,900
 to APRIL 26 

Spring Gap Overview

From snow covered mountaintops to vast river corridors and glaciated plains, discover a big sky view of the breathtaking Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Look at the landscape through the lens of an ecologist, exploring the connections between land, wildlife, civilization and climate. Explore the Rocky Mountain backcountry by way of foot, ski and sled, and learn about land elements, sustainability and renewable resources. Live at a historic ranch in the foothills of the Bridger Mountains and volunteer with local food producers who depend on natural resources for their livelihood. Explore newfound interests, deepen your skillset in pragmatic hands-on life skills, and build an ethic of stewardship. Be an important member of an inclusive community and forge new paths together for a sustainable world all with the spirit of humor, cooperation and reflection.


– 57 DAYS –

The Montana Spring Roundup Gap program examines ways we can step forward as change agents for issues fundamental to sustainability and equality. Set in Montana’s beautiful mountains, the curriculum combines outdoor adventure with hands-on and experiential learning. Following some of Project Drawdown’s 2020 climate solutions, including improving society, reducing sourcing, bringing emissions to zero and uplifting nature’s carbon cycle, participants will discover how to implement solutions and build a bridge to the world we want for ourselves and generations to come. Please note this itinerary is subject to change.


Together with a group of college-aged peers, participants will live, work, cook and learn on a historic ranch in Bozeman, Montana. Exploring social capital theory, you will experience a life that yields a deeper connection to self, each other, and the natural world. With commitment, collaboration and communication, the possibility that there is a better path toward the future can become a reality.

March 1: Welcome to Montana 

Welcome to Gallatin Valley, Montana, which Native American tribes called “the valley of the flowers.” Located at Kelly Creek Ranch, just ten minutes from downtown Bozeman, you’ll spend the next eight weeks nestled next to alpine peaks and mountain streams learning the rhythms of ranch life, and also taking excursions to diverse landscapes of southwestern Montana.

March 2 – 3: Orientation

As you relax into your new home, we’ll set aside time to draft your goals for the experience ahead, discuss leadership roles, expedition behavior and shared responsibility. During orientation, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the area and get to know your peers.



More than a third of the world’s food goes uneaten, bringing unnecessary use of land, resources and greenhouse gases. The program kicks off by delving into our food systems and security. Through hands-on activities, students will examine ways to reduce food waste, connect more to our food, learn where it comes from, and move food from farm to fork.

March 4: Culinary Arts

Our neighbor, Gallatin Valley Botanical, is a certified organic and sustainable farm. We’ll strap on cross country skis or snowshoes (no experience necessary!) and pick up produce for dinner. The afternoon will be spent in smaller cooking groups for lessons in culinary basics, reducing food waste, and creating delicious meals with simple and local ingredients.

March 5: North Bridger Bison 

Travel through Bridger Canyon to Wilsall, Montana, to spend the day on North Bridger Bison Ranch. Rooted in principles of holistic management and regenerative agriculture, ranch owner Matt Skoglund (former Northern Rockies Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council) will share his knowledge about local food and environmental policy issues. You’ll take part in the field dressing and evisceration of the bison, done with honor for the animal and the land that supported it. We’ll enjoy bison meat for dinner, with a stronger connection to our food and the earth. (Vegan and vegetarian options are always available.)

March 6: Buffalo Tanning & Processing 

Using the hide harvested in the field the day before, students will learn the process of tanning from a cultural anthropologist who has been working with bison hides most of his life.

In the afternoon, we’ll delve deeper into the culinary arts with master hunters passionate about hunting for their food and utilizing all parts of the animal. Participants will learn the techniques of cutting, packaging and preparing wild game and bison.

March 7: Composting 

When food waste sits in landfills, it decomposes without oxygen and produces methane. With help from a local composting company, you will learn ways to keep food waste out of landfills and instead contribute to a rich nutrient cycle through composting methods that will be used throughout the program.

March 8: Rest Day & Capstone Introduction

Throughout the program, each participant will have an opportunity to delve further into a topic of interest, called a capstone project. This project can take a creative form, including film, photography, writing, music, or other methods of your choosing. At the end of the program, each participant will present their capstone.



– AND –    

           IMPROVE SOCIETY:               


During this program segment, we will shift our lens from food systems to two interconnected themes: reducing resources and improving society.

With industry and building, we will explore ways to use efficient and circular materials while learning ways to build that minimize energy and use clean energy alternatives to reduce emissions. This engaging module will also include doing some construction projects that incorporate repurposed materials and are part of broad goals for low-impact infrastructure.

Meaningful cultural shifts happen when individuals become advocates for change. We’ll explore ways to make your voice heard through discussion with friends and partners, including a mindfulness course and storytelling. This section will also include a Wilderness First Responder course. (Participants who already are WFR certified should contact us to discuss alternative programmatic options.)

March 9 – 12 Mornings: Mindfulness Workshop  

Utilizing a course from Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (an organization that works with Google and the United Nations), you will embark on a personal journey to develop a practice of mindfulness, resilience, motivation, empathy, compassion and leadership. The program provides practical tools that can be implemented immediately.

March 9 – 12 Afternoons: Modern Homesteading  

Spend afternoons learning about modern homesteading techniques. We will also explore ways to use clean energy sources to heat, warm water and prepare meals. Participants will have the opportunity to learn some basic construction skills and delve into the world of self-sufficient living.

March 13: Rest Day & Skiing

For those interested in alpine skiing, hit the slopes at the nearby Bridger Bowl ski area. For those not as experienced on skis, you can also elect to take a ski lesson, embark on a cross-country ski tour, or go for a hike. Or, enjoy time to yourself! This is also an excellent time to work on your capstone project.

March 14 – 16: Industrial Processes & Materials 

For the next few days, we will be staying in nearby Pony, Montana. Participants will sleep in wikiups or an earth lodge with design principles originating from the northern Great Plains Indians. You’ll immerse yourself in the natural world and learn how to meet survival needs with little more than your bare hands. Using scavenged resources, we’ll explore ways to achieve energy independence..

March 17 – 19: Cultural Shifts & Policy Shifts 

Storytelling and art are powerful means of shaping our culture and shifting belief systems. Guest speakers from the film and photography industry will discuss their processes and provide mentorship as you embark on telling your own stories for climate and equality solutions.

We will also participate in a workshop to learn about ways to advocate for change across local, state and federal campaigns. Learn the tools for effective advocacy, and make your voice heard!

March 20: Rest Day & Capstone 

Take a well-deserved rest. Enjoy some free time and work on your capstone project.

March 21 – 28: Wilderness Medicine 

Switch gears and travel to Jack Creek Preserve, a 4500-acre preserve near Big Sky Ski Resort, for a Wilderness First responder Course. This fast-paced and fun 72-hour course taps into anatomy and physiology, as well as the fundamentals of saving someone’s life. The first part of the class will be learning the basics of injuries and illnesses in challenging environments. In the remaining four days of the course, you will practice hands-on scenarios that occur in remote environments. Upon successful completion, participants receive their Wilderness First Responder and adult CPR Certifications.



This portion of the program examines ways to support and enhance natural processes, protect the ecosystem, let land renew, and maintain a healthy diversity of flora and fauna. Specifically, we will look at ways to sequester more carbon in biomass and soil. We’ll study ways ranchers and farmers are using alternative agriculture practices for carbon sequestration.

March 29: Rest Day, Capstone & Introduction to Backcountry Skiing  

Enjoy a day of relaxation before our overnight backcountry ski tour in Yellowstone National Park!

March 30: Introduction to Backcountry Skiing & The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem 

This day will be spent fitting gear and packing for Yellowstone. No previous experience is necessary; instructors will teach you everything you need to know! That evening, a wildlife biologist from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition will give an introduction of the Yellowstone Ecosystem to prepare us for our time in the region.

March 31 – April 2: Yellowstone National Park Scenic Ski Tour 

Yellowstone National Park is the core of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the largest nearly intact temperate-zone ecosystems on earth. Participants will discover the majesty of the area, cultivate awareness for the protection of forests, learn about conservation efforts to monitor predator populations, understand how human interactions affect the ecosystem, and discuss federal policies that are roadblocks to sustainability. Plus, you’ll learn the basics of ski touring, build a snow cave and go winter camping!

April 3 – 4: Rest Day & Capstone 

Back at the ranch, warm up by the fire after your camping trip in the Yellowstone backcountry. Take time to unpack, relax and work on your capstone.

April 5: Archeology Talk & Museum of the Rockies

Explore the Museum of the Rockies, a Smithsonian affiliate recognized as one of the world’s best history and research museums. The museum has regional and natural history exhibits, including an extensive collection of dinosaur fossils. Participants will also hike around the ranch with an archeologist to learn more about the area’s history, Lewis & Clark, Sacajawea and Fort Ellis. Consider how the land looked in the past, the development of today, and ways to renew it for a better future.

April 6 – April 10: Permaculture Workshop & Sustainable Farming 

Every morning this week, we will work with a permaculture expert who will instruct how to design a homestead that mimics natural forests and land, produces healthy, organic food and achieves high rates of carbon sequestration. Participants will plan and create permaculture designs, observe water and sunlight patterns, and determine ways to mimic a forest ecosystem with berries, fruit trees and perennials. The ultimate step is to develop the next phase of a permaculture plan and create a sustainable and edible landscape.

We will be working on the ranch and at neighboring Rocky Creek Farm during the afternoons. Get your hands dirty and help the farm prepare their summer crops. Learn about Rocky Creek’s alternative agriculture practices, including cover cropping, crop rotation and interplanting, all of which preserve the soil, avoid emissions, and sequester carbon. Become more connected to your sources of food, and leave each day feeling empowered as a farmer and a contributing member of the community.

April 11 – 12: Rest Day & Capstone

Enjoy a day of rest to regroup and reflect on everything you have accomplished and learned throughout the program thus far. Work on your capstone, embark on a hike or enjoy some alone time.

April 13 – 14: Shift Agricultural Practices 

Barney Creek Livestock in beautiful Paradise Valley will be the site of our next module. This family-owned ranch practices regenerative agriculture and raises grass-fed cattle. Through work on the ranch, you’ll learn about soil regeneration and agroecosystems, irrigation efficiency and managed grazing, all of which sequester carbon and enhance natural processes. Participants will also learn about the daily realities of ranching in the Rockies.

April 15 – 16: Land Stewardship & Conservation 

Local ranchers, activists and locals will share their knowledge about conservation leadership on private lands. Topics include how conservation came of age and solutions to increase sustainability on private lands. Partner organizations will discuss their work with landowners and rural communities whose cultures and values are at risk due to resource extraction and recreation interest. Participants will learn how protecting private lands also protects cultures, traditional practices, ecosystems and, ultimately, the climate.



The final stage of the program will return to improving society. We’ll explore ways to learn from cultures and communities that both have and have not sustained human-nature symbiosis. Examining this present time of transformation, we’ll look at methods to pursue climate action in ways that heal. Through commitment, collaboration and ingenuity, we can forge a better path.

April 17: The Richest Hill on Earth 

Butte, Montana, was once known as the “richest hill on earth” for its copper deposits. The Berkley Mine was shut down in 1982 and is now one of America’s largest Superfund Sites, making headlines when upwards of 25,000 migrating geese died after landing in the contaminated water that now fills the mine. We will travel to Butte to discuss cleanup efforts and the environmental, economic and social repercussions of the mine decades later.

April 18 – 19: Native American Culture

We learn from the Native Americans who have sustained a human/nature symbiosis for centuries. Their observations about the natural world and connections between humans, animals and the ecosystem help illuminate the changes that the planet is undergoing. Our Native American friends will discuss their beliefs and culture, and how those relate to sustainability, resilience and climate change.

April 20 – 24: Final Week

The final week of the program will be reserved primarily for your capstone project, but also time for additional recreation activities and wrap-up workshops. Capstones are an opportunity to tap into your creativity and curiosities about programmatic themes. You will present your capstone to the group for review and collaboration. We will have a celebratory dinner on the last night, reflecting on all of our accomplishments, the community we have created, humor shared, adventures together, and ways in which we will all step into the future for a better self and world.

Celebrating 30 Years