By Kerry McClay, National SnowSchool Director for Winter Wildlands Alliance
“So the snowpack is only about 20% water?!” It’s a bluebird day at Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area in the Boise National Forest, and a group of students from the local high school are standing in a 5 ft deep snow trench they’ve dug themselves. Marching out into the forest on snowshoes they’ve used depth probes, density cutters and spring scales to measure snow-water equivalent (the estimated water content of the snowpack), and are discussing their findings with a snow science graduate student from the nearby university. The low water content of the snowpack is coming as a surprise to a few of them. Later these students will analyze snow crystals with macroscopes, cut snow blocks to make an igloo, and eventually take their findings back to the classroom to compare it with historical snowpack data. This is SnowSchool and through this program 28,000 K-12 students are annually introduced to the wonders of winter!
Remember your high school snow science class? Right, didn’t think so. Though mountain snow supplies up to 80% of the water in many communities in the western United States, it remains an understudied topic among scientists and the general K-12 population. To fill this void Winter Wildlands Alliance has been developing the SnowSchool program for nearly 10 years. Historically most of the participants at SnowSchool’s 45 sites have been fifth graders, but Winter Wildlands Alliance has recently piloted a new experience for middle and high school science students. Thus a program that was originally conceived as a simple snowshoe field trip for elementary school kids has evolved into a hands-on learning experience based on space-age science. Read More →