Guest writer Kerry McClay
Do you remember the first time you ventured out into the forest to explore the quiet wilds of winter? For some, such memories conjure up a sense of wonder at the fascinating mysteries locked in snow and ice. For others this experience is forever linked with a sense of freedom and the inherent joy in a snow-cushioned romp with friends. Snow connects kids to nature like few things can, and for thousands of students across the country the SnowSchool program is their first introduction to winter wildlands. Providing students and educators with the necessary snowshoes, science curricula, equipment, training and wild winter places to explore is the purpose of Winter Wildlands Alliance’s innovative program. Having added a stream of new sites every winter since 2001, SnowSchool is now 55 sites strong and engaged 29,500 students last winter!
Winter Wildlands Alliance’s SnowSchool program is built on a partnership with Atlas Snow-Shoe Company and collaborations with dozens of non-profits organizations across the US “snow-belt”. For example, one of WWA’s newest SnowSchool sites is in Nederland CO at Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center. With Atlas’ generous SnowSchool program discount, Wild Bear’s Executive Director Jill Dreves was able to purchase youth snowshoes and worked with WWA to launch a new SnowSchool site in late 2014. The new sites’ momentum has continued to “snowball”, and this winter Wild Bear got the entire Nederland Elementary school outside on snowshoes near Mud Lake to explore their local mountain snowpack! During their adventure the kids learned about winter adaptations, followed animal tracks and studied snow science. And because SnowSchool explorations are hands-on, fun and connect back to further learning in the classroom, participants are transformed into passionate student scientists and snowshoe explorers!
To find out more information about SnowSchool, how to establish a new site or get involved visit www.snowschool.org.