From the Winter Wildlands Alliance:
Dear Atlas Snow-Shoe Company,
SnowSchool is officially winding down for the year and we’ve put together this season-end report to update you on all the recent SnowSchool developments made possible by Atlas’ support this past year.
Program Scope and Impact
As we do at the end of every SnowSchool season, we’ve nearly completed our survey of SnowSchool sites to measure how many participants came through the program this winter. With surveys from most of our major sites in, we estimate that SnowSchool engaged over 33,000 participants across 65 active sites, with 54% of the students qualifying as underserved and 50% of the of kids never having been on snowshoes before! This winter SnowSchool engaged an additional 4,000 adult chaperones, parents, K-12 teachers and volunteer educators. A SnowSchool student had this to say about her experience:
“Dear SnowSchool- Thank you so much for taking us snowshoeing and telling us about wildlife, plus telling us about the water cycle. I told my brother about how fun it was and he can’t wat to go!” –Abbey, 4th Grade Student
Program Expansion: Every winter WWA brings SnowSchool to new communities across the country by working to establish new SnowSchool sites. By partnering with existing organizations WWA can provide the science curriculum, discount snowshoes, educational equipment, on-snow training, over-the-phone/email mentoring and fundraising events necessary to quickly launch a winter program to serve new populations of students. Our national expansion efforts were boosted this year by the first-ever SnowSchool film to appear in WWA’s Backcountry Film Festival. The film, SnowSchool Experiences, featured our Northern Idaho Flagship Site and provided audiences at 107 showings nationwide with a compelling illustration of the program. As a result of this additional exposure and our ongoing efforts, WWA added 8 new SnowSchool sites in the following locations: Idaho City ID, Fairplay CO, Mammoth Lakes CA, Livingston MT, Wenatchee WA, Leavenworth WA, Dillion CO and Plumas County CA. This was the most sites we’ve ever added in a year!
Helping Rural Kids Explore Public Lands: Many successful SnowSchool sites are located in nature centers, Nordic centers, national parks and ski resorts that engage thousands of kids from urban areas every winter. But in many rural and mountainous communities students don’t need to get on a bus and drive hours to a nature center to explore the wilds of winter– they have public land right out the front door of their school. Thus, to bring the SnowSchool experience to students in these rural communities WWA is actively working to develop a new “traveling SnowSchool” program model. The concept was piloted this winter with the US Forest Service at our new SnowSchool site in rural Idaho City. Snowshoes and volunteer leaders arrived at the school and classes of fourth graders headed out the door and onto National Forest land across the street! Look for updates on this project in the coming season as we work to connect all kids with nature and help them understand the importance of our nation’s public lands.
Connecting Students with Snow Science: The SnowSchool program is uniquely situated to help K-12 students explore connections between mountain snow, climate research and water science, topics that are particularly relevant in western states and communities where mountain snow provides approximately 80 percent of the water supply. To capitalize on this opportunity WWA forged a new collaboration in 2017 with the National Resource Conservation Service’s Snow Survey Program. Utilizing NRCS’s network of remote SnoTEL stations (which monitor mountain snow across the west) WWA created a new web-based science activity to follow-up the SnowSchool field trip. This “Snowpack Prediction Contest” enables kids all across the Western US to study decades of snowpack data in their local watershed, and transforms the SnowSchool experience from a one-day event into winter-long science project. Quantitative outcome data collected by WWA shows that underserved students make significant gains is science learning through participation. Fifty-five classrooms of students nationally participated in this project in its first year and WWA aims to expand in future seasons. By combining this innovative snow science curriculum with fun outdoor exploration, SnowSchool is creating for kids both an emotional connection to winter wildlands and greater understanding of the important ecological role of mountain snow.
The Trail Ahead
With your support we aspire to continue our efforts to increase the number of SnowSchool sites nationally and enhance the overall experience for every student. We envision a thriving national program that will foster rich ecological literacy in our communities and introduce generations of kids to the wonders of snowshoe exploration.
Kerry McClay, Ed.D.
National SnowSchool Director