SnowSchool 2020-21 Season Wrap-Up

After a winter full of fun and snowy outdoor explorations: our latest SnowSchool season is a wrap!

While we are already planning for the coming winter, we put together this season-end report to update everyone on all the SnowSchool developments made possible by your support. Thanks so much, we couldn’t have done this without you! 

SnowSchool at Home: Virtual Learning

To address the unique challenges presented by the pandemic, we began actively developing a robust SnowSchool at Home curriculum in the summer of 2020. Our goal was to bring fun outdoor SnowSchool experience to students wherever they might be (backyards, virtual classrooms, schoolyards, local parks etc) this winter and for many years to come.

With help from SnowSchool Educators nationwide we developed 50+ hands-on winter activities and snow science experiments that K-12 students did every week of the winter, right out their back door! 

SnowSchool Program Scope and Impact

As we do at the end of every SnowSchool season, we’ve 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 (as well as our online participants), we estimate that SnowSchool engaged over 34,000 participants across 70 active SnowSchool sites and in snow covered backyards nationally!

We had to count things up a little different this year with the launch of our new SnowSchool at Home project (as referenced above) so these participation numbers reflect both snowshoe-powered outdoor experiences at traditional SnowSchool sites and SnowSchool at Home snow science participation in backyards and schoolyards! Approximately 50% of the students served qualify as underserved and of the students who snowshoed this winter over half were doing so for the first time. Also, SnowSchool engaged thousands of adult chaperones, parents, K-12 teachers and volunteer educators this winter.

We’d love to share a few quotes from some of our educators, teacher and students this season:

“My favorite thing was the digging because of all the layers of snow I saw!”

– SnowSchool Student

Photo Credit: Boise State University / John Kelly (on the ancestral lands of the Shoshone-Bannock and other Nations)

“I will never look at snow the same way!”

– Elementary School Teacher

Photo Credit: HP Marshall (on the ancestral lands of the Shoshone-Bannock and other Nations)

“The [SnowSchool at Home] videos provided greater flexibility for our teachers with a lot of use by kids and parents!”

– SnowSchool site leader

Photo Credit: Boise State University / John Kelly (on the ancestral lands of the Shoshone-Bannock and other Nations)

Other 2021 SnowSchool Success Stories

To help launch the new SnowSchool at Home project, WWA hosted the first ever National SnowSchool Conference (virtual) in November 2020. Over 60 educators from SnowSchool sites nationally attended the conference and the group worked collectively to brainstorm new ways to engage youth during pandemic-stricken winter. Click the link provided to view some excerpts from the conference.

Every year we help communities across the country connect kids with their local winter wildlands by establishing new SnowSchool sites. Most recently we welcomed The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies in Homer AK and the Elevated Digital Learning Academy from the Lake Tahoe Unified School District. These amazing sites successfully engaged students in outdoor SnowSchool experiences this year and we look forward to supporting their efforts to grow their winter programs in 2022!

Another success story this year was our unique partnership with NASA snow scientists via the NASA SnowEx campaign! This year students in the SnowEx flight path collected snowpack data as citizen snow scientists. Additionally WWA began developing a new instructional video series based on NASA SnowEx snow science techniques and we recently released the first several videos. Look for a complete SnowEx series coming soon! Additionally, SnowSchool students and teachers across the snowbelt participated in NASA snow science through our collaboration with Community Snow Observation. If you didn’t participate this year put it on your calendar for next winter!  

Also this winter SnowSchool kids and adults nationwide analyzed and tracked mountain snowpack levels via our Snowpack Prediction Contest. Through this activity students accessed remote online weather stations from their classrooms, made predictions about mountain snowpack levels and then compared their predictions to actual snowpack data in their own local watershed. By combining snow science with fun outdoor exploration, SnowSchool is helping kids build an emotional connection to winter wildlands and a greater understanding of the important role of mountain snow in their communities! Learn more about the results of the Snowpack Prediction Contest here.

The Trail Ahead

With your support we aspire to continue our efforts to sustain the number of SnowSchool sites nationally and enhance the overall experience for every student. We envision a thriving national program (despite the challenges of the pandemic) that will foster rich ecological literacy in our communities and introduce generations of kids to the wonders of wild winter exploration.  Again, thank you! Your involvement and support makes SnowSchool possible.