Written by Ilyse Sakamoto, SnowSchool Educator
This winter I was invited, along with National SnowSchool Director, Kerry McClay, to go on the road to facilitate an in-person training at the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve SnowSchool site. Being one of the very few in-person, in-the-field opportunities this past season I was elated by this opportunity. Kurt Ikeda, former Education Specialist for Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, arranged for us to come out and lead a training for the entire staff of interpretive rangers.
The goal of the training was to bring the SnowSchool curriculum to life and model various activities that provide a more experiential learning experience for participants. Typically, we do this every season and across various SnowSchool sites around the country. However, due to COVID19, the opportunities to do so this season were limited. Thankfully, we were able to accomplish our typical training experience through leading an amended mock-SnowSchool day for the rangers!
We strapped on snowshoes (first time for two members of the group), tested out how well they were attached with some snowshoe rock-paper-scissors (or jan-ken-po for Japanese-Americans Kurt and myself), and headed out into the snow-covered landscape of Craters.
The beauty of the SnowSchool curriculum is that it allows for each site to bring it to life through a local lens that is relevant and honors the environment of that specific location, creating an experience that is truly place-based. During our day, we discussed how activities could be tailored to the unique and special environment at Craters.
One ranger, who has been leading SnowSchool for several years at Craters, mentioned his enthusiasm to incorporate some of the activities to enhance his lessons with a more hands-on element that still respected the delicate ecosystem of the Preserve.
During the outing we modeled the “3 Essential SnowSchool Activities”, a specific sequence of hands-on activities that helps students explore the connection between the snowpack and their local watershed. The rangers felt this new dynamic snow hydrology element would help round-out their already strong winter ecology activities! After lunch we brainstormed with the team about an upcoming outing with a local youth group.
With COVID restrictions preventing rangers from giving in-person tours, we sought to structure the experience in a way that could be done safely while maintaining an educational, experiential snow-based field trip for the participants.
Workshops such as these provide a great opportunity to collaborate with local SnowSchool leaders. The outcome is an improved integration of important SnowSchool curriculum elements that help create a more powerful learning experience for kids.
Personally, one of my favorite elements of this program is the people I get to share time with; this was no different. I left the training with a heart full from inspired conversations aiming to ensure a meaningful, fun, and informative SnowSchool experience for young students.