SnowSchool: Crystallizing Knowledge

STEM and snow science themed spring break camp makes an impact at the national flagship SnowSchool site.

Photo courtesy of Bogus Basin SnowSchool

From Kerry McClay, WWA SnowSchool Director (4/19/2024)

What happened at SnowSchool during Spring Break?

Oftentimes, “Spring Break” is associated with road trips to warm weather zones. However, at the National Flagship SnowSchool Site (located at Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area), leaders Dirk Anderson and Josie Meyer had something different in mind for the mid-March school break.

This year, they piloted a new Spring Break camp focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and themed around snow science and winter ecology for 20 campers aged 9-12. This pilot program became possible thanks in part to the support of the Idaho STEM Action Center’s Out-of-School grant fund, enabling Bogus Basin to acquire new snow science tools and equipment. Participant registration and transportation were facilitated through a longstanding partnership with the City of Boise’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Photo courtesy of Bogus Basin SnowSchool

What Was Camp Like?

In the context of WWA’s national SnowSchool program, the Bogus Basin SnowSchool site serves as an important “curriculum laboratory” where educators have consistently developed and tested new experiential education ideas over the last 20 years. In the latest of these experiments, Meyer developed a 5-day progressive vision for the new camp.

  • The first day focused on classic SnowSchool snow science activities, such as digging a snowpit to measure snowpack depth and assessing snow-water equivalent. Additionally, campers met with a former USFS hydrologist and current water education specialist.
  • Day 2 included a focus on plant and animal winter adaptations, while Day 3 centered on experiencing “a day in the life of a snow scientist.” This day featured a visit from WWA’s National SnowSchool Director, who led the students through a citizen science project and explored the history of Boise State University’s NASA SnowEX campaign conducted in the Boise National Forest.
  • The final two days of the camp had students designing and presenting the results of their own STEM inquiry project. And of course, during the 5 days, there were plenty of opportunities for winter fun, including snowshoeing, belly sliding, and building snow shelters.

Photo courtesy of Bogus Basin SnowSchool

What Is Next?

The next step in the development of this idea is for it to be encapsulated in a new SnowSchool Curriculum and Activity Guide and shared across the National SnowSchool Network. 

Photo courtesy of Bogus Basin SnowSchool

What Is the History? 

Twenty years ago, Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area was where WWA first began working with CryoGARS Snow Scientists at Boise State University and the US Forest Service to design the SnowSchool experiential curriculum that is now widely used across the country.

With this model, SnowSchool became a bridge connecting K-12 students to the world of snow science and winter recreation. Growing into a 72-site network along the snow belt, the curriculum is designed for kindergarten to high school and connects hands-on outdoor learning in the snow to further science explorations in the classroom. Students learn about hydrology, winter ecology, wildlife, and snow crystals. They also explore the vital connection between the snowpack—the largest reservoir in the West—and the water they drink every day.