The Resilience of SnowSchool: Reports from the Field

Winter outdoor education beats the odds and makes it happen here, there and everywhere!

Photo Credit: Rob Wade

The winter landscape can be a powerful teacher. Through SnowSchool students and educators explore their local winter wildlands on snowshoes, and along the way the natural world provides ample opportunity for rich experiential learning. With their curiosity in the drivers seat, students examine snow crystals under macroscopes, perhaps cut snow blocks for an igloo and fervently dig snow pits to track the depth and density of their local mountain snow. Here, kids and teachers can work together to follow wildlife tracks in the snow, and engage in rich discussions about how winter wildlife adapts to this beautiful but sometimes unforgiving environment. Exploring winter wildlands in this way is an experience we think could benefit every child across the snow-belt.

It likely goes without saying that its been a tough winter for many schools, educators, students and their families. Despite the array of pandemic-induced challenges facing education programs this winter, SnowSchool sites and educators across the country have shown strong resilience and an impressive ability to adapt to challenging circumstances. In snow-covered forests, mountains, parks and schoolyards across the country, educators and teachers have found ways to introduce kids to the wilds of winter. For example, despite the pandemic and a historically destructive wildfire season, students and teachers in Northern California’s Lost Sierra (pictured above, courtesy of Plumas County Unified School District) still made regular field excursions from their schools to their local snowpack to go snowshoeing, explore winter ecology and track snow water content!

In a typical winter our network of 70 sites (and growing) engage 35,000 students in snowshoe-powered explorations of their local winter wildlands, many for the first time. Check out some other good news and happenings from SnowSchool programs across the country below!

Bogus Basin (National Flagship Site)

From Kathy LeCheminant, 5th Grade Teacher ( Bogus Basin SnowSchool Attendee) 

“Thank you so much for having us at SnowSchool this year. There were some really big wins for my wiggly crowd. Students were excited to spend the day outside. They were asking their SnowSchool leaders great questions. They dealt with snowshoe challenges without complaint. They explored the outdoors, climbed into igloos and did belly slides with enthusiasm.”

Washington County, Maine

Students at our newest SnowSchool site, Downeast Coastal Conservancy, (and first ever in Maine) scope out some animal tracks! Every year WWA helps communities across the country establish new SnowSchool programs for their local youth. This year we’ve laid the foundation for new program launches in Maine, Idaho, Colorado, Utah and Alaska and look forward to sharing the results and impact later this spring!

Colorado Front Range

SnowSchool students at Wild Bear Nature Center (Nederland, CO) build a snow replica of their local watershed to learn about the connection between mountain snow and their water supply!

Idaho City, Idaho

Basin School District students catch up with the NASA / Boise State University snow drone research team as they conduct a snow survey at the school football field!

Sandpoint, Idaho

A 5th grade student works on completing their crystallography experiential activity as part of their data collection in the field at Selkirk Outdoor Leadership & Education (SOLE) in north Idaho.

Park City, Utah

Students got out for the first time at another new SnowSchool site, Wasatch Mountain Institute, to enjoy the curriculum and explore their winter backyard.

The Impact of SnowSchool