Kids in Winter Wildlands Alliance SnowSchool run in the mountains and throw snowballs on snowshoes

We’re getting ready for another winter to get kids outside and in the snow!

As teachers and students across the country prepare to head back to the classroom this month, we’re also getting ready for the next season of SnowSchool. We’re especially excited to bring a new and expanded version of SnowSchool to school districts like the Basin School District in rural Idaho.

“At Idaho City High School and Basin Elementary School, we are implementing SnowSchool from kindergarten all the way through 12th grade.” said Superintendent Brian Hunicke.  “It’s a great way to get kids outside in the winter time, into nature, get them snowshoeing and involved in snow science and all kinds of STEM activities.”

To bring SnowSchool to students in the Basin School District, Hunicke and district teachers are making use of snow-covered forests, school district land, and U.S. Forest Service lands that surround the schools.

Hunicke worked collaboratively with WWA SnowSchool over the past year to develop a winter science curriculum suitable for engaging all students across the district, and this coming winter provides a pivotal opportunity to implement the increasingly refined plan.

“The kindergartners are coming out and learning some basics of snow and snowshoeing and then we’ve scaffolded the learning all the way up to 12th grade, where they are doing some snow surveys, integrating math, calculating slope, things like that.  And we have everything in between, a huge range of activities,” said Hunicke. “If we are lucky, we have about two months out of the year where we have a pretty fair amount of snow, so we are able to come out here and do math and snow science.”

We’re especially excited about Basin School District for another big initiative we’ve got planned this year: integrating our program with the NASA SnowEx citizen science project.

This NASA Earth Science mission aims to further advance new technology and remotely detect snow-water content from aircraft and, ultimately, an orbiting satellite. The Basin School District happens to sit in NASA’s 2019-20 flight path. NASA needs students to collect snow density samples and send their measurements to researchers so they can compare  on-the-ground data with information collected from the aircraft.

WWA ambassador and Boise State University snow scientist Hans-Peter Marshall is leading the mission. Several of the aircraft flight paths in California, Idaho, and Colorado will fly directly over SnowSchool sites, just like the Basin School District.  This project presents an exciting and authentic citizen science opportunity for SnowSchool students.

High-level science is certainly part of the SnowSchool curriculum, however, the ultimate goal of the program remains. We simply want to connect kids with nature in the winter.

“The nice thing about winter is it’s the perfect time to get kids outside. They are all stuck inside and they get a little antsy. This is the perfect time of year to get kids outside and get some exercise,” said Hunicke.

Every year, Winter Wildlands Alliance teaches dozens of educators across the country about fun and hands-on activities to do with kids in the winter.  After going through our SnowSchool training, Superintendent Hunicke showed the 8th graders in Idaho City how to cut igloo blocks using a snow saw. Every student got to cut a few igloo blocks and contribute to the finished product!

Big SnowSchool shout-out to our friends at KEEN Effect and Mountain Safety Research for helping make this project possible!

One last thing: The SnowBall semi-formal shindig is on the calendar for October 25, during our Wild Weekend. Mark your calendars and get your tickets. It’s going to be a super fun night of dancing, live music, and drinks!