Introducing Kids to Winter

Welcome to SnowSchool. A bright yellow school bus pulls up to a frozen parking lot in the middle of winter. The doors swing open. Out come dozens of fifth-graders wearing puffy jackets, mittens, and hats. Today, these students are going to strap on snowshoes, romp around in the snow, dig pits, study snow crystals, and learn about their watershed. 

Winter’s Education

SnowSchool is a bridge connecting kids to the world of snow science and winter recreation. Our curriculums are designed for kindergarten to high school and combine a field trip to the snow with classroom presentations. Students learn about hydrology, winter ecology, wildlife, and snow crystals. They also make a vital connection between the snowpack—the largest reservoir in the West—and the water they drink every day.

Who We Work With

Every year, SnowSchool works with 35,000 students at 70 sites across the country. For many of these students, winter is a new experience. A majority attend Title 1 schools with large populations of low-income families. For more than half, SnowSchool is their first time strapping on a pair of snowshoes. Our educators are volunteers who want to share their passion for winter and adventure with kids—some are even SnowSchool alumni.

A girl in a pink parka holds her arms outstretched in a winter setting.

“Snow is perfect for kids. You can romp around in it, dig a pit in it, measure it. You can do all of that and collect information that is relevant to science at the highest level. ”

—Kerry McClay, director of SnowSchool

SnowSchool Sites

There are 70 SnowSchool sites located across the country that host students in their winter playgrounds—from Nordic ski areas to nature centers. Our flagship site is at the Bogus Basin Nordic Center, just 16 miles away from downtown Boise, Idaho. Here, every fifth grader in the Boise School District attends SnowSchool.

A Classroom Without Ceilings

Winter is a powerful learning environment. As students hike into the forest on snowshoes, there are plenty of teachable moments when the natural world presents something exquisite. A group might pass a set of wildlife tracks between the trees. Or maybe they will find pinecones gnawed by a squirrel. Or perhaps they will hear a bird’s distant song.

Every day of SnowSchool includes three essential activities designed for students to explore the snowpack firsthand. Students dig a snowpit to the ground and measure the depth. They take a sample of snow to measure its density—a test known as the Snow-Water Equivalent. Finally, when everyone is sitting in the snow, volunteers ask students to build a snow-replica of their watershed. Hands-on experiments like these cement the learning opportunity SnowSchool provides.

SnowSchool and NASA

Starting this year, we are adding a citizen science element to connect students with scientists at NASA who are developing technologies to measure the snowpack remotely. On-the-ground data recorded by the students will be used to compare the results of remote sensors deployed by NASA’s SnowEx program. One day, SnowEx hopes to launch a snow satellite mission that will measure the amount of snow in the mountains globally, all the time.

Host a Site

We’re always looking to grow with new educational groups, grassroots partners, or volunteers who want to establish a new SnowSchool site. Our curriculum is designed to be easily implemented anywhere the snow falls.

Contact SnowSchool