The Winter Wildlands Alliance has introduced a new program for its members and anyone wanting to help introduce the next generation to America’s winter wildlands – especially children who may be prevented from attending school and extracurricular activities.
WWA’s SnowSchool program has developed a robust SnowSchool at Home virtual curriculum for grades K-12. Beginning on the Winter Solstice, SnowSchool rolled out hands-on winter activities and snow science experiments that students can do every week of the winter, from their kitchen or right out the back door.
Originally conceived in 2001 as a snowshoe field trip program for kids, WWA discovered the mountain snowpack is a powerful learning environment. Kids love snow, and when students get the opportunity to explore their local mountain snowpack on snowshoes, their excitement and motivation for engaging in science is enhanced.
Because a snow-covered national forest or state park is perfect for hands-on learning, SnowSchool allows students to explore off-trail, complete a snow-pit analysis, climb inside an igloo, follow animal tracks, conduct a snow-water equivalency experiment and investigate a winter ecosystem.
WWA partners with local organizations and provides key resources to bring this proven and powerful experience to diverse communities across the U.S. snow-belt. Nature centers, Nordic centers, national parks, ski resorts, schools and school districts make up the network of 70 SnowSchool sites that engage K-12 students from urban and rural areas each winter.
For the last 19 years, these sites have engaged more than 32,500 participants each winter. More than half of the students who participate are underserved, while also experiencing snowshoeing and snow science for the first time.
Most recently WWA’s snow science collaboration with the NASA SnowEx campaign has empowered students to become citizen scientists and participate in ongoing NASA research.
SnowSchool is made possible by thousands of outdoor educators, parents, chaperones, K-12 teachers, and volunteer educators who prioritized getting their youngsters outside last winter. All new and existing SnowSchool sites are modifying their approaches this year and working to bring the magic of being outside in the winter to kids’ backyards, schoolyards, public lands and virtual classrooms.