KEEN Effect Grantee: Bringing Kids Back to (Snow)School
Not all classrooms have ceilings. We love it when kids can get outside to explore nature and learn from it. Through KEEN Effect Youth Grants, we want to help build a future full of strong communities and a healthier planet—and we believe it starts with reconnecting children to the outdoors through recreation, education, and stewardship activities. So we were excited to get this update from one of our 2018 grantees, Winter Wildlands Alliance, which helped get 60,000 kids outside last year!
By Kerry McClay, Winter Wildlands Alliance
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,” says 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.
Brian 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 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.
“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,” he says. “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,” Brian says.
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, Brian 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 and Mountain Safety Research for helping make this project possible!
Walking the walk since 2003, we’ve donated more than $18 million in cash and shoe donations to nonprofit organizations and causes around the world, including grants for programs that build strong communities and inspire responsible outdoor participation. Visit keenfootwear.com/grants for more about the KEEN Effect grant programs.