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Kids in the snow

By on February 25, 2020 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments
Fifth-graders from Clovis Point Intermediate School take a break from snowshoeing while teacher Joe Anderson shares information on the snow they are sitting in.

Learning goes both ways when school kids get fitted with snowshoes

By Joe Anderson

In the fall of 2018 I was asked by Sara Rolfs to get involved in taking elementary students snowshoeing.

Since I was a retired schoolteacher, EMT, retired ski patrolman and the present snowshoe guide for Mission Ridge, she thought it would be a perfect fit. It was.

On my first assignment in December of 2018, I was asked to teach 25 first graders how to snowshoe. Oh my goodness! They were so cute.

They got off the bus all smiles and eagerness in the Squilchuck State Park. I placed them in a circle and with the help of volunteer parents and their teacher, we finally got all their snowshoes halfway on.

I played a few games and took them on a little hike. After all, they needed to learn how to walk on their new feet.

 One part I was not ready to see was when I stopped, they would immediately sit down and rest. I liked this idea and will incorporate that into my retirement lifestyle. Who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks?

Marjie Lodwick, from the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, explains the importance of snowpack in our watershed. Students make observations of the different layers in the snowpack and what the layers indicate.

It was during the rests that I taught them about snow. Well, I discovered I did not know enough about snow, the snow pack and its importance.

I asked them what they thought about snow and one little red cherubic face said, “It was cool and good to eat.” Another little one said, “It is white and I need to go to the bathroom!” I looked at their teacher and she said, “Welcome to my world.” I had to laugh.

That was my introduction to the National Snow Science program. I had two more trips in January of 2019. One of the groups had 125 fifth graders from Clovis Point Intermediate School.

Fortunately, in the fall of 2019, I learned more of the National Snow Science curriculum and have been tutored by Heather Inczauskis from the North Central Regional Library where she is outreach coordinator for the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) program. I also attended a National Snow Science educational training this past winter learning more of the curriculum.

The last two outings were spearheaded by teachers Angie Alto and Heather Striver at Clovis Point Intermediate School. They arranged for 145 fifth graders on one morning and 110 fifth graders on the next. Once each teacher had their classes separated, a Snow Science teacher was assigned to each. We then taught them how to put on their snowshoes and did a few fun activities for learning about their new feet.

In my group of 27, we headed off on a one-mile hike. 

When we stopped to rest at different times, we discussed the importance of the snowpack to our rivers, streams and agriculture. We discussed droughts in different parts of the country and how our snowpack protects us.

We also visited on how the snowpack protects us from the possibility of wildland forest fires.

I was impressed with the questions coming from the fifth graders. One boy asked about the migration of the deer and elk. Another said, “My Dad told me that the snow was important to fill the lakes so we can fish.”

One girl pointed out the rabbit tracks. I let her share with the others about the different animal tracks and how to see them in the snow. It was so cool.

One of the program founders, Angie Alto, said, “The Snow Science/Snowshoeing program is so important to our students. The Leavenworth Fish Hatchery, North Central Regional Library STEM program, Wildfire Project, and Kids in the Forest make this incredible opportunity happen for our students. Students learn the importance of the snowpack, our watershed, local forests, ecosystems, and stewardship of lands. This is the highlight of the year for many of our students.”

Sara Rolfs said, “It is exciting to see how the program has grown in the last four years. The first year there were about 75 students involved and this year there will be over 600 students along with the chaperones and teachers.” 

 It is fantastic to see the rising popularity of snowshoeing and how it’s getting people experiencing the winter wonderland.

 There are now a number of snowshoe excursions put on by other organizations in the community. The local libraries have snowshoes available that can be checked out by the general public. Snowshoeing provides a great low-cost way for people to embrace the winter and snow along with burning lots of calories.

Come out and join me in the good life of snowshoeing and when you get tired, you can learn something from first graders too by just sitting down and resting.

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