My SnowSchool Experience: a Field Instructor’s look into one of SOLE’s transformational place-based experiential education programs

 

SOLE’s intentional experiential curriculum allows students to tap into various memory pathways greatly enhancing learning comprehension.  Photo Credit:  Dennison Webb

My goals as an environmental scientist are to provide accurate and relevant information to the community about our local ecosystems and I was able to do just that by teaching in the field and teaching in the classroom through SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program. My passion for mountain environments is what drives me to be an active member of environmental conservation efforts through work that promotes healthy, sustainable ecosystems, and the opportunity to work directly with young students in the community provided me the ability to utilize my education, experience, and passion the environment in a productive and effectual way.

SOLE’s well-rounded experiential curriculum allows for students to learn hands-on in the field, which I feel is such a valuable asset for young learners. Experiential education not only opens the door for students to witness first hand an environment they may not be familiar with, but I believe it also provides a sense of relevance and stewardship. Many of the students I worked with this season live in poverty and have never developed a personal relationship with the mountains because of it, and I feel that makes my work that much more important because it gives kids the opportunity to touch, and feel, and experience their own backyard. Snow School opens the door for students to understand that mountains are an important resource for everyone in the community.

Often underserved students struggle in traditional academic settings and may have special needs which need to be accommodated. These students often thrive in SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program.  Photo Credit: Dennison Webb

Working as a field instructor and a classroom teacher for SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program has allowed me to grow in a multitude of ways. Communication was the backbone of all my duties while working with students, and I was able to develop a strong ability to communicate effectively and efficiently with young students with a wide range of learning abilities. My public speaking and presenting skills grew each week as I gained more familiarity and comfortability with the material and I found myself noticing the strength of my teaching increase each week. Classroom management was a struggle for me at first, I had to learn how to manage agroup of up to 30 students in the classroom, and up to 10 in the field while maintaining a safe and engaging experience. This meant that I had to learn techniques to be a good leader and I had to question myself about what kind of leader I wanted to be. I found myself asking “what do I value in a leader?”, “what kind of leader do I want to be?”, and “how can I become a better leader?”. The answers to these questions gained more and more clarity with each group of students I taught. Each group had unique individual needs and it taught me how to be dynamic in my leadership based off what the students needed from me. I learned to embrace flexibility in my methods and I believe that will be a valuable skill that I’ll carry with me throughout my life.

SOLE SnowSchool Experience Field Instructor, Maggie Neer “frontloading” what snow science experiments students will do in the snowpit.  Photo Credit: Dennison Webb

My experience at SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program has been one that is full of personal and professional growth. I’ve developed strong leadership and teaching skills and fostered a friendship with local teachers and schools that’s allowed me to integrate into the education community. I feel that I’m leaving this season on a very positive note. I have new friends, a new community, new field and classroom skills, and a new outlook on leadership and education. I’m confident that these skills and connections will help me as I continue to pursue my career as an environmental scientist!

~ Maggie Neer, 2018 SOLE SnowSchool Field Instructor

To learn more about SOLE’s award-winning and nationally-recognized SnowSchool Experience program click here.

Interested in being an Intern or fully-fledged SnowSchool Experience program Field Instructor?  Click here.

SOLE-Ful Seven Series: An Interview with Dr. Joy Jansen

joy1Joy Jansen has her PhD in education with a focus on neuropsychological deficiencies. She is the Chair of SOLE, and lives outside of Sandpoint with her husband Dennison and their son, Hunter. Joy is very passionate about the work that SOLE is doing and the positive impact it has and can have on this community.

 

MW: What brought you to SOLE?
JJ: I have been a part of SOLE since the beginning, as Dennison is my husband. One of the reasons I am such an integral part of SOLE is because of the awareness and understanding of how important experiential and outdoor education is to the learning process. Experiential education ignites all areas of the brain. Through the engagement of all eight senses, all 5 memory pathways are engaged and thus, provides a natural avenue for the learning of new information and the retrieval of learned information. In addition, experiential education provides the opportunity for executive functioning skills to be practiced.

MW: What is your favorite part of being in this community? (Sandpoint)
JJ: The access to the outdoors for both recreation and education. It is a special place. I love the drive over the Long Bridge; it’s like crossing into a fairyland. Sandpoint also has very progressive community in a very rural place. Sandpoint is a place that understands and supports the importance of educating our youth.

joy2MW: What is your favorite Outdoor Experience? Most memorable?
JJ: I have had a lot, probably floating the Grand Canyon is one of my most memorable. It was my gift to myself for completing my doctorate. I love just being on the river. There is so much mysticism about floating the river, and there is definitely an energy down there. The canyon is a powerful place.

MW: What is your passion in the outdoors? Favorite recreational activity?
JJ: Floating the rivers. Water is very important element; it’s an essential element. I have a lot of respect for the water and for the rivers. It’s soul cleansing in a sense. And I love to climb, I always say it’s, “dancing with the rocks”. A tower climb in Utah was my first ever over 100-foot assent.

MW: What are you most excited for this season?
JJ: I am excited for the kids to get out on the snow; It is a great opportunity. Each year SOLE provides an experience for students that they may not have otherwise. It’s about helping students understanding the systems around them and how impacts them personally.

MW: What has been your favorite SOLE experience so far?
JJ: The Journey Experience. Building that curriculum, implementing that and seeing the direct benefits that we provided.

MW: Do you have a favorite Deschutes beer? Which one and why?
JJ: Unfortunately, I can’t drink beer.

1MW: Anything else you want to include in the blog? You want the community to know?
JJ: I think it is important to note the number of participants that have experienced SOLE.  Since inception SOLE has taught well-over 1200 students in only the 4 years of year-round programing. As such, SOLE has continued to ‘reach and teach’, and as a result, become a viable member of this community due to the intentional and transformational experiential education programming and services that we offer.  The experiential education programming that SOLE offers is not only needed in this community, but it is essential.   Words that come to mind when considering SOLE’s approach to experiential and outdoor education are – quality, intentional, and professional.  In fact, there is no other organization in Sandpoint that has the level of expertise that SOLE has.

Get to know Joy and the other board members at our SOLE-Ful Meet & Greet: A Pre-Backcountry Film Festival Event. It will be a great opportunity to see what SOLE has lined up for the winter, a chance at a ‘sneak peak’ of our film SnowSchool (to be featured in the international Backcountry Film Festival), as well as a look into the phenomenal silent auction and raffle prizes, all while enjoying some tasty brews from Deschutes Brewery. See you there!

 

Maegan Ward
Outreach Coordinator | Field Instructor
maegan.ward@soleexperiences.org

SOLE-Ful Seven Series: An Interview with Sadie Green

sadie_1In the third interview of our Sole-Ful Seven Series, we have Sadie Green, the Secretary of SOLE and a seasoned board member. She is a social worker who moved to the area from West Virginia a few years ago, and lives with her boyfriend and dog Ruuko.

 

MW: What brought you to SOLE?
SG: Basically, I have been around SOLE for a couple years. I went to a lot of the events, and I believe in what they do. They are good at what they do and that made me want to be a part of it. I’ve worked in some programs where I implemented outdoor activities and it has always been in my mentality, being involved outside.

MW: What is your favorite part of being in this community? (Sandpoint)
SG: Definitely all of the outdoor activities that are so readily available in all of the seasons. There is not a time when there is not something to do outside.

MW: What is your favorite Outdoor Experience? Most memorable?
SG: I did a week long horseback camping trip in Wyoming just outside of Yellowstone. It was fun having the horses and riding. Where my we camped (my Mom and two sisters) it was in this high meadow at like 6000 feet way up in the mountains. It was just barely over a mountain from Yellowstone. It was so peaceful. There was a stream running right through it. It was warm during the day and cooler at night, which made it perfect to warm up next to a fire. It was just fun, my sisters and I started quoting all of the cowboy movies we had seen, and tried to guess which movie the quote was from. It was fun campfire stuff like that which made the trip.

MW: What is your passion in the outdoors? Favorite recreational activity?
SG: Mostly I like hiking. Just being places, seeing new things, and seeing cool stuff. I also ski, canoe and swim. Just at water, by water, anything at the lake or something that I can bring my dog Ruuko to.

MW: What are you most excited for this season?
SG: Every year, I am just really excited to see the impact that SOLE has on the community, and each year it just seems to be greater than the year before. I also like to hear people talking about SOLE who don’t know that I am involved; it’s cool to hear the impact it has.

sadie_2MW: What has been your favorite SOLE experience so far?
SG: The Backcountry Film Festival is really fun. But another experience is when we first moved here, my boyfriend hurt his knee. This was when I first met Dennison, and I was so bummed because I didn’t have anybody to go with me (in the outdoors), so I did a LNT (Leave no Trace) hike to Harrison Lake and that was really fun. It was just a group of people going out, and I didn’t know anybody. Dennison made it a really good hike. That really showed me that SOLE really knows what they are doing.

MW: Do you have a favorite Deschutes beer? Which one and why?
SG: I love all their beer, and I just bought a Black Butte Porter. It is the perfect time of year for that beer.

Get to know Sadie and the other board members at our Sole-ful Meet & Greet: A Pre-Backcountry Film Festival Event. It will be a great opportunity to see what SOLE has lined up for the winter, a chance at a sneak peak into the phenomenal silent auction and raffle prizes, as well as enjoy some tasty brews from Deschutes Brewery. See you there!

 

Maegan Ward
Outreach Coordinator | Field Instructor
maegan.ward@soleexperiences.org

SOLE-Full Seven Series: An Interview with Kevin Knepper

kevin-knepper-head-shot2In the continuation of the SOLE-full Seven Blog Series, we have Kevin Knepper, another newer board member who wants to make a difference in this community. He works with several organizations, and lives on a ranch outside of Sandpoint with his family and a large amount of rescue animals.

 

MW: What brought you to SOLE?
KK: Joy and I have a relationship through the school district. She sits on my board (with another organization), and she has been talking about it for a while. I have a passion for anything kid related.

MW: What is your favorite part of being in this community? (Sandpoint)
KK: It’s really a wonderful place to raise our kids. That is why we came here. I like the small town vibe. There is a lot that comes with that but we could talk about that for hours.

MW: What is your favorite Outdoor Experience? Most memorable?
KK: We are a big horse family. I ride a lot and ski all winter long, but the greatest and hardest thing I have ever done was hiking the Grand Canyon 4 days in and 4 days out with 2 other guys. I don’t do men’s trips, my free time is what my wife wants to do and she kind of forced me to go. She said it would be good. I spent 8 days and had no contact with my family. It was physically hard and emotionally difficult. There was a lot of self-examination and it really helped me find out what was important to me and what I want to do better. I also ended up buying a chair for future trips because there was nowhere to sit for 8 days. It’s a tiny little chair that I can carry from REI.

kevin-dutsMW: What is your passion in the outdoors? Favorite recreational activity?
KK: Riding horses in the summer and skiing in the winter. We have a lot of horses. I like to just take off and trail blaze. Horse doesn’t need a trail. We just head up a mountain and the horse will take you. Although, sometimes you find yourself on the edge of a cliff. I am a hobby rancher. We have about 30 animals, all rescues except for the horses. Basically we get all the stuff that no body wants and they come to our house.

MW: What are you most excited for this season?
KK: I would like to see it (SOLE) take off a little bit, so it is ultimately sustainable, providing services for kids and adults. A year from now I would like us to be healthier, whether that is larger, or more operating reserves, just healthy, successful and sustainable. It’s fun to do something that is your heart not your badge.

MW: What has been your favorite SOLE experience so far?
KK: Three of my daughters have been to SnowSchool when they were in fifth grade. If they are on the mountain they will mention it, they still belly slide on the mountain when they get bored on black diamonds when skiing.

MW: Do you have a favorite Deschutes beer? Which one and why?
KK: Mirror Pond Pale Ale. I like a pale ale, not too hoppy.

Get to know John and the other board members at our Sole-ful Meet & Greet: A Pre-Backcountry Film Festival Event. It will be a great opportunity to see what SOLE has lined up for the winter, a chance at a sneak peak into the phenomenal silent auction and raffle prizes, as well as enjoy some tasty brews from Deschutes Brewery. See you there!

 

Maegan Ward
Outreach Coordinator | Field Instructor
maegan.ward@soleexperiences.org

SOLE-Ful Seven Series: An Interview with John Gaddess

johngaddess1In the next seven weeks, we will be releasing a blog post about one of our seven board members leading up to our SOLE-full meet and greet at Idaho Pour Authority on November 30th. To begin this series, we are starting with John Gaddess, a newer board member, who is passionate about SOLE and the impact it can have on this community.

 

MW: So, what brought you to SOLE?
JG: My wife was a college friend with Joy, and when we moved to Sandpoint, we ran into Dennison at the farmers market. Became friends with Dennison and I was introduced to SOLE through him. This was about 7 years ago.

MW: So what drew you to become a Board Member?
JG: I saw there was a need, and this seemed important. I love what they are doing, and I had similar experiences when I was a child that was life changing. I love that Dennison is bringing that here.

MW: What is your favorite part of this community? (Sandpoint)
JG: Well, there are multiple scales to this community; there is the town, neighborhood and county. THE favorite would be the “we are here together feeling”, camaraderie and the respect. You just say hi to people and meet people. I grew up in a large suburban community and no body interacts, you are just “one of the thousands”, but Sandpoint is a big small town. There are a lot of helping hands, a lot of togetherness here.

MW: What is your favorite outdoor experience? Most memorable?johngaddess2
JG: Oh, there is a lot. My first solo-backpacking trip in Glacier, around 2000. It was a learning experience. I had never been and went by myself. I did fine, did a lot of miles. I made a lot of friends who could tell that I was new, and helped me out. I didn’t have a camp stove, just a water purifier and pistachio shells. There have been a lot since then, I have had some great adventures and did cool stuff but that one sticks out the most in my mind. I was only about 19 or 20 at the time, and had wanderlust; I just wanted to do it.

MW: What is your passion in the outdoors? Your favorite recreational activity?
JG: Right now it’s disc golf and mountain biking. My favorite mountain bike got stolen and I still haven’t replaced it. Although I still have the lust for it. And backpacking. I am waiting to expose my family to mountain biking.
(He has two young children, one daughter almost to the age to mountain bike)

MW: What are you most excited for this season?
JG: I am excited for the programs that are offered. To see the continuation, that much more exposure and more kids. As a board member, I am excited for the opportunity to expose SOLE through the winter contacts, and excited to get the word out. There are people here in their 30-40’s who would be huge advocates, they would be into it. How SOLE attracts interest is from the community. We should “get some stickers out”; at least half the community would put stickers on their car.

MW: What has been your favorite SOLE experience so far?
JG: The energy, enthusiasm, creativity and professionalism of the board meetings are great. Maybe it’s a “honeymoon” phase, but we all very dedicated to it, and all the current board members are established professionals and accustomed to success. They will live up to what they commit to. I am excited to see what they can get done. I believe we can do great things.

MW: Do you have a favorite Deschutes beer? Which one and why?
JG: (laughs) I always joke about being sponsored by Deschutes. Lots of them are favorites. My favorite at the moment is Fresh Squeezed. Its full flavor, has lots of hops and piney.

Get to know John and the other board members at our Sole-ful Meet & Greet: A Pre-Backcountry Film Festival Event. It will be a great opportunity to see what SOLE has lined up for the winter, a chance at a sneak peak into the phenomenal silent auction and raffle prizes, as well as enjoy some tasty brews from Deschutes Brewery. See you there!

 

Maegan Ward
Outreach Coordinator | Field Instructor
maegan.ward@soleexperiences.org