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.

Welcome the Newest Member to SOLE!

Version 2“Life starts all over again when it starts to get crisper in the fall” -F. Scott Fitzgerald

Just like how I find most of the passions in life, I stumbled upon the love for snow. Growing up in Northern Idaho, I found myself resisting snow recreation and any knowledge about the outdoors in the winter. Like a large portion of kids, I snuggled up in the warmth of the indoors and just waited for the summer to return to the North. It wasn’t until I finally came to my senses in high school that I started to explore. I started as a snowboarder and truly enjoyed being on the mountain, but admittedly, did not adventure out past the hill. It wasn’t until a chance encounter with SnowSchool at the flagship site at Bogus Basin did my love for winter really flourish.

I was in Boise working towards my Bachelors in Environmental Studies, and to graduate I needed an internship. I was extremely active in College, being president of the Sustainability Club and involved in the Environmental Studies Association, as well as a large number of random clubs. This is where I met Kerry McClay, the director of the site at Bogus, who gave us some fliers looking for interns and it sounded perfect. I started heading up the mountain 3 days a week, working with kids from low socio-economic areas of town, most had never even seen more than a foot of snow in their life. It was one of the most fun, impactful experiences that I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of. Whether it was teaching students about the very active subnivean (beneath the snow) zone, to digging snow pits, or playing games demonstrating the adaptations that the animals have to survive, or sliding down hills on our bellies; each student left with more knowledge of winter, and a better understanding of the importance of it, as well as a sense of awe.

In the midst of getting students to love the winter, I fell in love myself. There is something quite magical about winter, the glow it has, the crisp feeling to the air and the mystery of it. As I became more enamored, I studied more about the snow so I could teach more. Then the season ended, and it was time to move on. However, that passion translated to my new career path of doing outdoor education. I spent the last 4 years travelling around the Northwest and Alaska teaching students about the science in the outdoors. Helping them experience the things they learn about in school. Giving them the awareness of how cool and interesting nature is. But I never forgot about Snowschool and how much I enjoyed enjoying the winter with students.

This brought me back home. I found SOLE when I was doing research on where I was heading next. The mission of SOLE lined up with what my thoughts and passions are, and I reached out hoping to get involved. I love that SOLE is near home for me and I can help make an impact on the students in Northern Idaho. I want to share my passion at home where I know there are kids who are underserved and need experiential education. Even though Northern Idaho is a winter wonderland, there are so many students who have never had the opportunity or means to explore the wilderness we have here, not only in the winter but the summer as well. I am excited to work with SOLE because they are providing these transformational experiences that will give these students the passion that I have gained, and an understanding of the importance of keeping the wilderness wild.

Let it snow!img_4113

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