Coming soon….A Mountain Field Campus for Local Youth

High 5 Grant brings SOLE one step closer to providing an enclosed and permanent location from which to educate and empower underserved rural youth through the transformational experiential and outdoor education programs it provides.

June 24th, 2019 — Underserved rural youth in Bonner County and beyond will soon have a Mountain Field Campus where they will be able to explore and learn about their winter wildlands and the greater Lake Pend Oreille Watershed.  Leading the charge is Sandpoint-based, Selkirk Outdoor Leadership & Education (SOLE). SOLE’s effort has been generously supported by various local and regional partners, including the recent addition of the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health and the City of Sandpoint with a  grant award of $28, 413.64. Through support from the High Five Community Transformation Grant, SOLE is one step closer to completing a major $70,000 fundraising campaign to establish a Mountain Field Campus at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. This will serve as a hub to educate and empower our underserved local area youth through outdoor physical activity.  

A SnowSchool Experience program student studies snow science to include completing a snow pit profile and studying crystallography.

“It is our vision that this community multi-use facility will serve as an outdoor learning center to educate and empower our underserved local area youth through purposeful place-based experiential and outdoor education programs which utilize mountain-based outdoor recreation as the mode of travel.” ~ Dennison Webb, MA | Founder & Executive Director 

In addition to the previously mentioned partners, SOLE has garnered support from local business, agencies, and corporations to ensure that our local area youth have affordable access to the intentional experiential education programs that SOLE offers.  These partners have included, Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Bonner General Health, Kochava, Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters, The William Wishnick Foundation, Panhandle Alliance for Education, Innovia Foundation, Equinox Foundation, and Lake Pend Oreille School District, along with the contributions of many generous personal donors. With continued support, SOLE’s will not only reach their fundraising goal, but they will also be able to actualize their vision of providing affordable and accessible experiential education programming for underserved local youth throughout the year.  You can get involved and learn more about this community effort by contacting SOLE at info@soleexperiences.org | 928.351.7653 or by making a tax-deductible donation to SOLE’s Mountain Field Campus Campaign here.

Students snowshoe with their Field Instructor Team to into their winter wildlands.

Since 2010, SOLE has been focused on providing intentional and transformational experiential education programs for youth in the Sandpoint community, and beyond. SOLE’s programs have reached well-over 3,000 underserved rural youth, most notably through SOLE’s signature program – SnowSchool Experiences.  In partnership with the Boise-based nonprofit, the Winter Wildlands Alliance, SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program provides novel, on the snow, hands-on outdoor experiences, where students are able to explore and learn in their winter wildlands through lessons related to snow science, winter ecology, conservational literacy, avalanche awareness, and outdoor living and travel skills.   While there are 66 SnowSchool sites nationwide, SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program at Schweitzer was recognized as a National Flagship SnowSchool Site in 2017, becoming only the second site to receive this designation. In addition to this prestigious recognition, SOLE  earned regional accolades in 2017, when it’s SnowSchool Experience program received an Innovation Award from the Idaho Nonprofit Center for its innovative approach to education, specifically its novel E-STEM place-based experiential education curriculum.  

SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program receives the 2017 Innovation Award from the Idaho Nonprofit Center. Shown here is SOLE’s Executive Director (Dennison Webb, MA, Center Left); SOLE’s Education Advisor and Board Member (Joy Jansen, PhD, Center Right), and partners PAFE Board Member (Geraldine Lewis, Left) and Innovia Foundation staff member (Molly Sanchez, Right)

Learn more about SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program by watching the video below and going to SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program webpage here.

SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program which was highlighted in the 2017-2018 Winter Wildlands Backcountry Film Festival. This was the first time a SnowSchool program was highlighted in the world-renowned film festival which makes over 100 stops world-wide.

Initially, The Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health awarded a Community Transformation Grant to the City of Sandpoint to fund projects that encourage healthy eating and physical activity for children.  The $250,000 grant was awarded from High Five, the Foundation’s childhood obesity initiative. The allocation of the grant funds was determined by the Bonner County Coalition for Health, which partnered with the Foundation to identify projects that supported either increased physical activity and access to healthy, affordable foods.  SOLE is extremely grateful to have been selected as one of the recipients of the High Five Grant. 

Stay tuned for SOLE’s progress in establishing the Mountain Field Campus at Schweitzer Mountain and news regarding how the local youth are utilizing and benefiting from it.

SnowSchool Snow Storm!

With the start of spring, the SnowSchool Experience  program season has come to a close. During the 2016-2017 season, this transformational experiential education program served over 591 program participants, including over 494 youth, totaling 3,318 instructional hours! It has been a whirlwind of a season, and the snow was been exceptionally fantastic this year totaling over 215 inches of fresh powder creating a snowpack to remember.

SnowSchool Experience program data from the 2016-2017 winter season.

SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program, is a unique interdisciplinary experiential education program teaching lessons related to outdoor living and travel skills (introductory snowshoeing, avalanche awareness), snow science, watershed conservation and winter ecology.  You can learn more about SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program here.  For those new to SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program you can also watch it in action by checking out our film below,  which was selected as finalist for the 2016-2017 13th Annual Backcountry Film Festival and it’s the first time a SnowSchool program has been highlighted!

5th grades students in Lake Pend Oreille School District create line graphs to compare and contrast fieldwork findings to historical trends. A 5th grade math learning standard.

Middle school student from Clark Fork Junior High School studies snow crystals utilizing a crystal card and magnifying loupe.

True to SOLE’s nature SnowSchool Experience programs are purposefully designed, and usually include (3) distinct experiential programming days, to include (1) day in the classroom to frontload learning objectives and orient students to their new learning environment; (1) day in the field to collect and analyze data, while having some good ‘ole fashion fun, and (1) day back in the classroom to further analyze data and wrap-up their experience.  This intentional design ensure that we are able to meet student objectives and learning targets.

Once in the field, it was a privilege to watch the students’ amazement by the sheer amount of snow that they got to examine and study. Over the course of a day on the snow, 5th – 12th grade youth learned how to complete a snow pit profile to include analyzing storm cycle and weather events, temperature variations in the snowpack, Snow Water Equivalency (SWE), density and hardness of the snowpack.  In addition, they were able to explore and learn about the ecology of their winter wildlands, while connecting those concepts to the health of the ecosystem and watershed. Of course, we could not end the day without proper belly sliding technique and practice, accompanied by a nice hot cocoa.

Students from Clark Fork High School learning and practicing companion rescue as part of an avalanche awareness portion of our SnowSchool Experience program.

Lake Pend Oreille High School Water Chemistry student collecting snow density data in the snowpit during her SnowSchool Experience.

SOLE also continued our middle and high school SnowSchool Experience program with several schools, including Clark Fork Junior / Senior High School, as well as, Lake Pend Orielle High School. SnowSchool Experience curricula at this level includes our novel snow science and avalanche awareness program.  The snow science portion is grounded on a project-based learning framework, know as the The Confluence Project – a comprehensive watershed-based interdisciplinary curricula. Students complete fieldwork related to studying and assessing water conservation needs, to include assessing and analyzing our snowpack.  They then investigate local watershed-based environmental threats and develop a hypothesis and experiment to test their theory.  All findings are presented at the Idaho Youth Water Summit in juried fashion.  In addition, our secondary SnowSchool Experience students participated in avalanche awareness curriculum which included both the Know Before You Go and fieldwork related to assessing the avalanche phenomena, including companion rescue, completing a thorough snowpit profile and stability assessments.

Ruthie and Lance testing out their snow cave.

Another highlight included our expansion of our Weekend SnowSchool Experience program for new field campus sites, and even the continuation of our FREE event for the Sandpoint Winter Carnival – a family-friendly event focuses on winter play and learning about our local winter wildlands.

During Sandpoint’s Winter Carnival we started the cold, crisp day trekking through the deep snow looking for tracks. As we explored, our group found some snowshoe hare prints, a perfect time to play games that highlight winter adaptations of the animals that thrive in the Selkirk winter ecosystem and the habitat where they might live. This of course led us to building our very own habitat – a snow shelter like a snow caves, such as the one pictured on the right.

Did you know that a large number of animals live in the subnivean zone in the Winter? (Sub-Under; Nives-Snow). Learn more at the highly talked about Wild Kratz episode here.

Hope Elementary celebrating some awesome Belly Sliding!

The winter did hold some environmental challenges, but that was overshadowed by the successes! Some highlights of the winter was working with Hope Elementary who had to be rescheduled due to a snow day, and they got a rain day. It was pouring the whole time, but the students had the best attitude, learned a lot and FLEW while belly sliding. The day was full of laughs and learning! We even got to model some “Gucci wear” aka, plastic bags to help keep the rain out. It was a day to remember!

 

 

5th grade students from Ramsey School of Science in the Coeur D’ Alene School District enjoying their plate crystal formation up at our new field campus site at Silver Mountain Resort!

We also brought new schools into the fold this year, including Ramsey School of Science in the Coeur d’Alene School District up at Silver Mountain. The 5th graders had a great time learning about winter ecology and snow science. They really enjoyed looking at the snow crystals and it showed by their life size imitation of some of the crystals they encountered (see image to the right).  The students could also not get enough of the game Camouflage where they mimicked native winter critters like snowshoe hares and ermine’s adaptation to turn white in the winter. Basically a big game of hide and seek. We learned fairly quickly that the neon jacket wearers were almost always spotted first.

Overall, the season was a success! We had a great group of instructors, a happy ensemble of students and a lot of snow to play in.

SOLE Outreach & Events Cooridnator | Field Instructor, Maegan Ward with a 5th grade crew in one of many snowpits during the 2016-2017 season!

A very SOLE-ful THANK YOU to everyone who helps support this transformational experiential education program, including but not limited to our hosts Schweitzer Mountain and Silver Mountain and our sponsors, partners and funders who make this and other SOLE programs possible.  

We look forward to seeing out on the snow next year!

Cheers!
Maegan Ward
Events and Outreach Coordinator | Field Instructor
maegan.ward@soleexpreiences.org

 

SOLE-Ful Seven Series: An Interview with Erik Olson

img_4549Erik lives in Sandpoint with his wife and 2 kids, a daughter in 1st grade and a son in 2nd. As an active member of this community, Erik is Principal of Farmin Stidwell Elementary School (where all the 5th graders go to SnowSchool) and has been a member of SOLE’s board for a couple years with a strong passion for the outdoors.

 

MW: What brought you to SOLE?
EO: I moved here from Greenbay, Wisconsin, and I grew up where NOLS is (Lander, Wyoming). We used to call them NOLS-ys; they were the tree huggers! When I was asked by Joy to be a part of SOLE, strictly because I was part of the school community, I was staggered by the amount of kids who had never been on Schweitzer, so giving that opportunity to the kids was awesome. It’s interesting too that SOLE has this unique opportunity to give this to the kids, and I like seeing the level of engagement that our kids had with SnowSchool.

MW: What is your favorite part of being in this community? (Sandpoint/N. ID)
EO: I grew up in the outdoors, in the Windriver Range near Lander, WY, and I had outdoor opportunities growing up. I would drive up the mountain and ride my mountain bike whenever I wanted, but the mountains weren’t right there; you had to drive 2 hours to get to them. So I decided with my wife and kids that we wanted to be where we had the opportunities that are available here and now we take advantage as much as we can.

img_4376MW: What is your favorite Outdoor Experience? Most memorable?
EO: I have two, I was the tripping director at a YMCA camp and I was in charge of the offsite trips. Through that experience we had a lot of foreign staffers and I connected with this fellow from Australia, a crazy Australian climber. I was pretty into climbing at the time and growing up in Lander, it was a huge climbing community. He wanted to go climbing and so we road tripped and drove to Devil’s Tower. We slept in my car and then climbed it. It’s technical climbing but I trusted him so much; it took us about 6 hours to climb, 8 hours total. It was a huge experience that I just loved.
The other one was I was involved in scouting, and we had a great, active Boy Scout group. Our leader would give us so many opportunities to go on hikes. I was young, and I had the opportunity to go The Boundary Waters, and it was awesome. We canoed forever.

MW: What is your passion in the outdoors? Favorite recreational activity?
EO: I like it all! Moving here I definitely have taken up skiing, my family we weren’t really avid skiers but took it up. I do a lot of trail running, and from time to time mountain biking. In WY it is cold so in the winter we hunker down, so it’s a nice change of pace. The whole family skis now!

MW: What are you most excited for this season?
EO: I definitely love the SnowSchool piece, I am glad the district is picking up those loose ends because it has been so positive in this community and for those kids. I love that SOLE is getting exposure not only in this community nationally and beyond (because of our film SnowSchool: Exploring our Winter Wildlands being selected as a finalist in the Winter Wildlands Backcountry Film Festival)

img_4645MW: What has been your favorite SOLE experience so far?
EO: Picking up trash! Kidding. No, my kids have been in the Junior Naturalist Program for a couple summers, and when they come home from that experience they want to go back. My daughter was 5 and she didn’t want to go, but after three days she wanted more, and ended up going to the week long program later.
I also love the Backcountry Film Festival. It’s a good chance to expose SOLE and its mission to the public.

MW: Do you have a favorite Deschutes beer? Which one and why?
EO: Mirror Pond Pale Ale is pretty good. Inversion. Fresh Squeezed. It’s all good! I am an IPA guy, so any IPA I am good with.

 

Get to know Erik 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: Exploring our Winter Wildlands (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 Mary Weber-Quinn

dmarshall_pafeboard2016_dsc_5618Mary has her Masters in Interpretation and after some stints in the National Park Service and Rocky Mountain Academy, Mary now works up at Schweitzer Mountain Resort as the Director of Events and Activities. She has three daughters who grew up skiing at Schweitzer and still live here. Although new to SOLE’s Board of Directors, she has lived in Sandpoint for over 20 years and feels strongly that getting kids outside is vital for their emotional and physical well-being. Mary is passionate about providing opportunities for kids to “use winter” and believes that SOLE has the expertise to show them how.

 

MW: What brought you to SOLE?
MWQ: SOLE came to me. I met Dennison through SnowSchool at Schweitzer and talked a lot and worked together on a plan to bring SOLE up to the mountain. I worked with experiential education in the past and worked with Clark Fork, so it was really appealing to work with SOLE. I appreciate what they do and have an understanding for what they do and I just really wanted to help out.

MW: What is your favorite part of being in this community? (Sandpoint/N. ID)
MWQ: Friends and family; it’s the wonderful people that I know here and it is a great place to raise my kids; they are still living here. I like the recreational aspect of this community. Essentially, I like the “vibe”. There is not one thing that stands out.

MW: What is your favorite outdoor experience? Most memorable?
MWQ: When my kids were little they couldn’t ski all day, and we would have picnics just barely out of bounds up at Schweitzer. We would just stomp out an area right past the rope and have a picnic, it seemed so far out in the backcountry, but it wasn’t. Now it’s in bounds near Stella. It was just really cool, and some good memories.

MW: What is your passion in the outdoors? Favorite recreational activity?
MWQ: My passion is peacefulness; it is a place where everything is quiet. I don’t have to do anything, I can just be. I can go for a long hike if I want to but I don’t have to. It is the peacefulness of being. My answer would have been different 30 years ago. If I want to be skiing I would love it, or hiking but I don’t have to be driven to do or accomplish something I can just be.

MW: What are you most excited for this season?
MWQ: Skiing again! I haven’t skied in a year. I haven’t really skied in about two years, because I had my knee replaced so I am going to re-learn. I am excited to see if I can ski; I just got some new backcountry skis. I will probably just go out in that and then move onto alpine gear.

MW: What has been your favorite SOLE experience so far?
MWQ: Going to Colburn Lake with the Clark Fork kids. The kids were great and the lake is a special place. We hiked out so they could see what the lake was like.

MW: Do you have a favorite Deschutes beer? Which one and why?
MWQ: Fresh Squeezed because it’s light and hoppy.

Get to know Mary 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!

 

Version 2Maegan 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

Exploring SOLE’s Junior Naturalist program…

SOLE’s Junior Naturalist Experience SM program offers a rich environment for developing a love of and stewardship for nature, strengthening self-esteem and confidence, and building leadership and outdoor skills.  Centered on a healthy balance of unstructured free-play and experiential place-based education, children are able to develop cognitive and social skills while also experiencing a rich interdisciplinary curricula that allows children to become immersed in the magic of their community’s natural resources.

Children walk away with a profound reverence for nature and exploration that they can carry into their future.  The skills they learn in the Junior Naturalist Experience SM program will help them solve real-world problems, become a stronger team member, strengthen themselves physically and mentally, and share compassion for all things living.

We have noticed that families that have offered their children this experience has enriched the whole family.  From scientific findings to lessons integrated in folklore and silly games – children bring home the fun and transferable lessons from their Junior Naturalist Experience SM.

My participation in instructing SOLE Junior Naturalist Experiences SM this summer has been one of great joy.  Sharing my passion for nature is something I have studied for and dreamed of.  After leading many different camps for various organizations, I find that SOLE offers the liberty to build a unique and creative curriculum with the flexibility to follow the children’s interests and other learning opportunities that inherently arise.

See you out there,
Hallie Reikowsky
Field Instructor

Click the following link to learn more about our Junior Naturalist Experience SM program.  Click the following link to learn more about Hallie or other SOLE Field Instructors.