A summer of exploring, learning and develop a sense of belonging…

Ten sets of eyes are peeking from behind the trees, and little giggles burst out here and there. We are playing “Camouflage”, which is one of the favorite games for the eleven children in Session III of SOLE’s Junior Naturalist Experience SM summer camp program. Children ages four through ten are hiding in the forest, looking at the game leader, who is trying to spot them.

“I see you, Rhys!” says Sophia, our current leader. Her brother, a bold four-year-old, comes out smiling from behind his favorite hiding spot.

“What type of tree were you just hiding behind, Rhys?”  Rhys smiles and wiggles and tells me that it’s a western red cedar.  I then ask him, “how do you know that?”.

“Because of the bark, and the way the branches bend!” We high-five, and Rhys whispers to his sister that he can see somebody that she didn’t find yet.

The Junior Naturalist Experience SM Program is a 3 to 5 day place-based experiential education program, designed for children between the ages of four to ten to unplug and reconnect outdoors via exploring and learning in their local natural surroundings. Despite the noted age difference you might say – there’s a method behind the madness.  First, Nature Detectives (ages four to six) attend for the first three days, and Nature Explorers (ages seven to ten) come for full five days.  Secondly, I noticed how beautifully intentional how committed the older children were to their roles as leaders and responded towards their younger peers. When given the opportunity to guide, model, and mentor the younger children Nature Explorers blew me away at every turn.  This also, allowed me to come to appreciate the intentionality of SOLE’s program design.

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“We are very grateful for your program, my son LOVED IT and just couldn’t stop talking about what he was doing each day!”  

~ Junior Naturalist Experience Parent, 2017

The purposeful program structure to provide leadership opportunities for youth in the Junior Naturalist Experience SM Program, and all of SOLE’s programs, is just one example of the intentionality of SOLE’s program design that I have come to appreciate.  The other is the purposeful curricula that they use in the field.

Place-based, experiential education lessons are also blended with outdoor free-play. The children aren’t just hearing about their world they are also seeing, feeling and even smelling the wonders of their natural world while forming long-lasting connections between natural science and positive experiences that they actual choose and create for themeselves with peers.  It is through these teachable moments, that allows youngsters to develop and sustain meaningful relationships and lead their own learning while simutaneously satisfying their individual curiosity, allowing each Junior Naturalists SM to have more than just fun in the forest.

That said, having fun is certainly at the heart of the Junior Naturalist Experience SM program. Through structured games and outdoor free play, students are gaining confidence in themselves, developing social and emotional skills, and getting comfortable spending time the natural world. Free play provides opportunities for children to explore and enjoy their environment in their own personal way; fort building is often very popular when providing opportunity for outdoor free-play.

Speaking of which, we have hiked down a favorite resting spot, and a young boy named James calls to his friends, “Hey everyone! Come see my fort!”

Little heads pop up across the forest floor.

“How many people do you think can fit inside?” calls James.

Time to find out! I help the children over one by one, until eleven sets of bright eyes are peeking out at me.

As a summer Field Instructor, I had a wonderful time exploring North Idaho with all of the Nature Explorers and Nature Detectives during SOLE’s 2017 summer season. As an educator, the opportunity to lead creative, place-based experiential education lessons at both Round Lake State Park and the University of Idaho Extension campus was tremendously rewarding.

In closing, I sincerely appreciate SOLE’s dedication to providing quality experiential education pograms, which was evident every step of the way, from the field to the office.  In the future, I hope to see the relationship between SOLE and the Sandpoint community grow ever more cohesive; who knows maybe the Junior Naturalists that I got to explore and play with this summer will go on to enjoy SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience SM program and even the expedition-based summer programs SOLE offers for teens which could even lead to these young adventurers to creating and leading their own programs for SOLE in the future!

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

 

B-I-G Backcountry Thank You!

As the whirlwind from the 2016-2017 Backcountry Film Festival brought a plethora of snow throughout our winter program season, we would like to reflect back on where it all started this season with a big ‘ole – ‘THANK YOU’ to the greater Sandpoint community and beyond for starting this season off right!

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Throughout the evening on December 2nd 2017 over 430 people help SOLE raise essential funds for our 2016-2017 SnowSchool Experience  program season, while joining us to celebrate our film SnowSchool: A Winter Wildlands Experience that was selected as a finalist in this year’s Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival.

Check out what the ‘buzz’ is all about by watching our SnowSchool film below!

We are still reeling from the experience of it all, and are quite humbled.  Especially since this is the first time a SnowSchool has been shown in the 12 years that the Backcountry Film Festival has been touring.  What an honor!  Oh yeah, did we mention?  It will be shown at over 100 locations worldwide.  SOLE’s annual fundraising event is held before each winter season at the Panida Theater to help SOLE raise critical funds for our SnowSchool Experience  program where we currently serve over 500 youth each season.

g39hifj3nmadzvqjj2sbia2xpnvunks5urmgamh36ooDuring this seasons event attendees helped us raise over $5,000 during our most recent event! Funds raised assists SOLE in providing this intentional and transformational programming to local area youth most of whom live in poverty and have never had an opportunity to explore and learn in their winter wildlands via snowshoe.  We are truly honored and grateful to have the support and opportunity to teach in such a wonderful setting.

 

gyrpelkeq5g9oorjvkthelnmcfgzt8a6u9zvyjuohewThe reality is we could not do the work we do without our corporate and community sponsors and partners.  Once again both stepped up at this year’s event contributing awesome schawg and gear for our Rockin’ Raffle and Holiday Silent Auction where attendees could bid on novel gifts and prizes.  In addition, event attendees were able to interface with present and former SnowSchool students from Clark Fork Outdoor Track and Northside Elementary School at informational booths.  Being new to SOLE it was wonderful to see everyone having a good night, while giving their genuine support for this community and what we do!

In closing, it is important to note – without each of YOU our annual SnowSchool Experience program would not be possible.  We appreciate your continued support and hope that you will join us again next year on December 1st, 2017 at the historic Panida Theater in beautiful Sandpoint, Idaho as we strive to ‘reach and teach’ even more youth!

Hope to see you out on the snow!

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

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

SOLE receives generous support for our SnowSchool Experience program!

Since it’s inception in 2014, SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience SM program has become a cornerstone of our organization’s experiential education program offerings serving over 800 youth over the past (3) years.  While SOLE strives to custom-tailor all SOLE Experiences SM for individual participants, schools, and other stakeholders we serve, this program primarily serves 5th – 12th grade local area public and private schools.  Each season program participants are able to experience a rich interdisciplinary curricula which includes lessons related to  SOLE’s 4 Cares SM, snow science, winter ecology, avalanche awareness, and winter outdoor living and travel skills.  SOLE aligns SnowSchool Experience SM curriculum to state standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and Common Core to ensure that goals, objectives, and learning targets are met.  Coupled with novel organizational philosophies, evidence-based best practices, and pedagogies related to experiential education to include outdoor education, place-based education, and project-based learning – students come to SOLE each winter to be immersed in a natural learning learning environment where they can truly explore, achieve, and lead!

A noteworthy and consistent goal of our organization is to provide affordable access to the transformational experiential education programs we offer, including our SnowSchool Experiences SM.  As such, SOLE staff and board works diligently constructing grants, soliciting sponsorship, and fundraising during our Annual Backcountry Film Festival events held each fall.  And the hard work is continuing to pay off.  Over the past few months we have had the great fortune to receive two grant awards from local foundations to support our SnowSchool Experience SM program, allowing us to ‘reach and teach’ into 2017!

PAFELogo-250x49

Earlier this summer, SOLE received notice that we would be awarded a $7,000 grant award from the Panhandle Alliance for Education (PAFE) to support our 5th grade SnowSchool Experience program with Lake Pend Oreille School District.  This noteworthy support will provide access to a (3) day experience for over 300 5th students in Lake Pend Oreille School District.  Students experience a pre-lesson in the classroom where they are oriented to what to expect “in the field”, introductory experiential lessons related to watershed geology, hydrology, and geography; mountain snowpack as it relates to a community natural resource including an orientation to the ever important concept known as Snow Water Equivalency (SWE).  Once in the field students deepen their learning comprehension as they experientially learn the finer points of snowshoeing, winter ecology, and snow science.  This full day portion of the program includes experiential lessons on introductory outdoor living and travel skills, winter ecology, and snow science.  The later includes the completion of a thorough snowpit profile where students collect data and assess the snowpack to include, hardness, snow crystallography, temperature, and SWE.  Once back in the classroom students synthesize the data they collected and compare and contrast their findings to local historical SWE trends to draw conclusions related to their communities’ water resource needs.  This includes completion of a line graph detailing their findings.  As one might imagine, this program provides a novel gateway to address academic standards related to math, science, and other core subject, as well as those related to physical education, leadership, and character development.

inlandnorthwestcommunityfoundation  EquinoxLogo

 

 

More recently, SOLE was also awarded a $10,000 grant from the Inland Northwest Community Foundation, Equinox Foundation Grant Program for our SnowSchool Experience SM program expansion. This support will continue our work within Bonner County schools to include providing custom-tailored SnowSchool Experiences SM for schools like Clark Fork Junior / Senior High School, as well as expand offerings into the Boundary County School District.  Areas of focus will include those aspects previously mentioned, as well as providing opportunities to teach snow science related to avalanche awareness, and outdoor living and travel skills for the youth of Bonner and Boundary County.

We are truly grateful for the continued support that these three organizations have shown towards our SnowSchool Experience SM program, and SOLE at large.  Because of this support, will be able to further our mission and students will be afforded access to the transformational experiential education programming that our SnowSchool Experience SM program offers.  Additionally, we are also grateful for the continued support that Schweitzer Mountain Resort, the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center , and the Winter Wildlands Alliance has shown to underpin our work in the field.

Still the work continues, as the grants awarded will only partially support our SnowSchool Experience SM program as it is currently established.  In addition, we have a greater vision which includes the establishment of yurts at our SnowSchool Experience SM Field Campuses, including Schweitzer Mountain Resort so our programs have access to a classroom space in times of severe inclement weather, and so these programming opportunities are available for future local area youth in our region.  You can do you part by attending and participating in our Annual Backcountry Film Festival, becoming a program or event sponsor, or by making a tax deductible in-kind or financial contribution by clicking here or simply contact us.

For those seeking further evidence of the benefits please take time to look at our SnowSchool Experience SM videos, and review some of the numbers, comments, and student story below:

Elementary SnowSchool Experience SM program video:

Middle & HighSchool SnowSchool Experience SM program video:

Some relevant numbers:

  • Between 60-97% of the students that attend our local public schools qualify for a free-reduced lunch (at or below the poverty level).
  • Over 80% of the students rated their SnowSchool Experience as 4 or 5 (on a 1-5 Likert-type Scale)
  • Over 70% of students acknowledged snowshoeing and exploring their local mountain ecosystem for the first time.
  • Over 80% of students demonstrated a greater understanding of the importance of mountain snowpack as it relates to our communities water resource needs.

Some of the many positive comments.

  • “I really liked learning about different trees.”
  • “Best trip Ever!”
  • “I hope that they will never stop SnowSchool! Fun and education!!”
  • “I learned so many new things at SnowSchool,such as: snow-shoeing.”
  • “I had fun because I got to do science I might not get to do anymore unless I become a hydrologist.”
  • “I would like to share that I would go again if I had a chance.”
  • “The most awesome field trip I have ever gone on!” 

A student’s story:

SnowSchoolStory1

Personally, when I reflect on our organization’s accomplishments with this program and view the view the pieces above I recognize the significant benefits that this transformational experiential education program offers our local area youth including the ability to make sound academic connections in a novel manner, as well as the opportunity to be immersed in a natural learning environment to further develop a relationship within themselves, with their peers, with their environment, and with their community.

See you out there,DennisonTeaching
Dennison Webb, M.A.
Founder | Executive Director

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.

Make Your Classroom A Natural Learning Environment!

IMG_5381It’s that time of year, buds are bursting and songbirds are doing their thing! As such, Selkirk Outdoor Leadership & Education (SOLE) is very excited to announce that we will be bringing intentional place-based experiential education to educators and youth leaders through our NEW Stewardship Experience SM program on the Clark Fork Delta and beyond!  To do so, we will be collaborating with Idaho Fish and Game, the University of Idaho, and other agencies and organizations to coordinate, design, and facilitate novel hands-on, boots-on-the-ground programming in this diverse wild landscape!  These unique programming opportunities will foster the ability for 4th – 12th grade youth to develop sound academic connections, an affinity for our natural world, and a sense of belonging – SOLE’s primary goals and objectives for this program.

All curricula will be linked to the current mitigation effort and the diverse ecosystems which exist on the Clark Fork Delta and other locales.  There students will be able to explore and learn through our Stewardship Experience SM experiential curricula related to flora and fauna, water quality monitoring, and service-learning.  When registering for Stewardship Experience SM with SOLE, clients can choose one specific programming element of this SOLE Experience SM or a rich interdisciplinary program like The Confluence Project.  Whatever you desire we will strive to meet your needs!

Learn more about this intentional place-based experiential education program by going here.  If you are ready to register look at our schedule here to see what dates are already booked and/or click on the “Register Now” button below to get started!  

 

Register Now !