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!

vdga4okdnqh9ferp3u5qffytugmodbtkweluffmezeoerarxx1-xer-ntpqi2_wcfe2kinqkoze_dqawnhqbgk

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 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-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

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