SOLE’s Youth Advocate Making a Difference

What was your favorite part of SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program?

Working with kids was definitely my favorite part of SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program. Coming from a family that is so passionate about the outdoors, it’s difficult to see kids who don’t have that background and aren’t from families that have those same values. That’s why it’s so special to work with those kids because it allows me to introduce the outdoors to them and get to share those values with them.

SOLE Youth Advocate and Field Instructor, Erin Meek in the snowpit frontloading information for their field notebooks.  Photo Credit:  Dennison Webb

What qualities do you think it takes to make a good SnowSchool Field Instructor at SOLE?

Flexibility is a crucial quality to thrive as a Field Instructor at SOLE. It’s easy to stick to what you know, especially when you become comfortable with a group of students or a set of teaching material, but having different kids each day requires you to be flexible in your leadership and teaching methods. I also think that communication and delegation of tasks are vitally important as an instructor. My leadership style is to control tasks and situations and I tend to want to take on all the tasks, but I learned to trust my team and know that we all are going to accomplish the work that needs to be done. We built off of each other’s strengths and encouraged each other through their weaknesses, and I think that having mutual respect along with love and support for our team was what allowed us to thrive and grow together.

How did SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program allow you to grow as a leader?

SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program allowed me to gain independence and confidence as a leader. My biggest weakness is confidence when it comes to leadership situations. Typically I have sustained a supporting leadership role in other aspects of my life, and was used to being a co-leader, but SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program pushed me into a central leadership role. This allowed me to become confident. I learned that being a leader doesn’t mean you have to do things perfectly. Our team brought leadership down to a human-level where it’s not about being perfect, it’s about doing the best that you can every day. We all came from different backgrounds and all with different strengths. Some of us with science backgrounds, some teaching, some recreation, and all our different backgrounds and personality traits shined in different ways. It made me feel like I brought something to that table as a leader in my own way.

Erin showing that sometimes you got to get “creative” in the field when teaching!  Photo Credit: Dennison Webb

What do you feel was the most challenging aspect of working as an Field Instructor?

Learning and mastering the material and getting the hang of the routine of the day was the most challenging part for me. I think it’s easy to get comfortable talking about the same things each time, but because we always mixed up the tasks of who was teaching what, it required me to broaden my understanding of all the aspects of SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program. I needed a wide range of knowledge, spanning from tree identification to snowpit protocol, to classroom topics, and have the ability to answer student questions along the way. I had to learn how to explain complex topics to young students and modify my answers for a specific audience of 5th graders. This was challenging because I didn’t want to over or under explain subjects.

5th-grade SnowSchool Experience students thrive when they are exposed to SOLE’s rich and rigorous place-based, experiential education.  Photo Credit: Dennison Webb

What do you value about outdoor experiential education?

I think that experiential education, especially in the outdoors is absolutely phenomenal! The best way to experience anything is through hands-on learning and kids learn so much through being outdoors. I did my senior project on the importance of recess for students and how much it truly matters for developing brains. Kids learn important social skills, and outdoor activities encourage and morph social experiences. Outdoor experiences dramatically improve performance in the classroom and reduce the distracted behavior. SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program brings that experience one step further, by adding education to outdoor recreation. Students are able to touch, feel, and hypothesize about their environment, and use science to explore those curiosities. They learn how to be apart of a team; how to take care and watch out for one another in a potentially harsh environment, and how to make sure that everyone is included and cared for. I saw kids helping one another in real ways by offering granola bars to other students that are hungry and cold. These kinds of programs are what plant the seed for kids to acknowledge the value and importance of our local mountains and how they affect our daily lives.

Students love Erin’s energetic and fun-loving apporach both in and out of the field! Photo Credit: Dennison Webb

Did SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program assist with providing experience for you to fulfill your career goals?/What will you take away from this experience?

I strive to one day become a child counselor and my experience with SOLE helped me to learn how to establish relationships with students. Even in the short amount of time I got to spend with the kids it was easy to see which students were living in low income and poverty households. It was those kids that I really tried to reach out to and make sure they had a good experience at SnowSchool. It made me realize that although Sandpoint is small, it is very socioeconomically diverse and it became very apparent when working with students from all around the district and I developed a strong sense of empathy about it as a leader. I learned how to work with young kids, as well as how to work with adults from different walks of life. Our daily debriefs taught me how to be honest with my teammates in a healthy and constructive way. I will definitely carry those skills as I continue on my career path.

What is your favorite snow crystal?

Stellar dendrites and plates!

Through her formal education and passion for the outdoors, Erin served as SOLE’s Youth Advocate & Intern Field Instructor for SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program during the winter 2018-2019 season.  Erin plans on attending the University of Montana in Missoula; studying Cognitive Neuroscience and Social Work, working to become a Clinical Counselor.

Interested in becoming a Youth Advocate or Field Instructor?  Contact us today or apply here.

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.

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 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 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

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

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!

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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.

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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:

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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

Winter Wildland Observations: SnowSchool Edition

I moved to Sandpoint, Idaho just over a month ago to work a winter season with Selkirk Outdoor Leadership & Education (SOLE) to grow as an outdoor educator.  Already two weeks into SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience SM Program,  and it’s been a blast getting students out and about exploring and learning in their backyards – even in the dead of winter.  SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience Program is part of the nation’s largest on-snow outdoor education program in partnership with the Winter Wildland’s Alliance.

10259230_1026398230716244_9085658990807065617_oOne of the goals of the nationally developed program is to encourage students to develop an affinity with their local environs and gain a better understanding of the importance of mountain snowpack and its relationship to their local community resources.  Encouraging students to make earnest, personal observations is a crucial part of that process.  As an educator, it can be a challenge to elicit such responses—Often students are challenged to differentiate between “identifying,” and “observing.”  For example, pointing at the ground, and asking students what they observe, students often say simply “snow,” and not “cold, sugary looking stuff.”

Here are a couple of tricks I have found to work well in the field:

  1.  Give the students a reason to look beyond the obvious.  Try showing students two similar specimens and asking them if they are the same species? Why or why not? Which one is better at growing here? How do you know?  Encouraging these connections gives students a reason to remember what they’ve seen and look beyond what they know, and gives them a chance to relate that information to the ecosystem at large.
  2.  Encourage students to ask the three following questions about your specimen outloud:
  3. “What do you notice about it?”
  4. “What do you wonder about it?”
  5. “What does it reminds you of?”  

These questions have been shown to encourage deeper engagement and personal connections between students and subject matter.   

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 2.56.32 PMAs part of the SnowSchool curriculum, students use magnifying loops to observe snowflakes to make connections to Snow-Water Equivalency (SWE) in the snowpack.  Using these prompts will encourage students to make more creative connections that will be more easily remembered later.  Rather than saying that the snow crystals “look like snow” or “look icy,” using these prompts will encourage more personal responses such as “reminds me of a pepsi can” or my personal favorite from the last course, “reminds me of smushed together crystal turdballs.”  While these answers might seem silly and off topic, they are actually indicative of a deeper cognitive process of connection-making students are involved in.   When teaching in the field, there are few things more disheartening than prompting students to make observations and getting responses that limit exploration.  These strategies will help minimize that possibility, and they will encourage students to have better recall when thinking back on their time in the field from the classroom.

Student observing snow crystals or “pepsi cans” using a magnifying loop.

See you on the mountain,

David Harris, BS
Intern Field Instructor
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Did you hear? SOLE’s SnowSchool program is coming to Sandpoint’s Winter Carnival!

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 2.26.00 PMSelkirk Outdoor Leadership & Education (SOLE) will be offering FREE SnowSchool Experience programming as part of Sandpoint’s Winter Carnival for a 3rd year in a row!

In conjunction with our partners Schweitzer Mountain Resort and the Winter Wildlands Alliance (WWA), this program is part of the nation’s largest on-snow winter ecology and snow science program. Our primary goal for this program is to provide an affordable and accessible winter outdoor education opportunities for our local area youth in traditional or homeschool academic settings to get “out and about” to explore > achieve  > lead, all while having some good ol’ fashioned F-U-N. Guaranteed.

SOLE provides the gear and the outing – prepped and planned.  Youth 8+ y/o and their families will experience a fun experiential place-based curriculum that focus on winter ecology, snow science and winter outdoor living and travel skills.  This Winter Carnival event is part of our Family Fun Experience SM program which offers family-oriented outdoor education programs throughout the year, and provides a snapshot of our full and half-day SnowSchool Experience SM programs!

Dates & Times: February 21, 2015
Location: Schweitzer Mountain, Sandpoint, ID; 9:00 – 11:30 AM
Ages: 8+.  Parents encouraged to attend!
Cost: FREE!

Register Now !