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.

SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program receives national recognition!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Sandpoint, Idaho — SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program receives national recognition.

Since 2013, Sandpoint-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Selkirk Outdoor Leadership & Education (SOLE) has immersed over 1,700 local area youth in their local wild landscapes to explore and learn.  SOLE has quickly become a noteworthy regional resource through providing intentional and transformational experiential education programs for underserved youth in rural communities in north Idaho and beyond.

Recognition for SOLE’s contribution to rural communities throughout the Inland Northwest went to new heights this past winter during the 12th Annual Backcountry Film Festival where SOLE’s film SnowSchool: Exploring Our Winter Wildlands  was listed and shown as a finalist in this annual international film at over 100 showings world wide!  Highlighting, SOLE’s novel and transfromatioanl approach to SnowSchool, the nation’s largest on-snow snow science and winter ecology program.  This film showcases not only the attributes of SOLE, and their novel interdisciplinary place-based experiential education programs, but also the proven partnerships that support our mission.  Noted partners include, the Winter Wildlands Alliance National SnowSchool Program, Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center (IPAC), Lake Pend Oreille School District, Coeur d’Alene School District, Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Silver Mountain, Panhandle Alliance for Education, Inland Northwest Community Foundation, Equinox Foundation.

In May 2017, recognition for SOLE went a step further when Boise-based, Winter Wildlands Alliance acknowledged SOLE as a National Flagship SnowSchool Site.  Out of the 60 SnowSchool sites nationally, which serve over 32,000 youth annually, only two sites have received this noteworthy accolade.  Recognition was based on continued program development, staff development and training, as well as, SOLE’s novel place-based experiential education and project-based learning curricula.  

See SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience program in action in the film highlighted in the 2016-2017 Backcountry Film Festival in the link below:

For more information on SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience view the link below:

https://www.soleexperiences.org/fieldwork-experiences/snowschool-experiences/

For more info:

Dennison Webb, MA
Founder | Executive Director
928.351.SOLE(7653) | dennison.webb@soleexperiences.org

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 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 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

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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SnowSchool Experience Program receives national attention!


SOLE’s SnowSchool Experience SM Program is once again in full swing fostering numerous opportunities for youth throughout the Inland Northwest to experience the transformational place-based experiential education curriculum that this program has become known for!  From after-school programs to custom-tailored outings for schools and youth groups, SOLE continues to strive to offer a SnowSchool Experience SM programs for all stakeholders throughout the Inland Northwest, and beyond!

Because of this program over 60% of youth participants are able to explore and learn about their local winter wildlands for the first time via snowshoes.

10259230_1026398230716244_9085658990807065617_oFor the 2016 season SOLE will once again be working with Lake Pend Oreille School District (LPOSD) where every 5th grade student will receive a SnowSchool Experience SM thanks in part to a $10,000 Panhandle Alliance for Education (PAFE) grant.  This will result to over (250) youth participants in this program alone for the 2016 season!

But it doesn’t stop there.  SOLE will working with other local area schools.  This will include designing and facilitating custom-tailored SnowSchool Experiences SM for Clark Fork Middle and High School (see video below), Post Falls STEM classroom, and Selle Valley Carden School.  SOLE will also be providing SnowSchool Experience SM programming for Lake Pend Oreille High School as part of a larger place-based experiential education program known as The Confluence Project.  This will include a capstone project where students will present their semester’s work at the Idaho Youth Water Summit at the University of Idaho.

Most SnowSchool Experience SM programs include a (3) day place-based experiential education design tailored to local watersheds and include snow science, winter ecology and outdoor living skills.  While it certainly is a fun day beyond classroom walls, this curriculum also includes the opportunity for alignment to state and national math and science standards ensuring that educators, and those they serve, receive an intentional outdoor education experience from start to finish.

We have some exciting new developments this year in our SnowSchool Experience SM program to include our new partnership with the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center (IPAC) and Gizmo – CDA.  These new partnerships will allow us to reach and teach more local area youth in novel ways during the winter months at one of our (4) SnowSchool Experience SM site locations in Washington, Idaho or Montana!

Specifically, our new partnership with Gizmo will allow us to offer a (4) day after-school SnowSchool Experience Programs at Lookout Pass.  True to our other SnowSchool Experiences SM students will learn snow science, winter ecology, and outdoor living and travel skills.  Course lessons will explore the relationship of mountain snowpack in our region to community natural resource needs through active and engaging fieldwork.  Coupled with pre and post lessons in the classroom, including accessing and utilizing SNOTEL, students will develop skills that reach well beyond their SnowSchool Experience SM. Because of the after-school design this novel program is perfect for parents of home-school youth, and those in youth groups interested in exploring and learning in their winter wildlands via snowshoe.  Learn more and register for this program here.

In addition, we are grateful to have IPAC assisting us with extending our current SnowSchool Experience  SM curriculum for middle and high school youth to include avalanche awareness in addition to our current established outdoor leadership, outdoor living and travel skills, snow science and winter ecology curriculum for these grade levels.  Like all SnowSchool Experiences SM curriculum allow students to explore and learn in their local mountain ecosystems. We recently launched a new short video capturing the extension of this novel SOLE Experience SM and it received national attention!  See the skinny here.  

Click on the video below to see what our middle and high school SnowSchool Experience SM Program is all about!

We continue to be sincerely grateful for our program partners which include the Winter Wildlands Alliance, Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Lookout Pass and Recreation Area, Mt Spokane and those mentioned above.  Learn more about our SnowSchool Experience SM Program by clicking here.