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!
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.
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:
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.