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The FRLT’s Olsen Barn served as a perfect Learning Landscape for CES sixth-graders studying the snowpack as part of their new SnowSchool curriculum.

PUSD partners with Winter Wildlands Alliance to help sixth-graders celebrate the science of winter at ‘SnowSchool’

A student collects snow to perform water and snow-density measurements.

While snowy weather may lead to visions of no school and a cozy day spent in their pajamas for some students, Plumas kids get excited about winter time because it means spending some really fun class time outdoors as part of the school district’s distinguished Outdoor Core environment-based education program.

Rob Wade, Plumas Unified School District’s science education coordinator, partnered with Kerry McClay of the Winter Wildlands Alliance over the last few weeks to immerse all of the district’s sixth-graders in an innovative ‘SnowSchool’ experience.

He said Outdoor Core rolled out the program with the help of SnowSchool Director McClay when she came down from Boise, Idaho.

“Learning is a three-season sport up here and the coldness brings out the boldness in our kids!” Wade reported with an enthusiastic chuckle, explaining that the Outdoor Core program took full advantage of our recent snowfall to take sixth-graders from Chester, Greenville, Portola and Quincy out for some rowdy scientific exploration and fun.

“All of the PUSD sixth-graders will spend this year studying the Feather River Watershed and with the snowfall we’ve gotten now, they took part in our SnowSchool to celebrate winter and the scientific phenomena that makes it happen,” Wade said.

Each school sent its students to a different outdoor environment to learn about the importance of snowpack monitoring for the California State Water Project.

For QES sixth-graders engaged in SnowSchool lessons for Outdoor Core education at Bucks Lake Summit, shovels add to the fun of digging snow pits and analyzing snow depth and density.

Chester Elementary School’s students conducted their scientific investigations at the Feather River Land Trust’s Learning Landscape at the Olsen Barn.

Greenville’s Indian Valley Elementary School class held its studies at Round Valley Reservoir.

The Portola students from C. Roy Carmichael Elementary  surveyed their own school and went to Lake Davis.

And the Quincy Elementary School sixth-graders enjoyed their field studies at Bucks Lake Summit.

“It was an amazing day with their high school counselors, their teachers and all of the cool NASA snowpack monitoring equipment,” Wade noted.

Many students were surprised to find out firsthand that Sierra Nevada is a Spanish term that means snowy mountain range.

Their scientific explorations included taking snowpack measurements and digging snow pits to analyze depth and density to determine the snow-water equivalent.

The outings even included time to learn how to secure snowshoes to one another and then have fun competing in snowshoe relay races.

“We also followed each day’s scientific learning with teacher workshops to help integrate SnowSchool into every year of the PUSD’s Outdoor Core Mountain Kid Program,” Wade added, expressing deep appreciation and thanks for the WWA, Feather River Land Trust and many other community partners who contribute to PUSD’s rich environmental education program.

Wade often remarks that the Outdoor Core program is successful because of the community support and investment of many partner organizations throughout Plumas County who value environmental education and stewardship.

CRC sixth-graders engage in SnowSchool lessons for Outdoor Core education at Lake Davis and learn to secure snowshoes to one another for safety.

And the Lost Sierra students benefit most of all.

According to public information made available by the Winter Wildlands Alliance, SnowSchool is a growing national education program that introduces students to the joy of exploring our nation’s winter wildlands.

WWA estimates that SnowSchool annually engages over 33,000 participants across 65 sites.

The WWA website states that each winter, in 16 states along the U.S. snow belt, K-12 students and teachers “venture out on snowshoes as part of a fun and educational, science-based field trip,” and that over 50 percent of participants are underserved and a majority are first-time snowshoers.

WWA works year-round with organizational partners nationwide to establish new SnowSchool sites each year and helps bring outdoor experiences “to communities and students that need it most.”

For more information, contact Kerry McClay at [email protected] or call WWA at (208) 336-4203.

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