This year has been incredibly difficult for many local families with school-aged children. After increasing positive COVID test rates forced school to go to a virtual learning model in the fall, many families faced a difficult predicament, as parents needed to work but children couldn’t go to school. Multiple childcare centers around Summit County stepped up and answered the need for childcare, by offering full-day camps and a remote learning workplace for local youth, whose parents were unable to stay home with them all day. These centers also offered scholarships or reduced fees, which helped working families afford the daily care.
This winter, FDRD has teamed up with three of these centers: Town of Frisco Day Camps, Breckenridge Recreation Center, and Mountain Top Exploratorium, to provide an educational snowshoe tour called SnowSchool to their students. SnowSchool was developed and created by FDRD partner, Winter Wildlands Alliance, and we are one of 70 SnowSchool sites around the country. During a SnowSchool outing, the students perform at least three different scientific experiments to help them gain an understanding about the snowpack here in Summit County. It is a hands on, thought provoking look at our local snowpack and the importance it holds in our nation’s watershed.
Students will start by strapping snowshoes on and hiking out into the forest on a local trail. The group will stop to talk about signs of wildlife along the way such as tracks, scat, or markings on trees. Once we pick out a snowy site, students will dig a snow pit, measure snow depth, and take the temperature of the different layers of snow. Next, we perform a snow water equivalency test, before creating a map of the watershed of Summit County in the snow. Students are instructed to make a hypotheses before breaking into groups and collecting the data. After data collection, everyone comes together again to discuss their results. Questions such as “why is the snow not as deep in the trees?” and, “why do mice burrow underneath the snow in the winter?” are answered and discussed. At the conclusion of SnowSchool, we always ask the youth to share their favorite thing they learned. Answers typically vary, but the majority of the children seem to enjoy learning about the path of water from the snowpack at home in Summit County, to the Colorado River, and eventually to the dams that help light the cities of the Southwest. Kids also always enjoy learning about winter survival tactics, such as burrowing in the snow and using pine branches to keep warm.
SnowSchool is a wonderful, hands on science experiment in the snow, that local youth really enjoy. Here at FDRD we recognize the importance of getting kids outside, (especially during a pandemic). We are thrilled to be able to offer this programming to childcare centers, who directly help local families in need. This winter’s programming has been an overwhelming success and one we hope to build on in the future!
Questions about SnowSchool? Contact FDRD Education & Youth Programs Manager, Cameron Breen: firstname.lastname@example.org