Mid-Winter Update From KMTA’s SnowSchool…
Hello, and happy winter! KMTA Education Programs Manager Sarah Schuh here with a mid-winter update on our education programming in the Heritage Area. This year we have been piloting a series of new programs from Fresh Air Fridays to SnowSchool, and are currently gearing up for our spring session of Alaska Outdoor School in Portage Valley.
In 2022 the Kenai Mountains – Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area became a SnowSchool provider site, and we have been piloting our program this school year with weekly sessions in the Hope, Cooper Landing, and Moose Pass schools. SnowSchool is a national network of providers supported by the Winter Wildlands Alliance and local land managers like the US Forest Service. The overall goal of the program is to provide opportunities for local kids to investigate the many facets of their winter environment from snow science to watersheds to winter recreation.
We kicked off KMTA SnowSchool with the simple question of “how much water is in our snow?”. This experiment requiring only some snow, a jar, and a microwave, led to some surprising results and kicked off an avalanche of questions and guesses that has only continued to gain momentum with each new topic. Having set the gears of inquiry and observation in motion, the next week we then looked at snow crystals using hand lenses and dark paper. Students were able to use the crystal size and shape to make hypotheses about the outdoor temperature and humidity- no thermometer necessary!
For our watersheds week, Forest Service Hydrologist Angela Coleman visited the students in Hope and Cooper Landing. The middle and high school students in Hope worked with Angela to do a complete snow survey and she created watershed maps in the snow with the younger students to illustrate how water collects and moves around in their communities. She also answered questions about her work with the Forest Service and shared with them some of her favorite winter activities.
The last several weeks, students have turned a keen eye to the snow in search of animal tracks and discussed how animals and people have adapted for winter environments- from the snowshoe hare tracks that are a common sight throughout the Heritage in winter to how snowshoes have helped people navigate snowy landscapes for thousands of years. Students are currently working on making their very own snowshoes out of natural materials easily found around their homes and schools.
With a little less than half of this pilot SnowSchool program left to go, we are encouraged by its success so far and look forward to expanding the program to include more Heritage Area students next school year. For many, the snow-covered KMTA provides as much (if not more!) joy, sustenance, and community as any other time of the year and we hope SnowSchool can continue to connect our local students to these special places.