Two Stellar Days of SnowSchool with Mammoth Elementary School Fifth Graders

On February 13th & 14th, Friends of the Inyo partnered with the Eastern Sierra Interpretive AssociationMammoth Mountain Ski Area, Winter Wildlands Alliance, the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, and the Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation to bring the SnowSchool curriculum to Mammoth Elementary School fifth graders for the second year.

We were fortunate to get a quick dusting the night before our first day of SnowSchool. Perfect timing! The 2-3 new inches of snow provided a nice fluffy layer for the students to get used to their snowshoes. Though many had tried them out on the grass around campus during PE, this was the first time they were testing out their gear on its eponymous surface. New snow also helped for two of the SnowSchool curriculum’s “Essential Activities”, digging a snow pit and conducting a snow water equivalence test.  We dug snow pits, looked at the different layers present in the snowpack, took each layer’s temperature, and filled Nalgenes with snow to see how much water a liter of snow would yield.

Students also got to flex their creative muscles in the Winter Creature Feature and Watershed Map activities. The former constituted thinking about the characteristics that help critters in our forests survive during the winter, and using snow, pine cones, needles, and branches to create their own perfectly snow-adapted creature. The latter exercise had students making snow-sculpted representations of our local watershed. Some students were so into this activity that they made global watershed maps (of varying degrees of accuracy) replete with the Great Wall of China.

Finally, we made sure that our days included some moving around and fun. For as smart and stimulated as these students proved to be, they’re still ten year-olds. They have a lot of energy they need to burn off.  They could play Camouflage (imagine a predator/prey version of hide and go seek) until the cows come home to roost, and my goodness do they love to penguin slide down a snowy hill.

All in all, the students had a blast learning about and playing in the snow. From snow science to information about local flora and fauna, the SnowSchool curriculum is an invaluable piece of an Eastern Sierra student’s education. When surrounded by such amazing landscapes, it would be shame to not explore and understand them to the best of our ability.

Thank you to all our partners who made these two days of outdoor education possible. We look forward to year three of SnowSchool and beyond!