Sprague High School students learn about snow science by getting hands-on

MEAD, Wash. — There are some things you just can’t learn in a textbook. On Friday, students from Sprague High School learned that first-hand, climbing a mountain, too, so that their learning could be a little more hands-on.

Students participated in what is called a snow school. The Lands Council was just recently designated as a snow school by the Winter Wildlands Alliance.

“What that means is we’re part of a nationwide network of organizations and facilities that essentially do snow science education to our youth in america,” said Kat Hall, the conservation and education director at the Lands Council.

Part of the snow school on Friday required students to snowshoe about a mile up Mt. Spokane. Through that journey, they learned about different trees along the way and examined some animal tracks, if they saw any.

“For most of us, it was our first time. We definitely had to learn, basically walk like a penguin, and I think just like most of us following along the trail, that was really fun,” said Jade Rios, a student.

“I thought it was really rewarding, because when we were looking through the forest and stuff, it was really pretty,” said Serena Block, a student, who thought snowshoeing up the mountain was challenging.

Once they reached a designated picnic area, the students dug into the snow.

“You keep going until you finally see the grass,” said Zach Moore, a student.

They then measured how deep it was. From where they were at on the mountain, there was 5 feet, 8 inches of snow on Mt. Spokane.

Through this lesson, the students learned how much water will come from the snow come spring and summer.

“That snow pack is really important for the water that is ultimately going to recharge our aquifer and recharge our streams and our lakes. It’s going to become the water that we drink, and that we fish in, and that we play in that following season,” Hall said.

It’s something that many learned at snow school Friday, rather than from their textbooks.

“I personally wasn’t aware that the snow up here is what becomes the water that people are drinking and are using on a regular basis,” Jade said.

Hall said The Lands Council focuses more on teaching students from rural areas or alternative schools.

“The sense of accomplishment they have is off the charts. You can see it when they’re in the snow, you can see the winter atmosphere just working its magic. It’s really cool,” Hall said.

She said it’s important to teach the next generation of what the outdoor brings.

“They’re going to be the decision makers in the future. Some of these kids are going to go into these [job] fields and they’re going to be in positions where they will be making calls that are going to help our environment or not help our environment,” she said.

The class also had some U.S. Forest Service members come and teach students about avalanche search and rescue operations.