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Snow Science

High school students in Idaho examine local water quality through snow

GranteePost Falls High School – Post Falls, ID

Project Title: Snow Science

Grant Type: ecoSolution

Description: Thanks to a grant from the Captain Planet Foundation 60 honor’s biology students took a field trip to Mount Spokane State Park to measure and analyze various physical properties of snow and quantify water availability. This hands-on, outdoor, experiential learning activity allowed students to examine water resources like never before! Students learned scientific investigative techniques with necessary tools to conduct snow science. The student data was analyzed and sent to NOAA for further analysis.

During the pre-lessons students learned about water law, techniques, equipment and interdependent relationships in ecosystems by Sam Finch a law student at the University of Idaho and Dan Frigard of the National Forest Service. The students saw firsthand the extreme conditions of lack of snowpack. The Pacific Northwest snowpack is the lowest it has ever been in years. During the post lessons, students extrapolated data gathered during the trip to note available water to the watershed. Students inferred how the low snowpack would affect the ecosystem. They also, studied long-term data from nearby Snotel sites and credible weather blogs to note whether the change in snowpack was unique or part of climate change. They were able to see patterns in graphs to understand temperature, precipitation form, melt/runoff, and flooding relationships. Much of this understanding came through class activity and discussions, but some simple student notes are provided to show learning.

Continuous impact/community engagement: Sixty Honor’s Biology Post Falls High School students were involved in the snow science project directly. They were educated during the pre-lessons about water law, techniques, equipment, and interdependent relationships in ecosystems by Sam Finch at law student at the University of Idaho and Dan Frigard of the National Forest Service. 57 of the students made the trip the Mt. Spokane to see first-hand extreme conditions of lack of snowpack. Indirectly, the equipment was borrowed and used by two other school groups (additional 80 kids) to take a similar snow science to trip. The students hope to present the methods and knowledge at Lewis and Clark State College in June to other teachers from around the state noting the equipment from this grant can be borrowed.