Thanks to a $780 grant from the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation, 30 sixth grade students from Kulshan Middle School learned about the science of snow in March at the Mount Baker Ski Area.
Environmental educators from the North Cascades Institute and Western Washington University led the students through hands-on experiences to study snowpack, snow stability, watershed and climate issues, as well as map reading. After snowshoeing to mountain areas, students measured and weighed snow samples, oriented themselves according to the mountainous surroundings, learned about snow algae and avalanches, and made their own three-dimensional maps of the Mount Baker watershed.
For some students, making a trek up the mountain and snowshoeing was a first-time experience.
Sergio Zamudio appreciated the new experiences: “I never used tools like that or used snowshoes before,” he says. His classmate Piper Zabel adds, “Snowshoeing was hard, but I’m glad I know how to do it now.” “It was really fun to get out of city limits,” notes 6th grader Jenna LaMont.
Counselor Kevin Terpstra submitted the request for funding from the Foundation and he led the pack of students along with teacher Jennifer Frimml and parent chaperone Jennifer Lamont.
Terpstra likes the big picture such a field experience gives of our environment in the Pacific Northwest.
“The students learn about the connections between snowpack, climate, science and recreation in our community,’ he says.
“By measuring snowpack density, students now understand why avalanches occur. They also see more clearly how snow influences our quality of life in Bellingham through the watershed that makes its way down the Nooksack River and out to the bay; and ultimately it teaches how everything is connected and why we need to protect our local environment.”
“Mountains, science, new challenges, and snow make an unforgettable middle school experience,” says Terpstra. “The more kids can experience science in an outdoor environment in a fun and challenging way, the more they’ll love learning and see why their learning matters and is relevant.”
Terpstra, Frimml and the students would like to express their deep appreciation to the Foundation for this profound experience on snowy Mt. Baker.