Dozens of Whitefish Middle School students took to the Whitefish Trail last week to learn about the wonders of snow and how to stay safe in it.
Instructors from the Whitefish Legacy Partners, Flathead Avalanche Center and the U.S. Forest Service taught a variety of lessons to Whitefish Middle School teacher Shawn Lenzner’s sixth-grade class for the snow science field trip.
All five sixth-grade classes this winter took part in the field trip, starting at the Lion Mountain Trailhead and hiking to Whitefish Trail Learning Pavilion.
Students split into three groups and rotated through different hands-on workshops to cover different areas of snow science.
In one group, Jenny Cloutier, from the Flathead Avalanche Center, led a session about snow crystal metamorphosis and structure.
Students examined the local snowpack and compare different types of snow crystals while learning about the snow metamorphosis process.
Another session taught about basic avalanche dangers — using transceivers to locate beacons buried in the snow, as well as probe poles to cover an area and check for survivors.
The third group learned about snow surveys and data collection tools to help calculate snow water equivalent.
Getting outside is a great way for students to learn in a new and refreshing way, Lenzner said.
“It’s hands-on learning. They learn better in the classroom when it’s hands-on, so anytime you get them out of the classroom and it just sinks in, and they’ll remember it longer than what they would read out of a text book or see in a movie,” he said.
Kim Corette, education coordinator for the Whitefish Trail, said the program is in its fourth year and so far they’ve gotten great feedback from those involved.
“I’ve heard that half the kids really like the snow survey, and I do think that the avalanche beacon is probably one of the most liked parts of the field trip for sure,” she said.
Corette also leads a similar snow science lesson for members of the public, where she said students can range in age from 6 to 70 years old.
What’s important, she said, is providing useful and relevant information in a fun, understandable manner.
“We want the information to be about our local area, relative to the Flathead Basin,” she said. “I love snow and everything about it so this has been a fun program to put together.”