[MCN] Snow and outdoor high school science, on Lookout Pass
lance at wildrockies.org
Thu Mar 8 12:08:53 EST 2018
Excerpts from more-detailed Spokane media report:
Somewhere in the process of digging down through 7 feet of snow near the top of a mountain, measuring the snowpack and jotting down numbers, Cheyenne Kiecker discovered something that, for her, felt impossible: Maybe she does like science after all.
In February, Kiecker and her classmates studied the snow at Lookout Pass in North Idaho. She learned how the snow impacts the runoff into streams and rivers and lakes, how it affects the fish and the spring foliage, how it changes the wildfire season. And she's learned that in recent decades, the snowpack in the very spot she and her classmates dug into has trended downward.
"It was really interesting to think about how the snow I was looking at impacts everything I deal with on a daily basis," Kiecker says. "I never thought about these kinds of things."
With collapsible shovels, the students dug a pit all the way down to the ground. They marked each layer of snow with wooden tongue depressors, extracted a sample from each layer and put it into a plastic bag from which they measured the volume of water. From that, they can determine the snow density.
Instead of staring at numbers on a screen or in a textbook, the students take part in collecting the numbers.
The Confluence Project was started in 2012 with a grant from the National Science Foundation. A group of graduate students at University of Idaho wanted to find an innovative way to teach high school kids, and they thought the kids would be engaged in the natural world around them.
It is a cooperative with the Kootenai Environmental Alliance, University of Idaho, Coeur d'Alene Tribe and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality Lake Management. It's aligned with Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core, but focuses on giving students hands-on experience in the field of watershed science.
"Kids really retain more information and get excited when they get outside," says Sharon Bosley, with Kootenai Environmental Alliance.
The project culminates with a Youth Water Summit in May, where students present solutions for water resource issues of their choosing.
Biology teacher Christine Sandahl says as the kids figure out what their Youth Water Summit project will be, they'll branch out. Some students might be interested in a life form they found in a lake, others on invasive species in the water.
“New assessments of decades’ worth of snowpack measurements show that snowpack levels have dropped considerably throughout the American West in response to a 0.8°C warming since the 1950.
Even more sobering, new studies reveal that if even the most moderate regional warming predictions over the next 50 years come true, this will reduce western snowpacks by up to 60% in some regions,in some regions, such as the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and Washington.
That in turn is expected to reduce summertime stream flows by 20% to 50%. ‘Snow is our water storage in the West,’Philip Mote, a climatologist at the University of Washington (UW), Seattle, who leads a team that has produced much of the new work. ‘When you remove that much storage, there is simply no way to make up for it.’
“The impacts could be profound.”
Robert F. Service. As the West Goes Dry. Science February 20, 2004
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