Rocky Mountain National Park Snow Science Program
Rocky Mountain National Park
2020 Innovative EE Program Award Recipient
Rocky Mountain National Park’s Snow Science Program uses innovative, place-based, applied learning where students collect data to see firsthand how annual snowpack impacts natural resources and communities of Colorado. The field component is proceeded by a ranger-led, virtual distance learning program to better understand watersheds. Students discover that the snowmelt coming from their field study site flows to their own communities! In the field component of this program, students from across the Colorado Front Range travel to Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, oftentimes experiencing a National Park for the first time. After an orientation at the visitor center and a gear check, they snowshoe to their data collection site. At their site, students work in groups to dig snow pits and follow a data collection protocol similar to that of park scientists, using tools to collect snowpack data. They determine the layers in their pit, calculate the weight of the different layers, take temperatures and examine snowflake formations. They also visit a SNOTEL weather station while looking at a chart of data it produced to analyze trends and patterns of the snowpack, comparing data to previous years. Back at school, students take this data to draw conclusions regarding snow water equivalency. They consider the implications this data has for plants, animals, and communities. This high-quality environmental education program integrates sound science, aligns to classroom learning, and inspires students to think critically about a local issue relevant to them.