Snow in Science, Culture, and Climate

Trip Reports

Tanacross and Tok, February 2020

Students at Tanacross School investigate a snow pit with snow scientist Matthew Sturm in February 2020. Photo by Our Winter World project team.

The Our Winter World team was delighted to be invited to visit the village of Tanacross on February 24th and 25th, 2020. During two days in Tanacross School, which enrolled 11 kindergarten through 12th grade students at the time of our visit, we used scientific tools to dig and analyze snow pits, took aerial photographs with a camera mounted on a weather balloon, investigated avalanche dynamics and snow movement patterns through simple experiments, and searched for snow features and animal tracks near the school during a scavenger walk on snowshoes.

On the 25th, we hosted a community science night at the school. More than forty people attended the event, which featured snow-related displays and activities, dinner, door prizes, and an opportunity to share snow-related stories and knowledge with each other. We are grateful to the teachers and staff of Tanacross School and the residents of Tanacross for welcoming us to their community.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the school in nearby Tok, Alaska on February 26th. We worked with students ranging from kindergarten through 8th grade, using scientific tools to study snow layers and their characteristics, learning about avalanches through hands-on experiments, going on winter scavenger hunts, and more. We appreciate the administrators and teachers who made time for us in their busy schedules.

Denali Winterfest, February 2020

On Saturday, February 22, Our Winter World made its 2020 debut at Denali National Park and Preserve’s Winterfest event. Physics professor Matthew Sturm and PhD student Anika Pinzner introduced visitors to snowpack layers, their characteristics, and connections to weather and wildlife habitat during outdoor field sessions. The team’s indoor displays included a model of different snow layers, photographs of snow features, a craft station, and snow-related artifacts, including snowshoes worn by mountaineer Bradford Washburn during his ascent of Denali (Mt. McKinley) in 1947, from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Museum of the North. We had a great time exploring snow and celebrating winter with visitors from Alaska and beyond!