Snow in Science, Culture, and Climate

Trip Reports

April 16-28, 2023 – Kenai Mountains Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area SnowSchool Collaboration

April 17-20, 2023 – KMTA Alaska Outdoor School – Portage, Alaska

From April 17th to 20th, we conducted an educational expedition at Portage, AK in collaboration with Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area‘s (KMTA) Alaska Outdoor School spring programming. Our session, “Awesome Aquatics,” focused on the water from a frozen lens, with a unique Snow Science perspective. Over the course of four 2.5-hour sessions, we engaged fifth-grade students in a dynamic blend of indoor and outdoor activities. These sessions included hands-on exploration using our XL Ice lattice molecule and hand lenses from the ‘Observing and Preserving Snowflakes’ activity. We also led interactive snow pit excavations as part of the ‘Snow Pit’ activity. Additionally, we guided students on hikes during their recreational time, discussing how snow interrelates with glacier formation and the carving of the Byron Glacier valley, providing an enriching place-based learning experience. In total, we reached approximately 50 students during this enlightening educational initiative.

April 21, 2023 – KMTA SnowSchool Collaboration with Whittier Community School

On April 21st, we had the privilege of collaborating with the entire school in Whittier, AK. Our engagement encompassed a diverse range of grade levels, with approximately 10-12 students from Kindergarten to 3rd grade, around 14 students from 4th to 6th grade, approximately 9 students from 7th to 8th grade, and finally, 5 students from 9th to 12th grade. The collective experience provided valuable insights and interactive learning opportunities across the various age groups.

April 27, 2023 – KMTA Program Development Day

On April 27, 2023, we participated in a collaborative Program Development Day alongside KMTA National Heritage Area, US Forest Service Chugach National Forest – Glacier Ranger District, and Project Learning Tree Alaska. This event allowed us to combine efforts and collectively contribute to the development of impactful programs.

April 28, 2022 – KMTA x OWW x ANSEP Acceleration Academy Glacier Hike

On April 28, 2023, we organized a glacier hike involving 20 high school students and staff members from ANSEP Acceleration Academies. During the hike, we engaged in discussions covering topics such as albedo, glacier formations, environmental implications of snow melt, avalanche safety and hazards, Snow crystal types, and depth hoar.

April 03-09, 2023 – NASA SnowEd Interior Alaska Road Trip

April 03: Healy Elementary School

Our visit to Healy included interactions with different grade levels. In the 4th & 5th grade classroom we engaged around 28 students with an Avalanche! demonstration and a concise Mini Snow Lecture. Moving to the 2nd & 3rd grade class, we interacted with approximately 22 students through an Avalanche! demonstration and a Mini Snow Lecture. In the High School Geology Class reaching ages of 10th-12th grade, we captivated around 11 students with an Avalanche! demonstration, a Snow Lecture, and the fascinating observation of Snowflakes outside. Lastly, for the Middle School Students, consisting of 6th, 7th & 8th grades, our engagement extended to about 30-35 students, offering them immersive experiences aligned with Snow-STEAM learning.

April 04: Talkeetna Elementary School

During our outreach efforts, we visited Talkeetna Elementary School, engaging with various grade levels. In the Kindergarten room, we interacted with Kindergarten and 1st-grade students, totaling around 25 young learners, where we conducted an engaging Avalanche! demonstration and delivered a concise Snow Lecture. Moving on to the 2nd-grade students, also numbering around 25, we again presented the Avalanche! demonstration along with a brief Snow Lecture. For the 3rd and 4th-grade students, a group of approximately 30, we expanded the activities to include an Avalanche! demonstration, a Mini Snow Lecture, and hands-on exploration of Snow Pits and Percolation Activity outside. Finally, the 4th and 5th-grade students, totaling around 25-30 participants, experienced an immersive session featuring an Avalanche! demonstration, a Mini Snow Lecture, practical engagement with Snow Pits, intriguing Percolation experiments, and the enchanting observation of intricate Snowflakes.

April 05-07: Susitna Valley Middle/High School

Throughout the week, we conducted engaging Snow-STEAM learning sessions targeting various student groups. On Wednesday, April 5th, we interacted with approximately 30 middle school students during the morning session, followed by around 15 high school students in the afternoon. On Thursday, April 6th, we engaged about 30 high school students in the afternoon. Continuing our efforts, on Friday, April 7th, we connected with around 30 middle school students in the morning, and in a separate session later that day, we interacted with another 30 high school students. The total number of students engaged across the various sessions throughout the week was approximately 135 students. Our activities included snow pit exploration, percolation activities, creating paper snowflakes, discussing snow molecular geometry, snow lectures, avalanche demonstrations and more!

April 08: Title 1 Spring Extravaganza and Safety Expo

On April 8, 2023, we participated in the Title 1 Spring Extravaganza and Safety Expo in Willow, AK. The event witnessed the engagement of at least 200 youth and 75 adults, where we conducted an Avalanche! demonstration, showcased an OWW display, presented the SnowEx SnowEd Kit Display, and engaged attendees in creating Paper Snowflakes.

March 05-18, 2023 – SnowEx-SnowEd 2023

We successfully created a total of 45 large kits targeted to educators as part of the SnowEx-SnowEd outreach initiative. Among these, we produced 800 ‘Limited Edition SnowEd-SnowEx COSI Connects Kits’ through funding from SnowEd. These kits are now being distributed to NASA SnowSchools as well as to various locations throughout Alaska, effectively extending our overall outreach efforts. During this week Spruce Tree Montessori, we engaged with 28 students ranging from 1st to 6th grade, offering enriching activities where we covered avalanche simulations, snow pit analysis, percolation studies, and observing intricate snowflake formations. Additionally, our collaboration with the UAF’s NASA GLOBE Program facilitated our interaction with Anne Wien Elementary, where we worked with five classrooms comprised of around 25-30 students each, spanning 4th and 5th-grade levels – reaching near 150 students in one afternoon. At Anne Wien Elementary, our engaging activities centered around snow pit exploration, percolation experiments, and the captivating observation of snowflake patterns.

December – April 2023 – NASA SnowEd-SnowEx Outreach Development

We successfully developed 45 comprehensive NASA SnowEx-SnowEd Group Kits tailored for educators, providing them with valuable resources for teaching. We created a national NASA SnowEd-SnowEx Snow-STEAM Outreach Campaign, along with strategic collaboration from the Winter Wildlands Alliance SnowSchools, and NASA GLOBE Program – UAF. Leveraging Winter Wildlands Alliance’s extensive network, encompassing more than 70 NASA SnowSchool sites and reaching over 35,000 students, we were able to effectively distribute our NASA SnowEx-SnowEd group kits to a diverse array of nonprofit organizations and outdoor education groups. Additionally, a productive partnership was established with the NASA GLOBE Program – UAF, enabling us to collaborate on impactful Snow-STEAM events and outreach initiatives.

January 28, 2023 – Our Winter World Presents: Snow Day Saturday, in collaboration with Science for Alaska and The GLOBE Program

We organized a public kickoff event for NASA SnowEx-SnowEd National Outreach campaign. This event lasted 4 hours, taking place at the Morris-Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks, Alaska. The event featured various engaging activities including digging snow pits, conducting avalanche simulations, exploring percolation processes, creating paper snowflakes, and identifying animal tracks, offering a comprehensive and interactive experience for attendees. We coordinated this event in partnership with Science for Alaska and the NASA GLOBE Program – UAF.

December 19-21, 2022 – Our Winter World x Campbell Creek Science Center Anchorage Outreach

Hosted three days of collaborative snow outreach events with our partners at BLM Campbell Creek Science Center. Lead outreach with Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) Acceleration High School students on December 19th and 20th. On December 20th we did outreach with fourth and fifth grade classrooms from Alaska Native Cultural Charter School (ANCCS) Elementary a (Title I school), then did a public outreach event with Campbell Creek Science Center targeted to adults; a Fireside Chat lecture along with leading STEAM activities. At this week of outreach events with Campbell Creek Science Center

December 12-16, 2022 – American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting

Attended and Presented at AGU Fall 2022 Meeting. Presented an oral session “Snow: A Natural Substance for Learning about Science, Climate, and Alaskan Native Culture during COVID: the COSI Connects Snow Kits” as a part of AGU’s Immersing the Public in Polar Research via Education and Outreach Programs I.” View abstract HERE.

Serina Wesen holding a COSI Connects Snow Kit on AGU’s Immersing the Public in Polar Research via Education and Outreach Programs I panel.

November 03, 2022 – NASA GLOBE Program North American Regional Meeting

Presented about Our Winter World Outreach efforts at NASA GLOBE Program’s North American Regional Meeting.

October 2022 – AK-STEAM Conference

Hosted a booth to share information regarding Our Winter World Outreach Activities, potential outreach, small and large snow kits at the AK-STEAM Educator Conference. Distributed eight COSI Connects Snow Kits to STEAM educators and professionals. Target audience was STEAM educators and providers throughout Alaska.

June 27 & August 05, 2022 – Outreach with ANSEP Acceleration High School in Byron Glacier Valley

Between both outreach events, Our Winter World was able to reach 42 high school students from all across Alaska, 8 staff, and 3 other visitors of Byron Glacier area. Students mentioned that they were coming from Utqiagvik, Bristol Bay, Denali, Dillingham, Bethel, among other regions. We initially engaged students with a Kahoot (mobile phone trivia quiz game) about facts regarding snow, avalanches, glaciers and more. We introduced current projects related to Our Winter World, discussed field methods, and relevant snow concepts including but not limited to: snow formation, crystal types, albedo, how snow keeps the earth cool, how snow forms glaciers, snow water equivalent, and why calculating snow depth matters (and uses for the magnaprobe). Once at Byron Glacier, we worked in the remainder of snow that has fallen from an Avalanche. We allowed students to look at snow using hand lenses, had students dig and learn with snow pits, practice taking snow cores with snow water equivalent, and calculate snow depth using avalanche probes and a GPS Snow Depth Probe “Magnaprobe”, and more. 

May 19, 2022 – Snow Ice Permafrost Group Booth at University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute Open House

The Geophysical Institute hosted an open house that was available to the public, and Our Winter World was able to be a part of the Snow-Ice-Permafrost Group’s table. We engaged with visitors and they were able to learn more about Our Winter World and participate in a variety of small-scaled activities that were hosted at the group’s booth.

April 11, 2022 – Fairbanks Folk School

  • Outreach occurred at Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge
  • Worked with approximately 15-20 adults (all ages) from throughout the Fairbanks North Slope Borough area 
  • Highlighted both small COSI and large Alaska snow kits and explained what we were doing with them
    • Discussed the ideas of snowflake structure, snow insulation, and walking on snow as relevant to the COSI kit
  • Activities included: 
    • Investigating snow on the ground: Snow pit study 
    • Observing Snowflakes 
    • Feet and Float: Exploring animal adaptation for life in the snow
    • Avalanche! Investigating snowpack dynamics and snow safety 
    • Albedo experiment: Investigating an optical property of snow 
    • Discussing the thermokarst lakes and the “drunken forest” nearby

April 14 , 2022 – North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, Utqiagvik, AK

Worked directly with outreach coordinator and biologist where we showcased and distributed COSI Connect Snow Kits and worked through activities with their outreach coordinator. Activities included: Observing & preserving snowflakes, Paper snowflakes, Water & ice: Investigating density through melting and freezing, Water & ice: Density and molecular structure, Investigating snow on the ground: Snow pit study, How much water is in snow? Snow Density and Snow Water Equivalent, Percolation: Water pathways within the snowpack, Insulation experiment: Investigating a thermal property of snow, Albedo experiment: Investigating an optical property of snow, Feet and Float: Exploring an animal adaptation for life in the snow.

March 2022 – COSI Connects Kit Rollout, Iditarod Teacher on the Trail partnership and ADMA Race Booth 

Our Winter World and COSI partnered with the Iditarod and their Teacher on the Trail Jim DePrez to rollout our initial batch of snow kits, as well as hosting a community booth in Fairbanks with the Alaska Dog Mushers Association during a local dog mushing race where we began collecting snow kit requests from the community and provided information regarding Our Winter World.

February 1, 2022 – OMSI Snow: Tiny Crystals, Global Impact

Our Winter World team spoke during a press event and we had an informational display booth for the public during the Snow: Tiny Crystals, Global Impact museum exhibit grand opening. We highlighted the entirety of the COSI Connects Snow Kit and Our Winter World’s large rural Alaska Kits an gave a presentation to OMSI Museum Educators highlighting both the COSI Connects kits and the large rural Alaska snow kits. 

About OMSI Snow: Tiny Crystals, Global Impact Museum Exhibit

GI Article regarding the Snow: Tiny Crystals, Global Impact grand opening

December 15, 2021 – Campbell Creek Science Center

Worked with approximately 7 educators at the Campbell Creek Science Center 

  • Outreach included: 
    • Explained our progress regarding the COSI Connect Kits that were in progress, and tested activities
    • Observing and preserving snowflakes
    • Investigating snow on the ground: Snow pit Study
    • Percolation: Water pathways within the snowpack 
    • Albedo Experiment: Investigating an optical property of snow  
    • Water & Ice: Density & Molecular Structure
    • Feet and Float: Exploring animal adaptation for life in the snow

December 14, 2021 – ANSEP Acceleration Academy High School Career Explorations

Group included approximately 30 high school aged students plus ANSEP staff. 

Outreach included:

    • Avalanche! Investigating snowpack dynamics and snow safety 
    • A powerpoint presentation about Snow Science + Careers (as requested by ANSEP for high school students to explore various career opportunities)
    • History of the eyed needle 
    • Snow-proof Clothing Activity 
    • Observing Snowflakes 
    • Investigating snow on the ground: Snow Pit Study 
    • Percolation: Water pathways within the snowpack 
    • Albedo Experiment: Investigating an optical property of snow  
    • How much water is in snow? Snow Density and Snow Water Equivalent

February 2020Tanacross and Tok

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.

February 2020 – Denali Winterfest

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!