On April 29, students from Met Sac High gathered at their school to share the scientific research they’d conducted during our overnight program. These students worked hard to develop hypotheses surrounding snow science, and then joined us in the Sierra to study over four feet of fresh snow!

The focus of the program was to investigate the structure of the Sierra snowpack and learn how this translates to water availability. Coming from Sacramento, the broader impact of these projects resonated with these students who live in the farming capital of the country.

At our Celebrate Science event, some of these students presented their findings. We were pleased to watch the confident and capable presenters share what they’d learned. We observed that in every case, the students had gained confidence in asking and answering questions, conducting scientific research, compiling and analyzing data, and presenting their findings. These skills were not as honed before they entered the program. We are so proud of them!

Here are some highlights of the research conducted by students:

-One group of students investigated patterns in snow density in the snowpack to better understand how much water was stored in the snow. They found that the older snow deeper in the snowpack was more dense than the newer snow at the top. On average, the 7 foot deep snowpack they measured was 25% water, which is equivalent to 21 inches of standing water!

-Two groups focused on snow temperature. While the snow may seem uniformly cold, these students found large temperature gradients within the snow. The snow nearest the ground was always close to 0 celcius. The snow closer to the surface was much colder between -6 and -10 celcius. Students hypothesized this was because the ground was warmer than the cold winter air we were experiencing.

Congrats to all the presenting students who worked hard on their research.

From pre and post program surveys it appears these students not only enjoyed the trip but also got a lot out of it. The percentage of students who said they were “very confident” in their ability to apply the scientific method increased 29%. Furthermore, the number of students who were “very interested” or “somewhat interested” in a science related career increased by 12%.

Many of these students had never seen snow before, so getting to test first hand where their water comes from was an impactful experience. Support from three groups made this trip affordable for the students. The Sierra Club gave this group a lodging scholarship to help cover room and board costs, Tahoe Donner Cross Country donated snowshoes to help students access their field sites in the deep snow, and support from 2018 Headwaters donors allowed us to further subsidize trip costs. Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible.

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