Overcoming a fear of snow through science!
- February 11, 2020 -

This past week students from Latitude 37.8 High School in Oakland joined Headwaters on Donner Summit to investigate the Sierra snowpack. This was several students’ first time seeing snow and we were excited to give them the opportunity to learn about the source of over half the state’s drinking water. Several of these students were understandably nervous about walking around on so much snow during their 3-day trip to the snowbound Clair Tappaan Lodge. A fear of falling and getting stuck in the snow was at the forefront of some of their minds so much so that a group of students decided to make that the focus of their scientific research project with Headwaters. 

This group of students used many of the same techniques that scientists across the Sierra use to monitor the snowpack to investigate properties of snow. Through measuring density these students quantified not only how soft or firm the snow was but also the amount of water in different parts of the snowpack. The group also measured the temperature, depth, and how far their feet sunk below the snow surface. 

Through their quest to collect data for their project, the group traveled over snow further and further from the lodge, up hills, and across areas they had previously been afraid of walking on. This group found that they sunk into the snow more in areas that had softer, less dense snow that also tended to be warmer. They also found that most of the snow in the area was on average 30% water. This means that the 1 meter of snow in the group’s study area will melt down to 30cm of water, or on a larger scale, an astounding three hundred twenty-five thousand gallons of water per acre!

After their research presentation, we asked one of the students who had previously shared she was afraid of snow at the beginning of the trip how she felt about snow now. She shared that “I don’t think snow is my favorite thing in the world, but I’m not afraid of it anymore.” We are thrilled to have conquered a fear of snow through science learning!


Call for donations: winter items needed!

We always stock extra warm winter items for the students that don’t have them, and are looking for donations of jackets and gloves. Can you help us? We also need a few supplies for our winter programs. We’re looking for the following:

-snow jackets
-gloves/mittens
-snowshoes
-avalanche shovels
-snow probes

To arrange a donation, please contact Anne@headwatersscienceinstitute.org.