At a time when young students are increasingly gaining knowledge and skills through distance learning, rangers in Grand Teton National Park have developed an innovative way to bring the park into classrooms across the country: Snow Desk. Originally created in 2010 as a way to connect rangers with teachers after they had visited Grand Teton, the unique learning program quickly gained traction with educators and students alike.
Snow Desk is a way for students grades K-8 to engage, real-time, with park rangers who are sitting outside at a desk made entirely of snow from December through March. The program was initially designed for grades K-3. Growing interest from a variety of ages led to its expansion in 2015 to include three unique scripts for different groups written to the Next Generation Science Standards. This winter, Snow Desk reached nearly 1,800 students with these age-specific programs: Surviving Winter in Grand Teton, Every Snowflake Counts, and Why Winter Matters.
Surviving Winter in Grand Teton, for grades K-3, is the foundation of Snow Desk from which the entire program was developed. It is geared toward introducing students to the diversity of Grand Teton’s animal life and their adaptations to the harsh winters they endure every year.
Every Snowflake Counts provides a curriculum for grades 3-5 and focuses on the importance of water in Grand Teton’s ecosystem. “Snow is water and water is life.” Through live interactions with park rangers, students learn the importance of water to the park, how water moves around the Earth, and why it needs protection.
Why Winter Matters is designed for grades 6-8 and explores in further detail winter survival strategies of key indicator species in Grand Teton like the pika and whitebark pine as the snowpack and climate change. The program challenges students to examine how they as humans can develop similar adaptations as the natural environment around them changes.
Park rangers generally host this program on Skype, although they have also explored other online platforms. Teachers interested in participating can contact them via email at email@example.com.