While the Middle School spent three days in the backcountry last week, the 3-4 visited Yampatika and embarked on the modes of environmental science they’ll need to know when they head into the woods as 5th graders. Stationed at the historic Legacy Ranch, the schedule kicked off on Wednesday morning by digging deep to prepare a quinzee, a simple and highly effective snow shelter, followed by snow-shoeing and searching for animal tracks in the meadows surrounding the ranch. Students mostly identified ermine tracks, which were in abundance, and they followed their meandering routes to understand the creatures’ methods of hunting. They also completed small research projects exploring other local animals, their means of adaptation, hibernation or migration, as well as ways to distinguish local firs, pines, and spruce trees based on their differing characteristics and the feel of their needles. We were regaled with the acting skills of the instructors performing ‘Leave No Trace’ policies in the guises of campers and forest rangers, and with the Ute story for how and why the Douglass Fir cone appears to contain mice tails. Highlights of Thursday included an avalanche lab for which students combined various ingredients to resemble a snowpack, then measured the angles at which the piles slid and the types of slabs they produced. Later in the afternoon, we went back outside to test the durability of snow and observe its various levels, measured within a full meter dug to grass level. Students learned that photosynthesis still happens several feet below the surface all winter, that the different types of snow in different levels provide habitats for a wide variety of animals, and why snow near the ground measured nearly 32 degrees even while snow near the surface was below 17. Likewise, they received solid practice in resiliency, especially since we needed to adjust the schedule on both Thursday and Friday mornings in reaction to sub-zero temperatures. As a result, a planned snowshoe trip to Uranium Mine didn’t pan out, as it was just too cold outside, but Jen has graciously promised to take the students with her sometime over the next few weeks. On the whole, the students had a great time and were highly engaged in constructive activities with real-world applications.