Somewhere in the process of digging down through 7 feet of snow near the top of a mountain, measuring the snowpack and jotting down numbers, Cheyenne Kiecker discovered something that, for her, felt impossible: Maybe she does like science after all.

In February, Kiecker and her classmates studied the snow at Lookout Pass in North Idaho. She learned how the snow impacts the runoff into streams and rivers and lakes, how it affects the fish and the spring foliage, how it changes the wildfire season. And she’s learned that in recent decades, the snowpack in the very spot she and her classmates dug into has trended downward.

“It was really interesting to think about how the snow I was looking at impacts everything I deal with on a daily basis,” Kiecker says. “I never thought about these kinds of things.”

The field trip that brought nearly 150 Timberlake High School students up to Lookout Pass is part of a yearlong project that teaches science education in eight different North Idaho schools. It’s called “The Confluence Project,” an education model developed by University of Idaho graduate students several years ago. Today, more than 300 students in area high schools participate, learning about water-science education from the natural environment surrounding them.

And in a state where some politicians have argued human-caused climate change shouldn’t be taught in schools, the project has given students the chance to discover it for themselves.

“The intent of this program was to show students science,” says Jim Ekins, an educator for University of Idaho Extension who helps coordinate the project. “As they become more science literate, it’s a whole lot easier to understand the data that supports anthropogenic climate change.”

Click here to read the full story in the Inlander (March 8, 2018)

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