Thursday, Mar 17, 2011
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park added a new curriculum-based winter ecology/snowshoe program to its school program menu this winter. Over 200 students, teachers, and parents joined park staff in snowshoeing on the canyon rim, looking for animals and their signs, and participating in hands on activities.
Those activities included constructing a hibernation den for a warm Jello “animal” (if it turns solid after 20 minutes outside under the snow, the critter dies), testing the insulative value of fat by plunging a bare hand into a glove full of Crisco and then submerging it in ice water, and using a bear pelt to demonstrate behavioral adaptations to changing ambient temperatures.
Though participants came from within a 30 mile radius of the park, most had never visited the Black Canyon in winter. Home schoolers, multi-age English language learners, fourth grade classes, and middle school students participating as a special reward for good grades were among the groups taking advantage of this new program.
“Snowshoeing is an easy, low-impact, relatively inexpensive way to get a family outside and active in winter”, said the park’s education specialist, Ellen Petrick. “The students were eager to return with their families to show off their new skills and knowledge by participating in one of the weekend snowshoeing programs also available at the park.”
This program supports the healthy child goals of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign and President Obama’s” America’s Great Outdoors Initiative”, which aims to reconnect all Americans, especially children, to America’s vast and varied natural heritage.