‘Science on Snow’ Events Gets 5th Graders in Touch with Nature

By Keith Bruno

On Friday, February 17, Pagosa Springs’ 5th grade students spent the day outside on what was deemed a “Science on Snow” day. 5th Grade Science teacher, Chris Couch, and Audubon Rockies’ SW CO Community Naturalist, Keith Bruno, created a day that opened the students’ eyes to the diversity and importance of different natural resource field sciences. The day was built around the cornerstone piece of contributing to the citizen science effort known as the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Photo by Byron Greco.

Photo by Byron Greco.

Between the dates of February 17-20, people across the globe contribute to this effort, effectively creating a “snapshot” of bird populations worldwide. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology interprets all of the data received via the online birding database, Ebird, and thus follows population trends, migratory shifts, etc.Additionally, students rotated through four other stations. At one station, students joined local Dendrochronologist, Herb Grover, learning to identify and age trees up on Reservoir Hill. At another station, with Keith Bruno, students dug snow pits, evaluating different snow crystal types/sizes and calculating Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) values (essentially, how much water can you expect from a given snowpack). Elsewhere, students constructed snow sculptures that highlighted winter adaptations that allow critters to survive Rocky Mountain winters.

Photo by Dianne Lee.

Photo by Byron Greco.

Pat Jackson, from St. Francis Wildlife Sanctuary in Arboles, CO, joined the Science on Snow Day with her Peregrine Falcon, Dooley. She talked about the importance of bird conservation and the students were enthralled with the presence of a bird capable of the fastest speeds in the animal kingdom.

All in all, the day was a great success. Joined by local volunteer birders Dottie George, Dianne Lee, Cedar McGrath, Byron Greco, and Rosalind Sanford, the students positively identified 25 different bird species along two miles of the Riverwalk Trail downtown. Citizen science efforts such as these not only serve as a great means of pulling communities together to pay a little more attention to the natural world around them, but also contribute a valuable and critical means to understanding the ways in which our world is changing.

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