Young scientists explore the sky |

Young scientists explore the sky

North Routt Community Charter School students receive climate education at 10,500 feet

Mike McCollum

— North Routt Community Charter School students went on an adventure Friday afternoon with Storm Peak Laboratory scientists and Yampatika environmental educators.

The destination was Rabbit Ears Pass, the goal was to perform atmospheric research and the mission was to instill a better understanding of man’s impact on the environment.

“Some of the kids, especially those with noted behavioral problems, when they get out here they are so attentive,” said Gannet Hallar, director of the Storm Peak Laboratory.

The third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students began the day at the Yampatika center in Steamboat Springs taking initial temperature, air pressure, wind speed, relative humidity and particle readings.

Some students blew heartily into the wind speed meters, while others used thermometers to read body temperatures, but each student jumped to attention when the scientists posed questions to the class.

“Who can guess what kind of particles are in the air?” Hallar asked.

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All 15 hands shot up in the air and list of answers were provided, including dust, exhaust and sea salt.

Hallar, who has a doctorate in atmospheric research, and fellow Storm Peak Laboratory scientist Ian McCubbin split the 15 students into four groups. Each selected a team name. Katelin Prets, Grace Mark, Kamaria Hill and Maddie King, for example, gave their team the timely name “Stop Global Warning.”

After the initial readings, students traversed up Rabbit Ears Pass, stopping periodically to take further readings to better understand climate and weather. The further the students moved up the pass, the wind grew stronger, the air cooled and the pressure dropped.

“The program inspires environmental stewardship by teaching students skills, knowledge and confidence they need to make informed and responsible decisions about climate change and their impact on the environment,” said Jenn Wright, Yampatika’s executive director.

Yampatika environmental educators Jada Lindblom and Lee-Ann Hill visited students Thursday to prepare them for Friday’s science adventure.

“We talked about climate change, the potential of global warning and how that happens with greenhouse gases,” Lindblom said. “We have some really sharp kids in the group. I think they are pretty in tune with weather because we are in such a place that has such extremes in every direction.”

South Routt Elementary School and Hayden Middle School students also have participated in the climate lesson this fall and ventured up Mount Werner to the Storm Peak Laboratory.

The program, funded by Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., the US Forest Service and the Yampa Valley Community Foundation via the Brown Family Charitable Fund, typically takes children up to the laboratory atop Mount Werner, near the Steamboat Ski Area’s Morningside lift. But due to rough weather Friday, Rabbit Ears Pass was selected as an alternate route.

Hallar and McCubbin plan to visit the charter school Monday to help students graph the data collected Friday.

“One of the big standards for the Colorado Department of Education this year is graphing,” Hallar said. “So, the teachers found it very hard if you just make up numbers. The students just don’t get a whole lot out of it. This makes them much more involved.”

North Routt teacher Carissa Unrein said the charter school’s mission of immersion education fits in well with the science trip.

“What I notice, kids learn best if they know why what they are learning is useful,” she said. “Whether it’s a trip like this with clouds, or hiking and vegetation, it’s just being about to provide that element of curiosity for them.”

– To reach Mike McCollum, call 871-4208 or e-mail