Originally published by The Spokesman, May 16th 2015
Written by Cynthia Rust, 2015 Learn To Ski &
Snowboard Month Ambassador of the Year, Post Falls High School Science Teacher
As Washington’s leaders enter into final debate over the capital
budget for the next biennium, they should consider Mt. Spokane Ski and
Snowboard Park’s $2.23 million request as more than funding facilities,
but as an investment in advancing environmental education for students
throughout the region.
Mt. Spokane is requesting funds to design
and build a new guest services building in the base area, as well as to
make improvements to its two aging lodges. This project should be
supported because Mt. Spokane is more than a growing regional asset for
four-season recreation; it’s also a unique classroom for our
Ski areas have an opportunity to take a
leadership role in environmental education, and in enhancing the
environmental awareness of their guests, surrounding communities, and
employees because of their outdoor, natural environments and direct
connection between that natural environment and the guest experience.
Spokane State Park supports teaching goals by accommodating field
science education lessons that measure snow/water equivalency at the
Bald Knob Picnic Area. However, the existing shelter is not big enough
to house all the students and volunteers for a single class period. A
new building would accommodate groups of students on field trips, as
well as other larger gatherings.
As I develop an ecology unit for
students to study areas where human-use and wilderness intersect, and
to research and suggest solutions to using areas with the least
environmental impact, I hope my students can participate in data
collection in a ski area. It will be important to have indoor space for
analyzing data. I am also researching how to work with Mt. Spokane to
set up a modified Adventure Learning program in which other area schools
can participate. This would enhance STEM (science, technology,
engineering and math) curriculum that engages students and helps them
become scientifically literate, citizen scientists, environmental
stewards or adventurers with a purpose.
Ski areas are also
climate change indicators for business and industry similar to indicator
species in the natural world that are the first to show signs of
environmental change. A ski area is the best place for students to study
many aspects of ecology, engineering and economics: important lessons
for the future global community.
My classes at Post Falls High
School represent a few of many classes in Eastern Washington and North
Idaho that can use Mt. Spokane as a real-life science lab because it is
close to many school districts. A potential 10,000 secondary-level
students might use it, along with other students from the 100-plus
elementary and middle level schools, or area colleges.
park itself has limited facilities for groups to meet for introduction,
instructions or to wind up a day’s activities, Mt. Spokane’s new center
would serve as a classroom away from home for just those purposes. This
could increase the likelihood the state park helps fulfill educational
needs consistent with the law governing environmental education in
Washington, which standards are intended to become integrated into core
content areas across all grade levels.
Additionally, I serve as
an adviser to the Post Falls Ski and Snowboard Club. Our 82-member club
visits the resort twice a year to get our fix of snow adventure, as well
as lessons in humility and tenacity as we improve our skills. But the
group puts a strain on the lodge as we fill space crowded with other
patrons. A guest services area could accommodate multiple types of
groups on any given day. School and youth groups are a common sight on
many ski slopes, and the school snow trip is a fixture of many
extracurricular offerings across the world.
Mt. Spokane is in an
ideal location for building an amazing education program that can
provide meaningful experiences for students. These students could
include teachers and their pursuit of professional development to adapt
lessons to Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core Standards,
Washington state Integrated Environmental and Sustainability learning
standards, districts’ curricula and more.
Funding for the new
guest services building at Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park will
deliver great returns because it is an investment in the state’s largest
state park, and environmental education for our youth.
Rust teaches science at Post Falls High School. Her students measure
snow/water equivalency on Mount Spokane as inputs into Idaho watersheds.