Winter conservation and the Junior Snow Ranger program

Anikin Allen collected loose and packed snow to measure its water content. | Katherine E. Hill

Become a Junior Snow Ranger. That’s all I had to tell my son, Anikin, for him to become excited about not only earning another ranger badge, but especially for one for what he says is his favorite season – winter.

Anikin measures snowmelt to learn about water content. | Katherine E. Hill

The U.S. Forest Service developed the Junior Snow Ranger program to educate the next generation about the importance of protecting national forest lands, its natural resources and wildlife. The program is designed for 4th and 5th students but can be done by younger kids with a little help from an adult. The program challenges students with a fun, educational booklet with outdoor and indoor activities to help students learn about winter conservation.

Download the Junior Snow Ranger booklet

Activities in the booklet include matching animal tracks, how to build a campfire in the snow, how to make your own snowshoes, how to make frozen bubbles and how to measure the snowpack in your yard. There are also facts about history, the science of snow, how animals survive the winter and wildfire prevention, with tips for how to dress in cold, wet weather and suggestions for new ways to have fun in the snow.

Anikin already has a number of Forest Service, National Park Service and State Park badges and was eager to complete the Junior Snow Ranger program. He enjoys learning about animals, science and history, and he loves the snow.

We download the booklet from the U.S. Forest Service Web site and Anikin gets to work (it’s only available online). He first tackles the word search, the maze and matches tracks to the correct animals. He reads about the way animals adapt to winter conditions, how to stay safe while playing outside in the cold and how American Indians made their own snowshoes, designed with the large feet of the snowshoe hare in mind.

With below freezing temperatures outside, Anikin Allen tried to freeze bubbles. | Michelle Allen

Over the next week, Anikin worked on Junior Snow Ranger activities including cross-country skiing, sledding, making snow angels and a snowman. He also learns more about avalanche awareness and the importance of rescue dogs.

On a very cold day, we tried to make frozen bubbles with an electric bubble wand. Unfortunately, it is windy and the bubbles pop almost immediately. We decide we will have to try again another day when the wind is calm.

Then I have an idea to blow some bubbles into a bread pan and put it in the freezer. Thirty minutes later when we pull the pan back out of the freezer, we are happy to see frozen bubbles. We touch the bubbles and they don’t pop but tear instead. The bubble solution froze, and the bubbles feel like slimy, plastic wrap in our fingers.

Anikin Allen working on the activities in the Junior Snow Ranger book. | Katherine E. Hill

One of the most interesting activities is measuring the snowpack with snow from our yard. Anikin collects loose snow in a two-cup glass measuring cup. He fills it to the top with snow and sets it on the kitchen counter. Next, he collects more snow in another two-cup measuring cup but packs the snow tightly into the cup and sets it next to the other one.

Too impatient to wait for the snow to melt, naturally, we microwave the cups to melt the snow. What he discovers is that the packed snow contains 1 cup of water while the loose snow has three-quarters cup of water. The result is that the denser the snowpack, the more water it contains.

“That is so cool,” say Anikin after comparing the results.

The next step is to take the Junior Snow Ranger oath. He pledges to protect the environment, its natural resources and all living things. We fill out the form and mail it. Anikin is now anxiously waiting for his badge to add to his growing collection. | fs.usda.gov