Avalanche Program Earns Global Spotlight
By Mike McKibbin, CMC – Leadville
For a two-year-old, Colorado Mountain College’s (CMC) avalanche science program gets around. You could say it has gone international.
Two second-year students and two faculty members participated in the recent International Snow Science Workshop 2018 in Innsbruck, Austria. Students Rich Rogers and Tara Vessella made the trek to Europe with Dr. Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, and Dr. Kelly Elder, U.S. Forest Service research hydrologist.
The conference brings together researchers and practitioners worldwide and rotates among the U.S., Europe and Canada. The goal is to offer an exchange of ideas and experiences between snow science researchers and practitioners.
At the conference, CMC student Rogers, who works on the ski patrol at Monarch Ski Area, and Vessella, a backcountry ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park, answered questions about a poster that outlined the college’s program.
“It was not a scientific presentation, but the poster presented the CMC program to the international community,” said Roger Coit, program faculty leader at CMC Leadville.
Coit called CMC’s avalanche science program “a novel model, perhaps the only one of its kind in the world,” and the only one of this duration and content. Students take courses online and make three multi-day visits throughout each winter season to the college’s 10,200-foot-elevation campus in Leadville. On campus and in the rugged mountains that overlook the campus, they meet for intensive classroom time and field studies.
While in Austria, Rogers and Vessella also gained contacts and networked with industry officials. These interactions can help the students land jobs after they graduate from CMC with certificates of occupational proficiency as snow, weather and avalanche field technicians, Coit noted. He said many industry employers are already requesting students for internships and job placement.
“The industry folks find out the skills and talents of our students are what they need for their operation,” he said. “We are preparing students in fundamental workplace safety practices so that they can have long and rewarding careers.”
Coit said the CMC program “is definitely making a footprint with the industry,” partly due to participation in workshops such as ISSW.
“We’ve been very well received across the industry and the work of our students is showing the success of the program,” he said. “We’re making waves.”
Elementary Students Showcase Lessons Learned
Students at West Park Elementary School showed their parents and other visitors what they have been doing at school at the Celebration of Learning on December 6. The hallways and classrooms were packed as students from each grade prepared unique exhibits to show off what they have learned, and how they learned it, explaining their methods for gathering information.
The Celebration of Learning event provides parents, teachers, and friends a glimpse into what the students have been learning through the past semester. At the elementary school, visitors could view the students’ work displayed in the hallway which demonstrated how students created hot air balloon pictures using 5 different types of patterns, or how the Kindergarteners demonstrated their knowledge of lines by drawing at least 6 different kinds of lines. The older students were engaged with building projects and showcased their final projects, explaining how they designed and constructed their creations.
West Park houses Kindergarten through 2nd-grade students, providing instruction for about 210 students, according to Principal Kathleen Fitzsimmons. All grades in the Lake County School District are expeditionary learning schools. Expeditionary learning provides students with essential skills, such as teamwork, communication, creative and critical thinking and problem-solving, needed in the workforce, which was not usually part of education in previous generations, according to the learning concept’s philosophy. As part of the program, students “construct deep understandings and skills” through learning expeditions in which they “create products for real audiences.”
Each grade has a different learning expedition exhibit, with the Lake County Intermediate School students’ “Celebration of Learning” to be held this Thursday, Dec. 13 from 6 – 7:30 p.m.