Mountain Meteorology Field School: What I Learned

This past reading break, I got the amazing opportunity to partake in a week-long field school in the Geography Department, called Mountain Meteorology, a class which counts as full 300-level geography credit for my degree.

In a group of 10 students and 3 instructors, we headed to Mount Cain on northern Vancouver Island to learn about things like weather, snowpack characteristics, and avalanche safety.

Our days were jam-packed with snowshoeing, skiing, digging snow pits, taking measurements and data, making weather observations, making new friends, and learning collaboratively.

Digging a massive 9-foot long snow pit, to analyze the snowpack’s stability and other characteristics.

It was a very full-on week with not much rest, but so so much fun and well worth it. So, here’s what I learned on my field school:

1. Hands-on learning makes a difference

The way you learn on a field school is completely different than a lecture-style classroom, and I love it.

Being able to have casual, conversational-style instruction in a small group felt so natural and really engaged everyone, so much more than just staring at powerpoint slides in a big lecture hall.

Actually getting to take field samples, design a research project with practical applications, and see what you’re learning about directly in front of you is pretty amazing.

snow under a microscope

Looking at snow under a microscope in the field to learn about different hydrometeor shapes.

2. Connections are everything

Being able to learn together as a group in a remote location really brought us all together and allowed us to connect without the distractions of the outside world. Working outside in a beautiful place with new friends made the whole experience so much fun.

Collecting temperature and relative humidity data on the ski hill.

3. Sometimes you need to unplug

A cabin at Mount Cain, similar to the one we stayed in.

With no service up at Mount Cain, we were pretty disconnected to the outside world for the week we were there.

This was so needed and relaxing for my brain, allowing me to have a break from the distractions of my phone, social media, etc.

Although the flood of messages and emails upon returning to the ‘real world’ was a little overwhelming at the end of the week, during the time up the mountain I felt so peaceful and really appreciated the brain break.

4. Make sure you make the most of your degree!

There’s so many cool opportunities with your degree outside of the classroom, so I am really grateful that I was able to take advantage of that.

I would recommend a field school to everyone, or if your program doesn’t offer field schools, I’d recommend the Co-op program or study abroad exchanges. There’s so much out there, just go for it!


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