Students examine snowflakes under a microscope during a trip to the Gavin Lake this past winter. (Photo submitted)

Students examine snowflakes under a microscope during a trip to the Gavin Lake this past winter. (Photo submitted)

DOWN TO EARTH: Winter program fun at Gavin Lake

At Gavin Lake, we had managed the day fall outdoor program successfully

About a year ago now, it was first dawning on us that this virus we heard about in the rest of the world was going to affect us here in the nice, safe Cariboo too. We were in the early stages of figuring out that maybe it wasn’t going to magically disappear after a few weeks of staying at home more and not hugging friends.

However, while we haven’t exactly thrived here in B.C., we have done OK. One of things B.C. has managed so far, unlike many other jurisdictions, is to keep schools open. While we are in the thick of our local pandemic as I write this, and there are periodic school exposures and classes isolating, there still doesn’t seem to be any significant spreading in schools. That is what was always predicted, but health leaders must be relieved to see it playing out as hoped, given the huge societal impacts that school closures have.

At Gavin Lake, we had managed the day fall outdoor program successfully, so after some reading of latest studies and chats amongst ourselves about risk, we decided we could safely continue with the day winter program and give kids the chance to get outside and enjoy some snow.

READ MORE: Conservation society, cross country ski club, celebrate World Water Day with free ski March 6

So the last couple of weeks have seen buses arriving again at camp, and red-cheeked kids tumbling in the snow. They get to ski and snow shoe, learning about predator/prey relationships and winter adaptations along the way. In my study session, we learn how different types of snow crystals are made and the weather has kindly cooperated this year with Christmas- card complex stellar crystals falling from the sky through most of my classes; usually that happens with just one class a season. The Conservation Society purchased another three microscopes for our programs, so we now have enough that the kids can each have their own and take their time looking at the different crystals; even the most rambunctious ten and eleven year olds get completely engrossed.

We also talk about snow packs and water storage and end up learning a bit about avalanches with some practice using beacons. All modules are outside and instructors stay distanced, which is pretty easy to do when you are surrounded by space.

As for my good environmental news story this week- I feel this already is one, but will also add the general shift that seems to be happening as the US starts back on the path towards climate consciousness. Oil companies have taken huge losses this year, and recognizing a fast approaching new future, some of the bigger producers are moving quickly towards wind, electric vehicle charging and hydrogen. The optimist in me feels like we are on the cusp of starting to head in the right direction. (

Water Wise Tip: If you don’t have a low flush toilet: Fill a pickle jar (or equivalent) with water and put it in the toilet tank. This displaces the water and makes the toilet use less water with each flush.

For more information on Water Wise or Waste Wise and any of our school and community programs, contact the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society at or visit the website at

Jenny Howell is a Water Wise instructor and the executive director of the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society.

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